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