Posted in For Project 7 Examples

Example 3 Research, Part 3: Modulations of the Arabic maqamat

In the last blog post I wrote about the basic Arabic modes and their basic units – jins. In this part of the research, I will focus on modulation.


Fig. 1. Arab party dancer by Guilio Rosati

Modulation is the practice of moving from one maqam to another within a musical piece. As I briefly mentioned in the last part, it plays a major role in the Arab music, especially in terms of the sayr -melodic development. As Marcus (172) points out, modulation was probably present from the medieval period.

For example, Wright (1974, cited in Marcus, 1992: 498) mentions in his discussion about the practice described in the thirteenth-century music treatises:

“Although a composition would generally be based on just one mode, extraneous units could also be judiciously introduced, especially in improvisatory passages displaying to the full the performer’s technical prowess.”

Shiloah (1981:37) also states that a group of subsidiary modes in the medieval and pre-modern practice were used, although not yet as “… complete or independent modes, but rather serve[d] towards the elaboration of the principal modes”

In fourteenth-century, modulation played an important role in the genres called kolliyat and kull al-nagham, latter of which was the progression that included all melodic modes. (Wellesz, 1957: 452) Although these were the genres of the Persian musical tradition (Simms and Koushkani, 2012: 208), the system certainly influenced and was close with the Arabic at the time. Continue reading “Example 3 Research, Part 3: Modulations of the Arabic maqamat”