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Hello people,

This is my first post here, and your input on this matter was one of the reasons for signing up in stead of lurking all the time, although I'll try to do my part and reply to the posts now that I am a member.

Several years ago I started a "project," trying to accomplish a fusion of Western and classical Persian music. I might post later on why and how this came to be, but for now, to the matter at hand.

Persian music intrigues me (as does Indian music, amongst others) for the close link to modal jazz. It is largely improvised music on a (series of) scales, with complex rhythms.

As many of the modes are not playable on my own instrument piano, I tried to compose a large number of pieces that use the modes in a melody instrument with the piano as accompaniment. It is a difficult process, and I tried contacting different people (like the piano professor at the conservatory in Iran) to find out if more people are attempting this kind of thing. I didn't have much success, so here is where you come in. I am having difficulty coming to a fusion style; most pieces, although I am fairly pleased about them, have the feeling of a forced marriage. Any ideas on this piece, the style, or fusion in general? Do any of you have experience in a similar field?

Now some pointers about the piece. In short, in Persian music there are "Dastgah", which can be translated as a mode as we know it, albeit with different scales. Also used here is a "Gusheh," whcih can be described as a determined, pre-described sequence of notes, but where variation is allowed.

So, this piece is in Shur Golriz (Shur being the gusheh, Golriz being the dastgah) should you feel the need to look into the mode or sequence used.

Thanks for your time, and I am very much looking forward to your ideas on fusion of any kind.

Cheers, René

P.S., sorry about the computer generated track. At the time I wrote the piece I could play it, but now I would need to study really hard to get it back ;)

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René, thanks for posting! First of all, I love the energy this piece starts out with. This is in part a personal reflection, because I love quartal/quintal harmony which you use quite effectively all throughout the piece. Your piece has a driving quality to it which is very satisfying. The microtonal melody, which required some adjustment on my part to appreciate, is ultimately satisfying. On the critical side, I felt the “interrupted/less music” section exemplified by measures 11-15 but also displayed in later sections to a lesser extent, detracted from the piece. This piece seems to me to be perfectly suited to be a moto perpetuo, which, if executed perfectly, should have a continuous, uninterrupted energy throughout.

Thanks, Gav!

I do love fourths in general, but in this case it was a way of avoiding notes in the scale that would get in the way of quarter tones in the melody. Blues devices are another way of doing that. I understand what you mean with the moto perpetuo, although I am quite happy with the rest in this piece. I do feel that need sometimes, though, seeing that I have written many ostinatos :) Thanks for listening!

Gav Brown said:

René, thanks for posting! First of all, I love the energy this piece starts out with. This is in part a personal reflection, because I love quartal/quintal harmony which you use quite effectively all throughout the piece. Your piece has a driving quality to it which is very satisfying. The microtonal melody, which required some adjustment on my part to appreciate, is ultimately satisfying. On the critical side, I felt the “interrupted/less music” section exemplified by measures 11-15 but also displayed in later sections to a lesser extent, detracted from the piece. This piece seems to me to be perfectly suited to be a moto perpetuo, which, if executed perfectly, should have a continuous, uninterrupted energy throughout.

By the way, it is probably not done replying to myself like I am doing now, but I noticed after the edit period had passed that I have mixed the terms dastgah en gusheh. It goes to show that a simple Dutchman like myself shouldn't go all fancy and use foreign music terms :)

The concept of a "dastgah" in Persian music" is very similar to that of a "makam" in Arabic music.

I don’t know a lot about Persian/Iran music but I have studied quite a bit of eastern Mediterranean and Arabic music.

There is a main theoretical and practical problem with this vast musical cultures going back not for centuries but for millennia.

This problem to both western and eastern ear in my opinion is this in as few words as I can manage for such a vast subject :

In the west we gave up the exact natural tuning and we have adopted the equally tempered scale.

The east kept its tradition and its tuning alive and intact but it has two versions for tuning its scales, the soft and the hard. The hard version is not very far from our equally tempered system, but the vast majority of the eastern modes are not conceived and played using the hard but the soft tuning.

Now a days both eastern and western musicians are trying to fuse these two cultures and we often have situations where an equally tempered instrument (like piano or guitar using only its 12 available pitches) is required to accompany a "free" instrument like the ud or the violin where any pitch can be obtainable.

In most instances the result sounds out of tune.

In my opinion, since equally tempered instruments can not follow the pitch nuances of a free instrument, then the free instrument should follow them cause it is possible for it to do so, but then we miss completely the soft genre of this music and we listen again to a watered down equally tempered version of the piece.

In every day practice this is what is happening in all musical realizations of the classical eastern repertoire when this is played by mixed orchestras and thus the trouble is avoided.

 

Going back to "pure" non equally tempered music there are still lots of problems:

All academics and theoreticians in the east disagree with each other about the actual sizes of the different intervals of both genres whether those are measured by cents (1/100 of a semitone) or by Pythagorean comas.

In the hard version we have at least discernible tones and semitones but in the soft modes the semitone is a very precarious and unstable entity and also those theoreticians have not so far managed to tell us even the exact sizes of tones.

We have these different intervals for a tone in most soft genre modes, (I translate terms from Greek modal and Byzantine terminology):

Super major tone

Major tone

Minor tone

Minor most tone

and complete absence of semitones, but a minor most tone is an interval near to it, bigger than it only by a Pythagorean coma.

This is a very old time honored theoretical confusion that has failed to describe actual musical practice in my opinion.

In practice musicians have continued and will continue to play these modes, but in the soft genre in particular these intervals to which I referred are realized differently by an Arab, a Turk or a Greek and that is very natural depending on ethnicity, aesthetic outlook and geographical location.

But they are also realized differently within the same nation between different musicians, and last but not least they are realized differently by the same musician depending on his mood and the day of the week(!)

There is no ending either to the theoretical negotiations or to the practical inadequacies in this soft genre of ours.

 

About fusions in general I think that they are not necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that one has to study well and in depth his own musical tradition first before becoming bi-musical.

 

I liked your piece. It has impetuous and originality. Have in mind the problems to which I referred but carry on, you are in a good way!



René Torenstra said:

By the way, it is probably not done replying to myself like I am doing now, but I noticed after the edit period had passed that I have mixed the terms dastgah en gusheh. It goes to show that a simple Dutchman like myself shouldn't go all fancy and use foreign music terms :)

Hello Bob,

You're right, it sounds awful, I'm sorry. I hope it gives an indication of what it should sound like. We performed it live only once, and on that occasion we didn't record.

The piano is not idiomatic for Indian or Persian music. In fact, most Persian piano music I know employs techniques to make the instrument sound like the santur, using lots of tremolos and such. My personal opinion is that piano is an instrument that still needs to find its own voice in that region.

I was trying stuff to find a fusion of Western and Persian music, so the piano part is just me using minor blues techniques, lots of 7th chords and chord structures based on fourths instead of thirds. That's probably due to my roots; I studied jazz piano at the conservatory and only later added composition to my studies.

Bob Porter said:

Not at all the type of thing I would listen too, but interesting none the less.

You might remix this with the piano more to one side and the Ud more to the other. The piano seemed a bit overpowering.

Is this piano part idiomatic of Indian music?

Rene,

     I very much enjoyed this piece, (at least the western, jazz, portion).  The only way I can imagine integrating quarter tones into a twelve tone scale is to have the quarter tones fall between western scale notes.  For instance a descending quarter tone scale of sixteenths could match a regular scale in eighths, or quarter tones would fill the spaces between half tones, rendering a sliding or bending effect.  Otherwise the quarter tones just sound out of tune  when played in tandem with regular tones.  What could be more dissonant than a minor second?  The quarter tone between a minor second played with the minor second.

Thank you very much for your long and well thought-out reply, Socrates. You have given me a lot to think about. Indeed, I am aware of many of the problems you hint at; I viewed it as a challenge to do something with the material combined with a western instrument as piano. But as I indicated, it feels like a "forced marriage" instead of flowing, natural music to me.

That is not disappointing to me, it just means that I haven't found a way of doing what I set out to do, and maybe I won't. But the material intrigues me and inspires me (also in other work) so the work I do on these pieces isn't in vain. I also hope to find music by other people who succeeded better in accomplishing what I set out to do.

I once had the pleasure of doing a series of improvisations with Hariprasad Chaurasia (Bansuri) which truly inspired me. "Foreign" (to me) music is a joy of inspiration.

I fully agree with your statements about respect and knowledge of tradition. In jazz this is also essential, and I find it telling that Schoenberg in his Fundamentals relies on Van Beethoven examples almost exclusively. I am well versed in my tradition, it is just that my knowledge of Persian music is largely academic. But I try to listen and learn.

I also feel that bi-cultural influences are a good way of making stuff happen. The problem is that 99% of what comes out of it is no way forward, but it is the 1% that counts.

Socrates Arvanitakis said:

The concept of a "dastgah" in Persian music" is very similar to that of a "makam" in Arabic music.

I don’t know a lot about Persian/Iran music but I have studied quite a bit of eastern Mediterranean and Arabic music.

There is a main theoretical and practical problem with this vast musical cultures going back not for centuries but for millennia.

This problem to both western and eastern ear in my opinion is this in as few words as I can manage for such a vast subject :

In the west we gave up the exact natural tuning and we have adopted the equally tempered scale.

The east kept its tradition and its tuning alive and intact but it has two versions for tuning its scales, the soft and the hard. The hard version is not very far from our equally tempered system, but the vast majority of the eastern modes are not conceived and played using the hard but the soft tuning.

Now a days both eastern and western musicians are trying to fuse these two cultures and we often have situations where an equally tempered instrument (like piano or guitar using only its 12 available pitches) is required to accompany a "free" instrument like the ud or the violin where any pitch can be obtainable.

In most instances the result sounds out of tune.

In my opinion, since equally tempered instruments can not follow the pitch nuances of a free instrument, then the free instrument should follow them cause it is possible for it to do so, but then we miss completely the soft genre of this music and we listen again to a watered down equally tempered version of the piece.

In every day practice this is what is happening in all musical realizations of the classical eastern repertoire when this is played by mixed orchestras and thus the trouble is avoided.

 

Going back to "pure" non equally tempered music there are still lots of problems:

All academics and theoreticians in the east disagree with each other about the actual sizes of the different intervals of both genres whether those are measured by cents (1/100 of a semitone) or by Pythagorean comas.

In the hard version we have at least discernible tones and semitones but in the soft modes the semitone is a very precarious and unstable entity and also those theoreticians have not so far managed to tell us even the exact sizes of tones.

We have these different intervals for a tone in most soft genre modes, (I translate terms from Greek modal and Byzantine terminology):

Super major tone

Major tone

Minor tone

Minor most tone

and complete absence of semitones, but a minor most tone is an interval near to it, bigger than it only by a Pythagorean coma.

This is a very old time honored theoretical confusion that has failed to describe actual musical practice in my opinion.

In practice musicians have continued and will continue to play these modes, but in the soft genre in particular these intervals to which I referred are realized differently by an Arab, a Turk or a Greek and that is very natural depending on ethnicity, aesthetic outlook and geographical location.

But they are also realized differently within the same nation between different musicians, and last but not least they are realized differently by the same musician depending on his mood and the day of the week(!)

There is no ending either to the theoretical negotiations or to the practical inadequacies in this soft genre of ours.

 

About fusions in general I think that they are not necessarily a bad thing, but I believe that one has to study well and in depth his own musical tradition first before becoming bi-musical.

 

I liked your piece. It has impetuous and originality. Have in mind the problems to which I referred but carry on, you are in a good way!



René Torenstra said:

By the way, it is probably not done replying to myself like I am doing now, but I noticed after the edit period had passed that I have mixed the terms dastgah en gusheh. It goes to show that a simple Dutchman like myself shouldn't go all fancy and use foreign music terms :)

Thanks, Lawrence, you point out what I had the most difficulty with. How to avoid making it sound like a "normal" melody with some off-key notes? I tried to avoid that by using the preset sequence of notes used in a gusheh, but it is hard for the ear to not regard it as a "standard" melody. We have Pavlov's ears, so to speak :)

Lawrence Aurich said:

Rene,

     I very much enjoyed this piece, (at least the western, jazz, portion).  The only way I can imagine integrating quarter tones into a twelve tone scale is to have the quarter tones fall between western scale notes.  For instance a descending quarter tone scale of sixteenths could match a regular scale in eighths, or quarter tones would fill the spaces between half tones, rendering a sliding or bending effect.  Otherwise the quarter tones just sound out of tune  when played in tandem with regular tones.  What could be more dissonant than a minor second?  The quarter tone between a minor second played with the minor second.

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