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Q&A: IU Jacobs’ Aida Huseynova talks cross-cultural collaboration

Aida Huseynova

Aida Huseynova, a lecturer in the Music in General Studies Program at the IU Jacobs School of Music, is an expert in Azerbaijani music and serves as the research adviser of cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, as well as an adviser for the Mark Morris Dance Group.

She teaches Music of the Silk Road, Music of Russia, East-West Encounters in Music, and Popular Music of Europe and Asia. In 2016, Indiana University Press published her monograph “Music of Azerbaijan: From Mugham to Opera.” 

The Indiana Daily Student sat down with Huseynova to talk about her research and experiences. 

INDIANA DAILY STUDENT: Where did you attend school? 

Aida Huseynova: I was born and raised in Azerbaijan, and I went to the public music school when I was 6. I then continued my education in the Azerbaijan State Conservatory and received my Ph.D. in Musicology at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. 

IDS: What did you study? 

HUSEYNOVA: Piano and musicology. I am happy to be able to combine these two fields of study in my life and career, as I believe that theory should be supplemented by hands-on experience. 

IDS: As a pianist, can you name several of your favorite composers? What are some of your favorite pieces to play? 

HUSEYNOVA: I would say Bach, Mozart and Chopin. They have always been my favorite composers and I play a lot of music by them. I love Bach’s preludes and fugues, Mozart’s piano concertos and Chopin’s scherzos and etudes, to name a few. 

IDS: What are your current research interests? 

HUSEYNOVA: I am particularly interested in multiculturalism in music, as I am fascinated by how different cultures and music traditions interact and enhance each other. 

IDS: Among all the higher education institutions that you have been affiliated with, why did you choose to teach at IU? 

HUSEYNOVA: Bloomington was the first place in the U.S. where I landed at, back in 2000. I commuted back and forth before I came to the US again in 2007 as a Fulbright Scholar, and I have been teaching at Jacobs ever since. I feel very lucky because the Jacobs School of Music is such a great place to teach, do research and to be in touch with great musicians and teachers from all over the world. 

IDS: Can you talk about your experience working with Yo-Yo Ma and the Mark Morris Dance Group? 

HUSEYNOVA: It all started back in 2006, when Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble came to Baku, Azerbaijan, where we met. I was then invited to collaborate with them as a research adviser, as they worked on a large-scale music production based on an Azerbaijani opera, "Layla and Majnun," written by the composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli in the early 20th century. I traveled with the Ensemble when it went on tour in 2008 and 2009 and gave lectures, participated in workshops and wrote program notes. In 2016, "Layla and Majnun" entered a new phase when Mark Morris produced a new version, which he describes as 'a danced opera,' and I was again invited to serve as research adviser. I am extremely grateful to have worked with both Yo-Yo Ma and Mark Morris, they are not simply great artists, but also amazing human beings who make this world a better place. 

IDS: How has working on all these cross-cultural projects with people from different countries influenced your research and the way you view life?

HUSEYNOVA: Being able to exchange ideas with great artists and musicians around the globe is something that gives rise to new ideas and enhances my research and teaching. You see the bigger picture of the music world and of life in general, as you develop a deeper understanding of the links between cultures and traditions that seemed to be so different upon first glance. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Huseynova's title with the Mark Morris Dance Group. The IDS regrets this error. 

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