Persian classical music is one of the most elaborate and inspiring artistic forms ever created. The musical system consists of twelve modal units calleddastgah.These are divided into small melodic units calledgusheh, most of which are associated with classic Persian poetic texts. A full performance of classical music consists of alternating arhythmic and rhythmic sections from a single dastgah. The instrumentalist and the vocal artist improvise within the modal structure, creating a unique performance. Traditional instruments include thetar,: a lute like instrument with a body shaped something like a figure eight; thesetar,a smaller lute with three strings and a small, round body; thenei, a vertical flute; thekemanche, a small vertical fiddle with a long neck and a small body; theqanun, a larger, broader vertical fiddle; thesantur, a hammer dulcimer; thedombak, a double-headed drum; and thedaf, a large tambourine. Popular music forms are largely based on the more melodic structures of classical music, and are highly disapproved by the religious authorities. Many popular Iranian musicians now live abroad, where
they record and export their music back to Iran. Women are not allowed to perform music in public under the current government.
Iran has two unique traditional dramatic forms. The first,ta’zieh, is an elaborate pageant depicting the death of Imam Hassain. In its full form, it lasts ten days during the month of Muharram, and involves hundreds of performers and animals. The other dramatic form is less elevated, but equally unique. It is a comic improvisatory form known commonly asru-howzitheater, because it was typically performed on a platform placed over the pool (howz) in a courtyard. Ru-howzi theater is performed by itinerant troupes at weddings and other celebrations, and is greatly appreciated. It has undergone a revival since the Revolution. Modern Western drama entered Iran at the end of the nineteenth century and attracted a number of fine playwrights whose works are regularly performed in live theater and on television.
Iranian film has captured the interest of the entire world in recent years, winning major international prizes. The Iranian film industry is decades old, but in the 1970s it began to develop as a serious art form under the sponsorship of National Iranian Radio and Television. Young film makers remained in Iran after the Revolution to create masterpieces of film art, despite censorship restrictions. This is somewhat confounding for the religious officials of the Islamic republic, since the most conservative officials condemned film attendance as immoral before the Revolution. Now they realize that Iranian film makers give Iran a progressive, positive image, and they grudgingly lend their support to the industry.