مشاهدة جميع الاصدارات : Fundamentals of Persian music

26-03-2006, 00:12
Hatim has asked me for information on the Persian musical system, explaining terms like dastgah, radif, and so on. Being no musician myself and not having properly learned this complex system, I can only try to bring together bits and pieces of information and add some musical examples. Still I hope, some other members in this forum might know more than me, add better information and correct me when necessary.

To start with as a very brief introduction I'll give a text from the booklet of Parissa's album Gol-e-Behesht, a musical example of which I have put here in another thread already.

"'Of the hundred melodies he played, he chose thirty sweet-sounding songs', reported the twelfth century epic poet Nizami, describing the performance of thirty songs (alhan) and a hundred melodies (dastan-ha) at the pre-Islamic Sassanid court.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, musicologists wrote magnificent, systematic treatises on music that remain undisputedly authoritative to this day. For the most part, the music has been passed down through the generations from master to pupil (sineh be-sineh: “from breast to breast”). In the nineteenth century, a form of traditional art music (radif) developed, whose range of melodies and improvisations have been transcribed and notated and in which a certain cross-fertilisation with European culture is evident.
The radif is based on various modes (dastgah-ha). Dastgah – the tonal anchor of traditional art music – consists of dast (hand) and gah (place, time). In other words, depending on the sequence – how or where the hand is placed or the time selected for the music – contemplative or emotional responses are triggered. We discover the realms of the dastgah by wandering through its many picturesque places (gushe-ha). The gushe-ha themselves are based on just three or four notes, and develop from these only to return to the starting point (forud). A dastgah cannot be performed without gathering and coordinating these elements.
Improvisation is a central tenet of Iranian music. The performance of a dastgah, which is improvised ad hoc, is shaped by the mood of the musician and the sensitivity of the listeners: it is a reciprocal dialogue between the meditation of sound and the implosion of silence.

How many more words will you waste, O Sa’di, on the science of music?
The secrets of the heart are revealed only to the ear of the soul.
(Sa’di, 13th century).
There are seven primary modes or dastgah-ha, from which five secondary modes (avaz-ha) are derived:
dastgah-e Shur
avaz-e Abu‘ata
avaz-e Bayat-e Tork
avaz-e Dashti
avaz-e Afshari
dastgah-e Homayun
avaz-e Esfahan
dastgah-e Segah
dastgah-e Chahargah
dastgah-e Nawa
dastgah-e Mahur
dastgah-e Rastpandjgah.
Of course, various dastgah-ha can be mixed together. This is known as morakkab-chani and morakkab-navazi.
Each dastgah has a specific tonality that makes the mind sing and the feelings dance: Mahur conveys serene boldness, Chahargah subdued joy. Shur – a broadly sweeping dastgah – is majestic and earnest, while Dashti and Afshari represent deep sadness. Segah leads into a mystic dimension and Homayun induces sweet melancholy.
A dastgah is made up of five parts which can be varied in any way: pishdaramad (introduction), chaharmezrab (rhythmic), avaz (singing), tasnif (song), reng (dance)."

To pick up the words of Sa'adi quoted above I'll not use many more words at this stage, but add a couple of musical examples from the finest singer of 20th century Persian music, Mahmud Karimi, student of Abdollah Davami and himself teacher of Parissa and many other excellent singers and musicians. He has recorded very little - basically only one album of "music proper" (with the ney player Mohammad Musavi for Ocora in Paris), plus a series of tapes for his students to study the radif. These have been published on five CDs by Mahoor in Teheran, and they cover all the dastgah-ha and avaz-ha of the classical system, giving the most important gushe-ha of each dastgah. One section, which is not a gusheh proper, is necessary for all of them, the introduction called "darâmad", which is defined by Mohammad Reza Lotfi (another student of Abdollah Davami) as follows:

"In Iranian music, Daramad denotes beginning, appearing or coming out. The musician, by playing the Daramad is trying to orient the listener to the Dastgah that the musician is attempting to perform in. In colloquial usage, Daramad also means appearing."
So in this and the next couple of files I will attach the different daramads (in some cases there are two) for all dastga-ha according to the system of Mahmud Karimi, who learned it from Abdollah Davami. Here I start with dastgah Shur and its four avaz-ha.

26-03-2006, 00:32
Here are the Daramads for Dastgah-e Homayun and its derived mode Avaz-e Bayate-e Esfahan, for Dastgah-e Segah and Dastgah-e Chahargah as sung by Mahmud Karimi.

26-03-2006, 00:43
To complete this first survey here are the Daramads of the remaining three Dastga-ha, namely Dastgah-e Mahur, Dastgah-e Rast-Panjgah and Dastgah-e Nava presented by Mahmud Karimi.

26-03-2006, 01:30
Here are comments by the musicologist Mohammad-Taghi Massoudieh from the booklet of the 5-CD-set of the radif of Mahmud Karimi:

Some Structural Features of the Radif

In the radif of Persian traditional music, like other musical traditions of the Middle East, melodic figures, phrases and periods of the traditional repertory are indeed continuous realizations of certain fundamental melodic models. These melodic models are actually abstract formulas that primarily exist in the performer’s mind. The peculiar features of the melodic model lie in its melodic curve, metric values of tones and pitch hierarchy. Any melodic model, while being realized, constantly undergoes various transformations and changes. Comparative melodic analyses of the radif reveal that not only the gushes of each dastgah but all melodies of the radif are evolved through various transformations and changes of certain fundamental melodic models. Hence, the radif enjoys a great diversity of melodic transformations. Through applying various ornamentations and melismatic figures, as well as their modal and metric-rhythmic modifications, distinct new melodies are produced. The beginning of gushes, through the process of change in form as well as the tonal space, establishes various functions. Actually, the segments, phrases and periods through melodic and metric-rhythmic transformations can totally lose or change their functions. Therefore, melodic changes and transformations, on the basis of a certain number of abstract melodic types, result in an entire coherency of the radif of Persian traditional music. This coherency reaches its peak in the following cases:

1. Similar cadential figures in the conclusion of the gushes, their phrases, periods and melodic segments contribute to the coherency of the repertory. There are usually three types of cadential figures in which the finalis is approached through the subfinalis, the superfinalis or through a neutral third leap. The third case is very rare. Most melodic segments and periods that involve suspension conclude with the first type, while those that entail response or cadence conclude with the second type. Consequently, cadential figures are not necessarily conclusive. However, the cadential formulas of periods and melodic segments can be regarded as conclusive cadences.

2. Condensed cadential figures are often followed by descending vocalizes. Vocalizes sometimes just comprise of the repetitions of one certain figure. Repetitions of this figure, one the one hand, create a continuous melodic draw associated with a sense of excitement, and on the other hand gradually increase the tempo. Moreover, the gradual speeding up of the tempo in turn reinforces the internal melodic draw. It seems that, among various types of vocalizes, this type is the most difficult. Vocalizes, like melodic ornamentations, are regarded as integral parts of the melody. They are most often sung without any text or verses of poetry. Vocalizes preceding the last condensed cadential figure are sung on the last syllable of the given hemistich or line of poetry.

3. The forud is originally responsible for returning to or reminding the tonal space of the dastgah, which is gradually developed in the consecutive gushes, to the main tonal space of the given dastgah. Since each gushe, in comparison to its preceding gushes, unfolds in a different tonal space, forud helps keeping the given dastgah in mind. Therefore, forud can be regarded as a kind of musical refrain. The gushes, despite their different characters, are internally related to each other through forud. In forud, melody is always sung without any text or verse of poetry. This melody may be comprised of either one figure or one period of several segments. The forud comprising of one melodic figure is always a conclusive cadence. Cadential melody of the forud is not performed in all gushes of the dastgah. On the contrary, in some gushes two or even three foruds represent the given dastgah, while some other gushes present other foruds belonging to other dastgahs. Returning to the forud is a natural and fundamental behavior of the gushes, i.e. the cadential melody of the forud is already prepared by a melodic figure or period, The forud, unlike its preparing periods or figures, is repeated with minor modifications or even without any changes in the gushes.

4. The radif of Persian traditional music enjoys a number of homonymous gushes, i.e. gushes with the same title, in various dastgahs. Such gushes are actually similar melodic types transposed and modified according to the tonal space of each given dastgah. They can be categorized into several groups on the basis of their degree of modification or change. While some of them are almost presented in various dastgahs, in some other gushes, despite their similar title the degree of change is so significant that they totally lose their relationships. In the vocal radif the similarity and the degree of change in homonymous gushes, performed in various dastgahs, is not justifiable just on the basis of their texts, because some of them enjoy various texts or verses of poetry despite their minor modifications, while some others despite their significant changes still enjoy similar texts. However, in most cases, similar melodies are sung upon various texts or verses.

5. Not only many homonymous gushes are repeated in various dastgahs, but also there are gushes within one dastgah or among different dastgahs that are repetitive despite their different titles. There is no simple answer to the question of which of these melodies can be regarded as the main melodic type upon which further tokens have been constructed.

6. Sometimes another version of a certain gushe is intentionally specified by adding “another type” to its main title. Here the formal structure of the given gushe is primarily changed, i.e. another type of the given gushe entails differences in terms of segmentation and constituent units instead of mere sequential movements of periods or melodic segments. Therefore the main melody is actually the condensed model of its “another type”. There is no relation between the number of verses and structural development of the gushes. Consequently, by adding “another type” before the title of the given gushes, in addition to their similar titles and intentional changes upon a main melody, the relationship between those gushes is reinforced. Not only the gushes are closely related to each other, but in most cases, certain melodic figures and periods also repeatedly appear in various dastgahs without any significant changes. It can be concluded that all melodies of the radif of Persian traditional music are always based upon a number of melodic types that are indeed abstract patterns or formulas that form the nucleus or the core of concrete changes and modifications in melodies and eventually result in the diversity and variety of the gushes.

أبو علاء
26-03-2006, 01:44
I haven't donwnloaded the files yet, let alone listened to them. But, I'm sincerely impressed by such a systematic approach. Congratulations! By the way, I uploaded the tracks of the second CD of Shdjarian and will soon upload those of the third one. After that will come Talaï's radif.

26-03-2006, 02:00
Finally for tonight the link to a very interesting article by the master of tar and setar, Mohammad Reza Lotfi. He writes on "What is Radif?" in three chapters plus on chapter on "Form in the Radif of Iranian Music":


This article is much more easy reading than the one above written by Mohammad-Taghi Massoudieh, but still it is very informative and also gives a good idea on the central position Mahmud Karimi has in 20th century Persian music. His radif represents something like the most complete authoritative version. I think that's good reason to add a small photo of this great artist.

26-03-2006, 11:28
Magnificent effort. Karimi is magnificent and the music is very enjoyable. The articles are also very valuable. Thanks you for this, I cannot but congratulate you for your patience and hard work. pleast go on.

(from what I have read, the Dasgah system is very similar to the iraqi maqam system, particularly the cadential system, foruds and gushe's and so on though I have just read this information for the first time, I will probably upload the Maqam Mansuri in the yousef omar thread to illustrate this point).


26-03-2006, 22:31
Yes, Karimi really was a giant. Too bad he kept away from the record studio.

Before I go on delving into some more detailed aspects of Iranian classical music (that is if I find good, concise information), here are a couple of links to other pages serving as introductions:

claims to present a "Complete list of dastgahs and their gushehs and maghaams" with musical notations for a couple of gushehs
brief introduction by T.M. McComb with short reviews of some important recordings
lengthy article by the famous Tar and Setar player Nour Ali Borumand (one of the teachers of Lotfi, Shajarian, Tala'i, Kiani and others) on the fundamentals of Persian classical music, including a chapter on its historical development
Another introduction into Persian classical music written by Ali Zomorodi
of course wikipedia has quite a good article with lots of links
has a number of songs by some of the most famous old Persian musicians
is a good, concise introductory article
gives some very interesting observations on the organization and the conservation of the radif(s)

17-04-2006, 20:44
Some interesting observations on the basics of Persian classical music by the great musician Daryush Tala'i:

The Radif
The Radif is a musical corpus, considered by the Iranians as a legacy whose purpose is to preserve and to transmit the principal elements of their specific musical culture, within which they share a commun emotion and esthetic taste. They consider it to be one of the most important expressions of their national identity, as special as the Persian poetry, miniature, carpets, etc...
It is a serious and introverted music with extreme refinement and richness in ornements. The repertory of Persian Art Music together with its traditional order of classification is called the Radif. A repertory of melodies that have been collected by different people and added to the repertory at different times. This repertory is not like Western Art Music, which is composed and intended to be played exactly as written. It is made up of traditional melodies, many of which are derived from popular and folk sources ; their origins have been obscured with the passage of time.
This repertory was organized by musicians to be used both for performance and instruction. More specifically it provides a multitude of model melodies (about 250) which is used like prototypes as a point of departure for improvised performance and composition of set pieces. The oldest Radif that we know about comes from two masters of the Radif, Mirza Abdullah (1843-1918) and Aqa Hosein Qoli (died 1913). These two brothers spent their whole !ives teaching their radif with an incredible conviction and rigor and educated the test musicians of the following generation. The students were supposed to memorize the entire repertory; therefore, it was important that the Radif be both complete and brief ; and hence, as concise as possible. Moreover, since the intention was to make the radif concise, and since different people played the same melody in different ways, the masters selected from among the versions of a melody to create their Radif.
To understand the concept of the Radif, we must first understand that the Radif and the modal system are not the same thing.The characteristic of melodies (which are called gusheh-s) are as important as their relationship. The position of each melody in the Radif is determined by its modals characteristics.The performance of Persian Music is made by the multi-modal structures which in each system (dastgâh or âvâz) a number of gusheh-s demonstrate the different part of the system.
Since the idea of a Radif originated with a family of musicians who played the Tar and the Setar, the earliest Radif-s are intimately linked to these instruments. Moreover, because the precise use of the mezrab (plectrum or nail) was very important for performance on the Tarr and Setar, the melodies, often derived from vocal sources and added to the repertory of these instruments, necessarily became more regularized and structured. They also took on the style of performance of those musicians, who, since the y were scholars of the musical tradition and fine artists, transformed the melodies inta a very elaborate and cerebral form of Art Music.

Theoretical aspects
2Oth century musicology has placed too much emphasis on separating musical styles, such as folk, popular, religions, and classical or art music. But in the case of Iran there is, in reality, a constant tension and interplay between art music and less formal genres. What makes this interplay more vital in the Iranian society has been the religions establishment to musical practice during some historical periods.The music in these periods could only have survived in contexts such as folk, religions, dervish music, or music to accompany story telling, all of which were tolerated.
For the medieval scholars, such as al-Kindi (d.874), Farabi (d.950), Ibn Sina (d.I037), Safi uddin Ormavi (d.1293 J, Qotbuddin Shirazi (d.1311) and Abdolqader Maraghi (d.1435), the tetrachord was the most important modal indicator ; it also corresponds to the physical space on the neck of instruments such as the °ud, Tar and Setar, where the fingers can reach the notes without changing position.
In medieval theories the open string (called motlaq) and the names of the different fingers on the neck of the °ud were used to designate the pitches used for making different sorts of tetrachords.The character of the tetrachord depends on the size of its two variable pitches (the intervals of the second and the third). Each of these tetrachords has its own unique genetic makeup.
All the Persian modes are based on only four different sorts of dang-s. In the following table, Chart 1, these dang-s are shown by the three intervals which separate the four notes of each dâng. The measurements are in cents (based on a system where an octave is divided into 1200 cents, and each half tone is equal to 100 cents) and each dang, encompassed by the interval of a fourth, is equal to 500 cents.
Chart 3 shows the actual frets on the neck of the Tar and Setar from which all the above dang-s will be derived. The frets on either side of the intervals of 60, 70 and 30 cents (Dp and D, for instance) are never used in succession in Persian music.The interval relationships above G on the C string are the same as from open string G in the octave below.
In practice the intervals are never precise. They fluctuate between the four basic dang-s in Chart 1 and tempered forms in Chart 2. The more complex the system and the more the dang-s are transposed and interact, the more intervals need to be tempered on fretted stringed instruments. However, because the intonation that results from tempering the intervals always bothers the best musicians, the frets on the Tar and Setar have always remained moveable. This moveability allows the musicians to adjust them for each performance, so that the most suitable tuning is achieved for each combination of modes.
Mayeh is a term which does not exist in the Radif system. When Persian musicians use this term among themselves it refers to a unique mode in the context of Persian Art Music, whose organization and performance is multi-modal. A western musician, looking for a Persian equivalent to the term "mode", would choose the word "mayeh". Each mayeh is made up of two dang-s in succession. Most of the time the stress of the melodies in a given mayeh is on the note shared by two dang-s. This pitch is most often the first note of the second dang, but it can also be the second note or rarely the third. Thus, several mayeh-s may share the same dang-s, but be distinguished by their different stressed pitches.
Persian Art Music uses a modal system which provides a set of modal frameworks. This system has much in common with the modal musics of this part of the world, where the main cultures other than that of the Persians are those of the Turks, the Arabs, and, to some extent, the Indians.
When Persian, Arabic, and Turkish music is performed, modes are combined together. Mastering the art of their combination is one of the most important aspects of performance of these Art Musics. In Persian music when IWO different mayeh-s share a common dang, this dang could be used as a bridge to modulate from one mayeh to the other. The modal structure of each dastgah and avaz is the combination of several mayeh-s in a special range and order. Although these combinations are ordered in a traditional manner, they are not taught or defined with any modal terminology, but by their specific melodies (gusheh-s), which match each step in the modal progression.
The dastgah-s names are Shur, Nava, Segah, Chahargah, Homayun, Mahur and Rastpanjgah. The avaz-s names are Abuata, Afshari, Bayat-e Tork, Dashti and Esfehan. Bayat-e Kord is also played independently like an avaz, but in the radif it is not counted as an independent avaz; thus, the total number remains 12 (seven dastgah-s and five avaz-s).