Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Innovation and Reproduction in the Cultures of Central Asia

The maqam/muqam and its innovations in Central Asia

Farangis Nurulla-Khoja (Freeland Composer, Montreal, Canada)


Central Asia

The Central Asian maqam/muqam is a sufi musical tradition of that part of the Muslim world. Although Tajik/Uzbek maqam have many common aspects with the Arab, Persian and Turkish traditions, centralasian tradition, known as Shashmaqom, has it's own specific. Expressed in the idea of synthecising extrems, it goes in it's roots back to the theory of music by Ibn Sina/Avicenna (b.980 near Bukhara) and known in it's 'inner' dynamic for the first post-revolutionary generation of composers. Thus, rethinking their own musical tradition within the expansion of a new Russian and European tradition of symphony music at the beginning of the last century, they offered a new contents and structures of modern music.

Musically, the shashmaqam is a formal series of 'independent' stages of spiritual enlightenment. Tajik maqams have two parts: instrumental and vocal, as though to emphasize the different expressions of spirit and soul. The six maqams: buzruk (majesty), rast (straight, direct), nava (melody), dugah (two dimentions), sigah (three dimensions), and Iraq.

Because of the deep 'inner' polyphonic meaning of each madam it can be difficult to orchestrate. For example, the tanbur, a traditional maqam instrument, sounds as monadic. Its resonance is so rich, however, that it is possible to build a new symphony and electro-acustical musical forms, in which organica goes in a more natural ways with non-organic sounds. It is thus the nuances (ornaments, articulation, and vocal tone) of the maqams which appeal to contemporary composers and which in fact can be beautifully expressed in a new contemporary form.

Tajik composers in particular have relied on the shashmaqom technic because it forms part of the national identity. One of the earliest symphonic arrangements of a shashmaqom was Sigah, a symphonic poem by three composers in the 1950s. Yuri Terosipov, Shahnazar Sohibov and Fazliddin Shahobov. The first was originally Armenian, born and grown up in Azerbaijan in the class of Kara-Karaev, at Baku conservatory. Moved to Dushanbe he met with the two outstanding musicians and experts of Shashmaqom, the last representatives of Bukharian court musicians. Two themes (vocal and instrumental) of the Sigah maqam were used. But in their experience three dimensions rather contrasted then correlated. The true innovation was converted vocal theme into a clarinet line. I will focus on my presentation on the global significance of that innovation.

The first virtuoso proponent of maqams in symphonic music was Ziyodullo Shahidi, originated from Samarkand shashmaqam school of Khoja Abdul-Aziz and one of the first graduators of Moscow conservatory of the first post-revolutionary generation. Utilizing innovative approach of his maestro Khoja Abdul Aziz in Shashmaqam, he went further in the way of synthesizing and rethinking maqams in symphonic perception. At the presentation a few examples of my own perception of his innovations and analyzing of his innovative sounds will be offered.

My own experience of Shashmaqam is quite different. I am a composer studied in European countries mainly and few years in US. I am inspired by the poetic aspect of shashmaqam. The poems are from Tajik-Persian Classical Literature, mostly Sufi poets. Technically speaking, I use the poetic rhythm of some maqam's structure and striving to go further by combining it with technique of a certain piece. My pieces were performed by the famous contemporary European vocalists and recently got a good critic in Stockholm and Paris.

There is a shared tradition in the east and the west of elaborating on a common musical theme - in the west known as the fugue and in the east as the maqam.

While the heart of the fugue is in the virtuoso nature of the composer, the soul of maqams is in the nuances: ornaments, glissandi, vibrato, articulation, etc. However, as these have never been notated, maqams are really part of the oral tradition. The other notable feature of maqams, of course, is that they can be up to five or six hours in length.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-06