A Solo Journey of Inspiration

For this Inside-out meet-the-artist post, we have interviewed Iman Aganj. You might all know Iman as an Assistant Professor in Radiology, a member of the Laboratory for Computational Neuroimaging at the Martinos, a math enthusiast… but did you know he is a  musician, and a composer?  And that you can listen to his pieces on Spotify? I certainly did not! Enjoy the reading and…the listening!

            The Cover of Iman’s very first album!

Iman, when did you start playing the piano?

“I  started playing the piano 20 years ago. Why piano do you ask? I think the piano is one of the easiest instruments to start to learn, which is probably why I chose it, but it is also one of the hardest to master, which is why my playing skills never went beyond an intermediate level…

Did you take classes or are you self-taught?

“I am self-taught. My parents had bought us a 2-octave keyboard in my teenage years, which helped me train my right hand to play simple melodies, but I started playing with both hands later on a 5-octave keyboard. Although teaching myself how to play the piano may have hampered my learning curve and led to sub-optimal finger placement, I would definitely do it again, because of the freedom it gave me. You can spend time learning the songs that you like, rather than the ones you are told to play, and that, for me, is a big motivation and makes learning way more fun!”

Do you have a piano at home now? How often do you play?“I have a Yamaha digital piano at home, which I play a few times a week. I’m lucky that my wife is pretty understanding and supportive… :)”

You are not only a musician, but a composer too…When did that started?

“I had experimented with electronic music composition over a decade ago. But  started making piano solos only last year, believe it or not, thanks to an MGH Center for Faculty Development Well-Being Grant. I had never taken music composition classes before, so I thought it would be fun to give it a try. In the proposal, I wrote a paragraph about how much I’d like composition as a hobby and submitted it. I was pleasantly surprised when they awarded me the funds, which were enough to cover sixteen half-hour online sessions with a music school that I had found in Chicago.”

Inspirational! And did that spark the idea of sharing your art pieces? What motivated you to share your composition work, rather than just keeping it for your self? “Sort of. I had already uploaded some electronic music that I had made many years ago to a music sharing website, and I wasn’t thinking about sharing music last year when I started taking these classes. The online sessions mainly consisted of me playing a short piano piece that I’d composed the week before, and my teacher giving me feedback. His feedback, along with that of family and friends, motivated me to make more piano solos after the classes ended. The idea of sharing music on streaming services was actually my brother’s. It turns out that uploading your music to a distributor, who will then share it on Spotify, Pandora, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, etc., is as easy as uploading an article to bioRxiv; no peer review! You can search for imanaganj (without a space) in your favorite streaming service and take a listen!”



What is music for you, and what does music bring into your life?“I guess a musical piece is a unique combination of melody, harmony, and rhythm, which can evoke a certain kind of feeling; but I admit that I don’t quite understand how it does that. I’m not even sure if the listener has the same experience listening as the composer did composing. Nevertheless, I feel that music adds a new dimension to life. Listening to it certainly brings joy to me, and the creative process of composing is quite rewarding.”It seems Einstein used to sit and play music when he was stuck on a mathematical problem, do you do that too? “I don’t think so far I’ve ever used the piano to help me solve a math problem, but it’s a great activity to do during a break to clear my mind. I do think that music has a very mathematical basis; you see similar patterns in both. The amazing part is when music transforms math to human emotion!”

I am sure that Iman has now finalized his piece for tomorrow’s very first Martinos Talent Show, so make sure you do not miss it! Inside-Out will be there and will be taking notes for future Meet-the-Artist interviews! ;-)