Music Education and The (Im)Perfect Persian Rug

persian rug.jpg

According to Wikipedia, a Persian rug is a "heavy textile carpet made for a wide variety of utilitarian and symbolic purposes." Produced in Iran (historically known as Persia), this 16th century art form of carpet weaving is an essential part of Persian culture and Iranian art. Within the group of countries that produces Oriental rugs, Persian carpets are singularly known for their elaborate colors and artistic design. They are treasured as collectibles in museums and private estates throughout the world today. 

Persian rugs are still woven today by nomadic tribes and by royal court members alike. As such, they represent different but simultaneous lines of tradition and history of Iran’s various people. Despite sometimes similar appearance, no two rugs are the same. They are as varied as they are specific. In fact, experts can tell exactly, just by looking at the colors, textiles, and crafting techniques, exactly where and by whom a rug was made. Yes, all rugs are different, but carry one singular commonality.

They are ALL flawed.


There is an old Persian proverb stating that to be a true Persian rug it must be: “Perfectly imperfect and precisely imprecise." 


The underlying premise of the proverb is that man is flawed and therefore so must be everything we create. Setting aside the religious nature of the proverb, it further states that there is beauty in the imperfection as it reminds us that we are all human and are as imperfect as we are original. In that way, we are all like the Persian rug: “Perfectly imperfect and precisely imprecise."

People go to extraordinary effort to seek out the imperfection of each rug and by doing so are forced to examine so closely that one cannot help but appreciate its perfection. If the rug were, in fact, perfect, we would be miss out on the opportunity to truly appreciate its beauty and uniqueness.

The same holds true for music. Frankly, few educators work as hard at finding imperfections. In rehearsals and performance, most of us obsess over mistakes while ignoring what beauty actually did occur. A passing grade is not an acceptable benchmark and a 90% effort is likely to be met with contempt and disdain. In this way, rug makers and music educators have a great deal in common.

But our commonalities don’t just end there. In rugs and in music, one must search for mistakes in order to find perfection.

As we dive into score study and rehearsal recordings looking meticulously and methodically for flaws, we see the genius of the composition. As we rehearse with our student musicians, we are forced to search harder and harder for mistakes, thus showing us their growth. Through all of this, we grow to better understand and appreciate not just the literature, but the young people performing it. To hear the work of Percy Grainger is as pleasing as seeing a fine Persian rug. But, to study and rehearse Grainger is know and appreciate his genius on a different level.

We are all imperfect. Our literature, students, our jobs, and our lives are filled with imperfection. In fact, I myself have perfected the art of imperfect. And, we tend to focus on the shortcomings of our lives rather than the abundances. But remember, in order to find the flaws in our professional and personal lives, we are also forced to to appreciate their beauty.

Because like the Middle Eastern woven works of art, we are all (Im)Perfectly Persian.

Have a great week!