Shafer’s inspiration for Isfahan came from two distinctive places of worship: Iran’s Shah Abbas Mosque (with its unique acoustic that will return seven echoes of a sound made in a precise location under the main cupola) and the site of the piece’s first performance, Toronto’s St Anne’s Church, itself modelled on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Schafer had two aims in mind: to create a piece configured around the number seven (seven tones and seven pulses) and also—acting on an observation by Marshall McLuhan that a medieval room was furnished even when it was empty; that its sounds were its furnishings—to create something that would linger forever in the performance space, as if it belonged there. Isfahan’s three brass quintets occupy different spatial positions throughout the performance. Co-ordination is provided by a leader sounding a seven-stroke motif on a slapstick or a drum.

This piece was premiered on June 4, 2006 during the 'MASSbrass' concert presented by Soundstreams at the St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto (Canada).

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