Saturday, January 19, 7636

Islam in Syria (636) - Maqam, Qanun, Ud, Pipe

[Muslim Invasion of Syria]

Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Paul was converted on the Road to Damascus and established the first organized Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys. Roman/Byzantine rule continued from this time through the early AD 600's.

In 616 Syria was subjugated for a brief period by the Persian Khosrau II; from 622 till 628 it was again Byzantine; 636 and the immediately following years saw its conquest by the Muslims in the Battle of Yarmuk.

[Middle Eastern Instruments, including Ud and Qanun (both at back, leaning against wall)]

Maqam with Qanun and Ud

Arabic maqām ( pl. maqāmāt or maqams) is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type. Each maqam is built on a scale, and carries a tradition that defines its habitual phrases, important notes, melodic development and modulation. Both compositions and improvisations in traditional Arabic music are based on the maqam system. Maqams can be realized with either vocal or instrumental music, and do not include a rhythmic component.

The designation maqam appeared for the first time in the treatises written in the 14th Century by Al-Sheikh Al-Safadi and Abdulqadir Al-Maraghi, and has since then been used as a technical term in Arabic music. The maqam is a modal structure that characterizes the art of music of countries in North Africa, the Near East and Central Asia. In this area we can distinguish three main musical cultures which all belong to the modal family, namely the Turkish, the Greek, the Persian and the Arabic.

Arabic maqams are based on a musical scale of seven notes that repeats at the octave. Some maqams have two or more alternative scales (e.g. Rast, Nahawand, and Hijaz). Maqam scales in traditional Arabic music are microtonal, not based on a 12-tone equal-tempered musical tuning system, as is the case in modern Western Music. Most maqam scales include a perfect fifth or a perfect fourth (or both), and all octaves are perfect. The remaining notes in a maqam scale may or may not exactly fall on semitones. For this reason maqam scales are mostly taught orally, and by extensive listening to the traditional Arabic music repertoire.

The qanún or kanun (qānūn, from Greek ''measuring rod"; "rule" "cane") is a string instrument found in Near Eastern traditional music based on Maqamat. It is basically a zither with a narrow trapezoidal soundboard. Strings are stretched over a single bridge poised on fish-skins on one end, attached to tuning pegs at the other end.

Kanuns are played on the lap by plucking the strings with two tortoise-shell picks, one in each hand, or by the fingernails, and has a range of three and a half octaves, from A2 to E6.

Arabic qanuns employ quarter-tones.

The kanun is a descendant of the old Egyptian harp, and is related to the psaltery, dulcimer and zither.

The oud (ūd; Somali: Kaban; Persian: barbat; Turkish: ud or ut; Greek: ούτι; Azeri: ud; Hebrew: ud) is a pear-shaped, stringed instrument, which is often seen as the predecessor of the western lute, distinguished primarily by being without frets, commonly used in Middle Eastern music.

The words "lute" and "oud" are both derived from Arabicد (al-ʿūd, elided, perhaps "lud" or "lute"), consisting of the Arabic letters ʿayn-wāw-dāl, meaning a thin piece of wood similar to the shape of a straw, referring either the to wood plectrum used traditionally for playing the lute, or to the thin strips of wood used for the back, or for the fact that the top was made of wood, not skin as were earlier.

However, recent research by Eckhard Neubauer suggests that ʿūd may simply be an Arabized version of the Persian name rud, which meant string, stringed instrument, or lute. Gianfranco Lotti suggests that the "wood" appellation originally carried derogatory connotations, because of proscriptions of all instruments music in early Islam.

The Arabic prefix al-, in al-ʿūd, which represents the definite article and can be translated as "the," was not retained when al-ʿūd, was borrowed into Turkish, nor was the ʿayn, as it is not a sound existing in the Turkish language. The resulting word in Turkish is simply ud (pronunciation follows that of the word food without the f ), much as it sounds when pronounced in the English language.

According to Iranian philosopher-musicologist Al Farabi, the oud was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam [!]. The legend tells that the grieving Lamech hung the body of his dead son from a tree. The first oud was inspired by the shape of his son's bleached skeleton [!!].

The oldest pictorial record of a lute dates back to the Uruk period in Southern Mesopotamia - Iraq - Nasria, over 5000 years ago on a cylinder seal acquired by Dr. Dominique Collon and currently housed at the British Museum. The image depicts a female crouching with her instruments upon a boat, playing right-handed. This instrument appears many times throughout Mesopotamian history and again in ancient Egypt from the 18th dynasty onwards in long and short-neck varieties. One may see such examples at the Metropolitan Museums of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and the British Museum on clay tablets and papyrus paper. This instrument and its close relatives have been a part of the music of each of the ancient civilizations that have existed in the Mediterranean and the Middle East regions, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Armenians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans.

The ancient Turkic peoples had a similar instrument called the kopuz. This instrument was thought to have magical powers and was brought to wars and used in military bands. This is noted in the Göktürk monument inscriptions, the military band was later used by other Turkic state's armies and later by Europeans

Defining features

Lack of Frets: The oud, unlike many other plucked stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato. It also makes it possible to play the microtones of the Maqam System. This development is relatively recent, as ouds still had frets c. 1100, and they gradually lost them by AD 1300, mirroring the general development of Near-Eastern music which abandoned harmony in favor of melismatics.

Strings: With some exceptions, the modern oud has eleven strings. Ten of these strings are paired together in courses of two. The eleventh, lowest string remains single. There are many different tuning systems for the oud which are outlined below. The ancient oud had only four courses - five by the 9th century. The strings are generally lighter to play than the modern classical guitar.

Pegbox: The pegbox of the oud is bent back at a 45-90° angle from the neck of the instrument. This provides the necessary tension that prevents the pegs from slipping.
Body: The oud's body has a staved, bowl-like back resembling the outside of half a watermelon, unlike the flat back of a guitar. This bowl allows the oud to resonate and have a more complex tone.

Sound-holes: The oud generally has one to three sound-holes, which may be either oval or circular, and often are decorated with a bone or wood carved rosette.

The following are the general regional characteristics of oud types in which both the shape and the tuning most commonly differ:

Syrian ouds: Slightly larger, slightly longer neck, lower in pitch.

Iraqi (Munir Bashir type) ouds: Generally similar in size to the Syrian oud but with a floating bridge which focuses the mid-range frequencies and gives the instrument a more guitar-like sound. This kind of oud was developed by the Iraqi oud virtuoso Munir Bechir. Iraqi ouds made today often feature 13 strings, adding a pair of higher pitched nylon strings to a standard Arabic oud configuration.

Egyptian ouds: Similar to Syrian and Iraqi ouds but with a more pear shaped body. Slightly different tone. Egyptians commonly are set up with only the 5 courses GADGC. Egyptian Ouds tend to be very ornate and highly decorated.

Barbat (Persian Oud): smaller than Arabic ouds with different tuning and higher tone. Similar to Turkish ouds but slightly smaller.

Oud Qadim: an archaic type of oud from North Africa, now out of use.

Although the Greek instruments Laouto and Lavta appear to look much like an oud, they are very different in playing style and origin, deriving from Byzantine lutes. The laouto is mainly a chordal instrument, with occasional melodic use in Cretan music. Both always feature movable frets (unlike the oud).

Shepherd's Tune

Pipe describes a number of musical instruments, historically referring to perforated wind instruments. The word is an onomotopoeia, and comes from the tone which can resemble that of a bird chirping.

Fipple flutes are found in many cultures around the world. Often with six holes, the shepherd's pipe is a common pastoral image. Shepherds often piped both to soothe the sheep and to amuse themselves. Modern manufactured six-hole folk pipes are referred to as pennywhistle or tin whistle. The recorder is a form of pipe, often used as a rudimentary instructional musical instrument at schools, but so versatile that it is also used in orchestral music, but it has seven finger holes and a thumb hole.

[7638 - Palestine / 7636 - Syria / 7632 - Iran]