Friday, January 9, 7632

Islamic Iran (c. 632) - Dastgah, Santur

Iran, formerly known internationally as Persia until 1935, is a country in Central Eurasia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means "Land of the Aryans."

The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km², Iran has a population of over 70 million. Iran is a country of special geostrategic significance, because of its central location in Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea; on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. Tehran is the capital, largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation.

Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC.

The Medes unified Iran as a nation and empire in 625 BC.

They were succeeded by three Iranian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians, and Sassanids which governed Iran for more than 1000 years.

In 632 raiders from the Arab peninsula began attacking the Sassanid Empire. Iran was defeated in the Battle of al-Qâdisiyah, paving way for the Islamic conquest of Persia.

[Iranian musicians, santur-player on right, 1669]

Iran - Dastgah on Santur

Dastgāh is a musical mode in traditional Persian art music; in spite of 50 or more extant dastgāhs, theorists generally refer to a set of twelve principal ones. A dastgāh is a melody type on the basis of which a performer produces extemporised pieces.

The etymology of the term dastgāh is related to the idea of "the position (gāh) of the hand (dast) [on the neck of a musical instrument]", that is the scale; a similar idea of position (that is gāh) appears in the names of other musical modes, such as Dogāh and Segāh. It is more appropriate however to translate dastgāh as "system", for a dastgāh is first and foremost a collection of discrete and heterogeneous elements organized into a hierarchy that is both entirely coherent and flexible.

Each dastgāh consists of seven basic notes, plus several variable notes used for ornamentation and modulation. Each dastgāh is a certain modal variety subject to a course of development (sayr) that is determined by the pre-established order of sequences, and revolves around 365 central nuclear melodies known as gushehs (each of these melodies being a gusheh) which the individual musician comes to know through experience and absorption. This process of centonization is personal, and it is a tradition of great subtlety and depth. The full collection of gushehs in all dastgāhs is referred to as the radif.

The dastgāh system is similar to the maqam system in the Arabic music, both of which are deeply rooted in the Sassanid Persia's melodies which entered into the Islamic world following the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century.

The system of twelve dastgāhs and gushehs has remained nearly the same as it was codified by the music masters of the nineteenth century, in particular Mîrzā Abdollāh Farāhāni (1843-1918). No new dastgāh or large gusheh has been devised since that codification. When in the modern times an āvāz or dastgāh has been developed, it has almost always been through borrowings from the extant dastgāhs and gushehs, rather than through unqualified invention. From this remarkable stability one may infer that the system must have achieved "canonical" status in Iran.

The santur santūr, santour, santoor) is a hammered dulcimer of Iran. It is a trapezoid-shaped box often made of walnut, with 72 strings. The name means one hundred strings in Persian. The special-shaped mallets (mezrab) are lightweight and are held between the index and middle fingers. A typical santur has two sets of bridges, providing a range of approximately three octaves. The right-hand strings are made of brass, while the left-hand strings are made of steel.Two rows of 9 articles called "Kharak" (Totally 18 kharaks) divide Santur into three positions and each lead four unitone strings to the right and left side of the instrument . Each note comes three times in three positions [making (9*3) 27 tones all together] and doubles in frequency going to the left. As four notes are repeated in tonation there are only 23 tones in Santur.

Many instruments around the world at least in part derive from the santur. Similar forms of the santur have been present in neighboring cultures like Armenia, Turkey, and Iraq for centuries. The Indian santoor is thicker, more rectangular, and can have more strings. Its corresponding mallets are also held differently. The Chinese yangqin may have originated from the Persian santur. The Roma people introduced a derivative of the santur called the cymbalum to Eastern Europe, which in turn likely led to the development of the clavichord and the piano. The Greek santouri is also derived from the santur, and in Nikos Kazantzakis' classic novel Zorba the Greek Zorba plays the santouri.

[7636 - Syria / 7632 - Iran / 7630 - Yemen]