Santour Musings
Santour Virtuoso Kiu Haghighi Talks About His Instrument
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Paula: Tell me a bit about classical Persian music - what are some of its characteristics?

Kiu: The fundamental aspects of classical Persian music have changed relatively little over a long period of time. It is still monophonic, organized in tetrachords and constructed from melody types. The lack of change in Persian music may be credited to the influence of Islam, whose theologians condemned listening to music. Through the influence of Islam, Persia has experienced a long musical quiescence which effectively preserved the original form of her art music until the present century.

Modern musical theorists organize Persian classical music into twelve dastgahs; seven are principal dastgahs and five are considered subsidiary, related by their scales to the principal dastgahs. These five are called Avaz. The seven principal dastgahs are: Shour, Mahour, Homayoun, Segah, Chahargah, Nava and Rast Pangah. The five subsidiary dastgahs are: Esfahan, Dashti, Bayate Tork, Abu Ata and Afshari.

The dastgah is a musical scheme used as a basis for improvisation. It is a melody type, having its own scale, its own hierarchy of scale degrees, and its own repertory of traditional merlodies. These melodies of the dastgahs are transmitted in the form of small pieces called goushehs. They were transmitted orally until the present century, when a repertory of melodies was collected and transcribed in staff notation. Persian music is noted on the staff using two new accidentals. The sori raises the note to which it is attached by a quarter tone; it is half of a sharp. The koron lowers its tone by a quarter tone; it is half of a flat.

One of the other most conspicuous characteristics of Persian classical music is the lack of definite rhythm in the major portion of the dastgah.

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