Some thoughts on the Samai form

Arabic Music, Music Theory 1 Comment

The Samai form is prevalent in both Arabic and Turkish art music. Though I couldn’t find out exactly when and where the form assumed it’s modern shape, it seems to be fairly accepted that the form is about 200 years old. By some accounts it is as old as 300 years. It is also generally accepted that the form is of Ottoman origin: although the its exact place of birth in the vast Ottoman empire of 200 years ago has not been established, by most accounts it was born in Turkey. Since the 19th century, the art-musical form has been popular both across much of the Arab world, as well as in Turkey.

In this essay, I am going to touch on the different aspects of the form that are of interest both to the performer and to the musicologist.
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Arab Avantgarde Music (Part 4)

Arabic Music, Music, Music Theory 2 Comments

In the first three parts of this series, I addressed the problematic aspects of talking about Arab avantgarde cultural activity. The reason a problem exists are ambiguities related to the term avantgarde, and the fact that the term, by now, has connotations resulting from its usage in the context of western avantgarde music and cultural activity.

I would like to close this series by touching on some of the unique characteristics of Arab avantgarde cultural activity in the twentieth century with a focus on music. Read the rest…

Arab Avantgarde Music (Part 3)

Music, Music Theory No Comments

In part 2 we started a series of mental exercises the goal of which was to establish the rules for how to have a discussion about avantgarde music in the Arab context. In this post we will contemplate two more mental exercises and draw conclusions from them that will bring us closer to that discussion. Read the rest…

Arab Avantgarde Music. (Part 1)

Arabic Music, Free Improv, Fusion, Music Theory 1 Comment

Having received a call for submissions for essays on Arab avantgarde, I thought this one was just down my alley..

Thinking about the subject, the questions that seem the most urgent to answer are not about the Arab avantgarde music movement itself just yet, but rather questions about how to have a discussion about Arab avantgarde music. In fact, the questions touch on some of the vague aspects of the term not necessarily in relation to Arab avantgarde.

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How many maqams are there?

Arabic Music, Music Theory No Comments

This question is not only one that a new comer to Arabic music would ask. It is also valid when asked by an Arabic music theorist. There are three main reasons for that:

  1. Simplification of the definition of maqam therefore not recognizing some of the characteristics that distinguish different maqams sharing the same scale. As a result, many maqams that share the a scale are now considered one maqam.
  2. Maqams that are no longer in use are omitted from theory books.
  3. Not recognizing intonation details rendering several different maqams as identical. Read the rest…

The Arabic String Section

Arabic Music, Music, Music Theory No Comments

This question comes up fairly regularly: Are Arabic violins tuned differently?

The answer is yes. Here are answers to the most common string section questions. Read the rest…