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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”

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Example 3 Research, Part 2: Arabic Maqamat

The previous post introduced the Middle Eastern traditions and their modes with some basic notion. Here I will concentrate on and write specifically about the Arabic system.

I will first start with the building blocks of the modes – jins or ajnas in plural, which I also mentioned in the previous part of my research. The Arabic modes, which are heptatonic, are made of two sets – upper and lower. These can be joined on the same note – conjunct, be separated – disjunct, or overlap. It is based on the lower jins that maqamat are classified into families or branches. (Gu, 2014: 105) While jins are usually defined by tetrachords, there are some reasons to use trichords.

In case of Ajam and Jiharkah, this is because the three of their notes may be enough to convey the mood of maqam. Both of these are similar to the first three notes of the Western major scale. (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1. Ajam and Jiharkah trichords Continue reading “Example 3 Research, Part 2: Arabic Maqamat”