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1. Fantasia


2. Tsifteteli


whole score pdf


Hello everyone,

This is a complete suite for solo guitar in 6 movements which I'm going to submit for comments and criticism in 3 continus posts as the 7 megabyte limit was not adequate for one continus mp3. The whole work is just over 18 minutes in length and even in mp3 format creates a total of c. 40 megabytes.

I wrote it years ago in a modal idiom utilizing the makam Saba in A whose main characteristic (well, one of many) is that it does not have a perfect 4th but a diminished one as its 4th degree, ie A-B-C-Db.

My main aim was to use this modal/tonal centre as a spring board in order to explore various possibilities for modulation in related tonalities and modalities on a rhythmic platform provided by characteristic rhythmic figurations and mannerisms found in dances of a Greek urban style of popular music called "Rebetiko".

The movements of the suite are:


  1. Fantasia
  2. Tsifteteli
  3. Hassaoserviko
  4. Zeibekiko
  5. Hassapikos
  6. Karsilamas


The work is written taking into account  possibilities for alternative guitar fingerings, but no fingerings are given as such because it requires quite an advanced technique to be played and hopefully the performer  will provide/prefer his/her own fingerings.

I submit one continus pdf for the whole score with my first post and I would prefer any comments, opinions and criticism to be done in this first post which contains the pdf file.


Thank you very much for any of your comments and  time.

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Finally got to listen in one go.

Taken as a whole the suite is very hypnotic and evocative. I love the flow of no3, the interesting sub-division of the time signature in no6 and the harmonic scrunches in no4. The septuplets in no5 are memorable

If I have a criticism, I would say it feels too repetitive because you stay in the same mode pretty much, especially for the first 4 dances. I reckon if you transposed say number 4 ( easier said than done I know), the suite would feel as though it is moving on and developing. Also the overall impression is that they are all similar in tempo, even though they do vary, nothing a really fast movement strategically placed wouldn't sort out. Are there fast dances in your folk heritage you could use if you were so inclined?

 Musically it is very interesting to me as the dances are an unknown and I like the way you exploit the maj/min oscillations inherent in the modes as well as the rhythmic characteristics. There is a seriousness to them which makes me wonder about the dances themselves and if they represent anything.

Just a listeners thoughts Socrates, but one who enjoyed them - you have given me music I have not really heard before and presented it well. Just one thing, can you play them yourself, if so, get them recorded because they are begging for a musicians inflection and spirit.


Thank you Mike, for your comments and suggestions. I have already published this score commercially, so at the moment I will not do any changes to it, but some of your ideas brought me some thoughts for an alternative version.

But as a result of the first comment I get in this thread on the actual technicalities of the music presented, I feel compelled to explain a little my thinking behind it, and discussing a little the Eastern modes in general, but of course in the context of the work under discussion. The attached PDF may be illustrative of what I say in the way of some possibilities explored and other ones left out.


This mode (makam) is perhaps the only one that does not repeat the base note A in its octave but Ab.

Its dominant degree is not the 5th but the 3rd from the tonic {C}, but here I must repeat a concept of the East very often forgotten in the West, which is extending the idea of dominants. Here we are not talking only about dominant degrees of a given scale but also about dominant modalities of the same scale, present as smaller units of those modalities in the forms of 3chords, 4chords and 5chords. This way of thinking facilitates very much for all eastern or bi-musical composers the process of modulation in ways not thought of in western tradition (as yet :-) ) and it is very similar to the original ancient concept of authentic and plagal modalities of ancient Greek theory, which is very much present in all three main regional musical cultures of our time, i.e. Ottoman Turkish, Arabic (including Maghreb countries) and Byzantine.

Here if I may add, the term "modulation" as understood and practiced in the west is of little consequence to an eastern consideration of it. For example, one can claim that modulation should be what the word really implies: change of mode. "Modulation" as a concept was half-transmitted/half-translated by Latin authors of the Greek word "Metatropia" (Μετατροπία), which means a change of mode after the initial mode has been introduced, so, in my estimation the word should have been translated as "meta-modulation", in lack of a better term, therefore one could say that when Mozart goes from C major to G major for his 2nd subject in a sonata, he is not really changing mode, but only the centre of gravity in the same mode.

Therefore, within this concept, a modulation from A Sabah to C Hicaz is considered as easy and natural as one western from A minor to C major. C Hicaz is a plagal or dominant mode to A Sabah, but this new mode Hicaz on C has as plagal mode the maquam Nihavent on F (the western harmonic minor scale).

Perhaps one can start seeing here a new way of thinking in providing endless possibilities of effecting as many "real" modulations, as there are in western tradition changes of key, register and tessitura.

"Modulation" also implies (and in practice is always accompanied) by a change in "ethos", or mood.

For example, according to this philosophy, a change from C major to G major cannot be considered as dramatic or real modulation as one from C major to C minor would be.

Similarly a modulation from A Sabah to any other mode on the same tonic degree (Hicaz on A, Ussak on A, Kiurdi on A - the list is endless), can be considered as natural and easy as its western counterpart of changing Major-Minor on the same tonic.


In the present suite I have tried to explore some of these possibilities with the obvious one first, i.e. A Sabah to C Hicaz, but also I have tried to introduce a feeling of increased remoteness with modulations to E Hijaz, A Kurdi, A Sabah, G Rast/Huzam, etc.





Makam or Maquam (Turkish/Arabic) = Mode

Tropos (Greek) = Mode

Echos (Byzantine) = Mode

Metatropia (Greek and Byzantine) = Modulation


VERY GENERALLY SPEAKING (on concepts as introduced in this suite)


Sabah : the main present mode. Its ethos differs from culture to culture and from century to century, ex. "Light as the morning breeze" to the Arabs, "Spiritual" to Byzantines, "Heavy and decisive" to modern Greeks, etc.

Hicaz : (pronounced as "Hejazz"), the principal chromatic mode of all Eastern Mediterranean and Maghreb countries, taking its name from the holy Hijaz area in Arabia. It is the same or very analogous to the ancient Greek chromatic Lydian mode (tonic C) or the Byzantine echos Plagal B  (tonic D).

Nihavent : the plagal mode of Hicaz (in its "hard" version practically the same as the western harmonic minor scale).

Ussak : A family of modes since the middle ages, with many variants in all its parameters. Its scale (in the "hard" version is the same or very similar to the ancient Hypo-Dorian or present day western Aeolian modes, but it is mostly met in its "soft" genre version, unplayable on equally tempered instruments.

Kurdi : A "hard" genre only mode. The ancient Dorian scale/mode, but western present day Phrygian mode. Its eastern name derives from the Kurdish nation. (Any further association is unknown to me, it is a case of knowing whether the Neapolitan 6th chord has anything to do in particular with the city of Naples).

Rast & Huzam : Both are "major" sounding modes, albeit Rast has a lowered 7th degree (ancient Hypo-Phrygian), whereas Huzam has a raised 2nd degree and it is really only a six note mode never approaching the lower tonic.


Fantasia : Introduced here in place of an unmeasured improvisation called "Taxim", exposing the main mode of the composition, and some principal modulations. It is usually not written down, as the performer is expected to improvise in the given mode, but I could hardly expect that in this case from a western classical guitarist.

Tsifteteli : Literally meaning "two strings" (from tuning the upper 2 strings of a violin in unison and playing the melody on both strings at the same time). It is always in 4/4 time and always the first half of the measure is syncopated. It is generally considered to be the "erotic dance" of all Eastern Mediterranean, and it is quite often observed in its  abused version as the well-known "Belly dance".

Hassapikos & Hassaposervikos : The slow and fast version of the same dance according to many.

The first (slow) version literally means "butchers dance" deriving from the butchers of Constantinople, but in its more ancient "severe" slow form which my taking tries to capture, it was the formal dance of the Byzantine emperors. Hassaposervikos, the fast version of it, is danced as a cross Greek-Serbian hybrid dance in both countries.

Zeibekikos : According to modern scholars this word can be traced back to the war-like tribe of Zeibeks who were active in Anatolia mostly against the Ottomans in the 19th century. Yet, the dance is much older than this and Thrace, Anatolia and the Aegean islands give plenty of examples of an older repertoire in many variants. Some other scholars have traced it as far back as Homeric times, while a linguist that I approached personally is of the opinion that "Zei-Bek" is a double Sanskrit root meaning Bitter double God. In other words it is the very dance of God Zeus in his dual incarnation. Actually the duality is evident in the Greek name of the God "Ζεύς" (Zeus = double), but I don't know about the "bitter" element in this concept :-)

In musical terms it is always in 9/4 or 9/2 time, abused as a concept by modern transcribers who use 9/8, resulting in a lot of semi-demi-semis in their scores, unreadable by any musician and not even easily available in modern score writers like Sibelius.

Its two main metrical divisions are [4+3+2] and [3+4+2] and they can be presented in syncopated (as in this suite) or un-syncopated groupings.

Karsilamas (Turkish) or Antikristos (Greek) : It is the same dance in both cultures, but the Turkish don’t seem particularly fond of it! It means literally that the dancers are facing/opposing each other. It is always in fast 9/8 with three main metrical divisions i.e. [2+2+2+3] as in this suite, and also [2+3+2+2] and [3+2+2+2], all divisions abundant in folk music. It is very difficult to find a western division of this time signature [3+3+3] in the folk traditions of the countries under discussion.


The tempi I have chosen for all pieces are only approximations that should work if a chance for a dance arrived, but no one really can tell the mood of the dancers in advance.

On the other hand, I never considered these pieces being danced, I had only abstract motivic ideas and mannerisms of dance in my mind while I was writing them.

Regarding no. 3 Hassaposervikos, it is the kind of dance that most players on bouzouki or violin would prefer to play much faster, while the dancers would prefer to dance much slower, so a middle solution is always best.

All dances were chosen by one criterion really, i.e. if they are dances very much met in the genre of music called "Rebetiko". Outside this genre there are plenty of folk dances of any speed from very slow to very fast, which did not concern me here.


Your observation about a repetitive sense all too present is quite correct, Mike, that is probably a result of my persistence to stay within binary outer forms, but re-writing would prove a hell of a job given the way it stands for the instrument now. But your suggestion of transcribing one movement to a different tonal centre I find quite exciting. It would be indeed refreshing, and I think that Zeibekikos (no.4) the way it is written offers the easiest ground for transcribing it to E instead of the present A. I will do that in another revision and probably publish it as an alternative version. Thanks for this suggestion.

Regarding my ability to play this suite for a real recording, yes, I believe I could be up to it if I try, but I am very volatile in my practice habits (I offer as an excuse that I have a lot of instruments to practice with, and classical guitar is only one of them), but up to last February for example, I practised it every day and I was feeling again very hot on it. Well, I haven't touched my guitar since then, doing other things instead.

So, if I don’t, I hope someone else does. :-)


My dear Dr. Arvanitakis,

Fascinating and incredibly informative. I've had a fascination with modes my whole career which branched out into synthetic scales. The compositional resources hidden within these structures is unbounded and infinite - just apply any matrix or organising function you want  and you will be in fertile ground. I have used scales in the past that do not repeat a 'tonic' at the octave, in fact don't repeat any of the notes in the first octave. I have tried what I call zonal scales too - sequences of notes that are restricted to the octave range they are presented in, a kind of restricted bi or even tri-tonality. This is the beauty of modes and scales, they are so malleable if you abuse them.

I understand about different dominant and plagal forms, but when you talk about C Hicaz being plagal to A Sabah are you talking about a differing tessitura within the same scale, or (as in minor to major) a change in the tone/semitone order between the two?

Thanks for the elucidation on the dances and modes too, a great read for a geek (not greek) like me...

Given that names such as Aeolian, Locrian, etc, are medieval inventions that would not mean much to an ancient theorist (or indeed to a layman), I give the "System Perfect Greater" in "metabolon" and "ametabolon" forms, of antiquity in two of its three versions, namely diatonic and chromatic. I do not include the enharmonic genre since it has passed into disuse from c. 4th century B.C.

Metabolon =inter-changeable

Ametabolon = fixed/not changing.


All versions are supposed to be depicting the hard tuning choice (very close to our own equally tempered system) which was shot after by the ancients in both theory and much more in  practice, although they did not have the mathematical knowledge of algorithms by which it is scientifically achievable, much before all this fuss about the soft genre was overemphasized by Byzantines and Arabs.


To give an answer to your question, Mike, although I admit quite subjective, the passing from A Sabah to C Hicaz, is much more of a change of intervallic succession than of tessitura, although tessitura does get affected noticeably, by being a minor 3rd higher. But the real change in my opinion, the one that is primarily perceived by human ear and human psyche is one of intervallic succession, i.e. one of ethos or mood. As you can observe from the three screen shots, the replacement of Hypodorian by Lydian (or any other mode for that matter) in the diatonic genre is quite natural and easy and we still can observe it now a days in all folk traditions. You can also easily observe in the chromatic example of the metabolon system that the prime building elements of chromatic modes (5chords of Sabah and Hicaz) are already present at least from Pythagorean (to be more precise, Aristoxenian) times, along with some other structural elements that we don’t use at present (at least in the West), but the time does not permit me to expand into those elements. Therefore the passing from a chromatic Hypodorian to a chromatic Lydian can be considered as easy and natural as that of the diatonic version (and that is exactly what happens in practice for centuries now).


The most remote mode from Hypodorian in terms of tessitura is of course Hypophrygian mode, but a modulation to this mode would not take place in most cases by an ascending 7th, the descending 2nd being the obvious choice. (Here we must also consider that the ancients were discussing and presenting their modes mainly in descending rather than ascending scalic formulae). But in any case, all this is only theoretical speculation, as I do not think that such a modulation (Hypodorian to Hypophrygian) would be envisaged in an ancient musicians mind, and I believe that the ancients dealt with problems of register of voices and instruments and tessituras much as we do today, i.e. by replacing one medium with another. In this sense, if Berlioz finds something as very high for the flute so he gives it to the piccolo, in the same way Aeschylus (he was a great musician, but only known to us as a great tragic poet), if he finds the lyre limited for  an idea he would give the part to a guitar instead (or something with a similar timbre).


Having said all this, I believe that the real problem of tessitura arose in the East only since the early 20th century with Byzantines and Arabs in one camp and Ottomans in the other. Now a days things have calmed down a bit and tolerance and mutual respect is prevailing but back then it was almost like a schism similar to the one between orthodox and catholic Christians. What really happened is that Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) in the wake of WW 1 decided to modernize/westernize Turkey, so he ordered the prominent Turkish music theorists to "create" (within one single night) a "Turkish classical music" analogous to Western European. The very knowledgeable but also very nationalistic and pro-Ataturk Turkish theorist Rauf Yekta wrote a very provocative and extended article and published it in the Lavignac music encyclopaedia. In this article he attacked viciously the western tempered scale as being out of tune as well as emphasizing the supremacy of Ottoman court music over Byzantine and Arab traditions.

He also, very peculiarly and without any coherent musical explanation or justification transposed the basic Pythagorean scale from C a 5th up to G, and ever since then all theoretical negotiations between the three cultures involved must be mentally transposed up a 5th for Turks to understand. Therefore, when the Byzantine theoreticians refer to "chromatic plagal B" or Arabs to Hijaz, they both mean the same mode with tonic D, whereas the Turkish understand "Hicaz" with tonic A (a 5th higher), although they have plenty of 16th to 19th century manuscripts of their own tradition in their disposal which prove the error of Yekta.

So, I don’t think we have heard the end of this yet, but tessitura is always a problem which was not before, when musicians of all three cultures try to play together… (leaving aside the 1500 years old endless negotiations on the size of the intervals of the soft genre, that is! :-)  )




I have made about two months ago a request to the admins of this site that a "viewpdf" line of HTML code should be inserted to this forum, exactly for this kind of discussion, which would hold a pdf open while reading a post, rather than us having to provide screen shots of music examples. So far I did not have any reply.

Well, as Mic Jagger says, "You can't always get what you want!"  :-)

The first thing that strikes me and is fascinating are the ordering of the names in these ancient classifications, nothing like the ecclesiastical classifications later on. I see your point easily enough about moving from A Sabah to C Hicaz and yes, on the assumption that the final of both modes is A and C respectively and performed as such, there is a marked difference in ethos. The second attribute that is striking of course is the tone/semitone ordering as seen in the quasi phrygian nature of C Hicaz. (I can see it differs after the semi tone to final relationship with the augmented 2nd dflat to e)- which is lydian in this classification- my head is starting to hurt :-/
I presume the g flat and g natural are the inter- changeable notes in the metabolon, are/ where they mutually exclusive?

As you doubtless know, tessitura was only a matter of convention in the church for vocal music because if the tenor and soprano where in authentic mode, then bass and alto would of necessity be plagal - the tenor mode then became the defining mode (cantus firmus). It is a shame that political (religious?) and cultural dogma is still fighting over these matters.

What do you mean by soft genre and are there any records that show an equivalent use of musica ficta in performance. (I ask that because of the interchangeable metabolon).

Hi Mike,

Just trying to give a short (I wish I could), but comprehensive answer to some of the issues you raised (which take endless negotiation imo).

The ordering of the names (as well as the meaning of the nomenclature and its ethical implications) in the System Perfect Greater, is as delivered by Byzantine scholars of the first Christian era to half-learnt and unwilling Latin monks.

Obviously, for their own "spiritual" reasons these monks completely rejected the chromatic genre, thus denying to the future European music half of the legacy of the ancients, (I often repeat to myself that the biggest musical civilization so far has been build only on one half of its potential and that is the fault of the catholic church).

The inter-changeability between metabolon and ametabolon is in my opinion only a theoretical proposition/possibility, as the principal  instruments involved (mainly guitar, harp, magadis, lyre etc) were all of the plucked string category and were tuned before-hand according to occasion and requirements of particular compositions. If different tunings were required during the course of the piece, probably the solution was similar to our own when employing clarinets in Bb and A during the same piece, ie duplicate instruments with alternative tunings were ready at hand.


The chromatic genre although very much in the order of the day, by many philosophers was regarded only as an aberration of the diatonic one, that is before Aristoxenus called their bluff by referring to actual musical usage of his day and not to any prescriptive theory.

The formulation of the chromatic 4chord in real terms is as simplified and quick as possible for practical reasons, so if it could be achieved in one step rather than two (by retuning one string) that method was followed and as a method is easily observed in the structure of only the basic diatonic 4chords of Lydian and Dorian rather than Phrygian which would require two steps. Have another look in my screen shots of the system and you can easily verify that.

So, yes, in the metabolon system as it was realized in practice the Gn and Gb would be mutually exclusive.


Regarding the "soft genre" the theoretical speculation and disagreement as to the size of its intervals, I believe, has started since the day of its conception. It was well known to the ancients but only as one choice of tuning, and nowhere near the prominence that it has achieved since the middle ages, mainly through the practices of Christian and Muslim religions which eventually the secular world felt compelled to follow.

Now a days many wise academics try to elucidate the point that the size of the intervals in a mode is only one characteristic of that mode and in most cases and for all modes not even the main characteristic. More important characteristics of any mode are the actual intervallic structure, the melodic direction (ascending, descending or both), the characteristic motivic mannerisms of the mode, the relationship with other modal shapes as can be observed in the actual 2 8ve placement of a mode (in the system perfect greater), etc, etc. All these are considered to be much more important than the actual size of intervals, for forward looking people that is.

As I said before (or implied), the splitting of the 8ve into 12 equal semitones was a theoretical ideal and pursuit of the ancients, but they lacked the mathematical knowledge to achieved it, while Aristoxenus and other theorists inform us that in practice it was done daily and as nearly as possible by practical musicians just using their ears.

Now, we can easily claim based on that, that the hard genre was preferred by those ancient societies, and as a genre happens to be very close to our own equally tempered system.

The soft genre on the other hand is characterized by its "sweetness" to the eastern ear (or out-of-tuness to the western :-) ) and most of present day modes are practiced within the confines and regional antinomies of this super-structure.

Be that as it may, you cannot find a single example of practical music of the same piece, being the same from country to country, performer to performer or even the same performer on different days, in his taking of a particular makam.

But in general it can be characterized by the complete absence of semitones (as we know them in the west). It uses instead major tones, minor tones and minor-most tones which are slightly bigger than semitones, and of course the augmented 2nd, but usually in its hemiolic soft version rather than the three-semitone of the hard genre.

Personally, I like the soft genre very much, and I am well aware of its historical significance and contribution towards developing a modern acoustic aesthetic not met in the West, but sometimes I Feel that is over-dominating eastern musical things and struggling its harder brother.


To finish with an audition of it I have picked this example among thousands freely available on the web:


What we have discussed so far of the interrelationship Sabah-Hicaz is, I believe, well demonstrated in the following example, which transposes the A-C relationship to D-F for the needs of the singer mostly, as well as being done exclusively in the soft genre tradition for both modes. Notice how the supertonic E is not exactly in equal temperament (not exactly a major tone from D) on the voice delivering the Sabah first part, neither is the second degree of Hicaz (Gb) or the top Db exactly semitones on the violin delivering the Hicaz part of the composition, ie this Gb & Db are at a distance bigger than a semitone from F & C respectively ( at a minor-most tone of the soft genre).

Half way through the piece [2'09''-2'53''] the violin establishes the Hicaz in F 5chord before cadencing again to D Sabah but immediately the singer decides to climax in the Hicaz mode [2'54''-3'04''].

Between [3'05''-3'15''] the violin establishes firmly the Hijaz on F but only with half close (stopping on C) in the normal lower register occupied previously by Sabah.

After this [3'17''-3'53''] the singer re-enters in the top of the Hicaz 5chord descending first to its base (F) and repeating the same vocal phrase, before continuing the descend further to the Sabah base (D) and concluding the delivery of the lyrics.

But since she has finished with the lyrics during the Hicaz section, what is left for this final descend to D in terms of lyric material is the usual vocalization on stock amane words like "Yarem" and "Aman". To round off the piece, the violin plays a concluding improvisatory passage re-establishing the Sabah on D.


This type of piece, although mainly improvised cannot be called properly a taxim as it involves the human voice.

All similar vocal pieces are called "amane" in both Turkey and Greece (Café Aman taking its name from it and flourished in the beginning of 20th century in major urban areas is a commercial social by-product of this culture)


Apart from the usual vocal exclamations on words such as "aman", "yarem" etc, met in all similar amane vocal improvisations, the actual lyrics are:


Cause of my death you have, and you know it,

you have and you know it,

it's up to you to take my soul, it’s up to you to spare me.

So the Byzantinians had blue notes eh.
How typical (and also proof of what you say), that my westernised ears would have thought that the micro tuned mode was the hard version. Some concert composers have and still are exploiting the cracks between equal temperament these days, but there is a lot of musical prejudice to be overcome before any mainstream acceptance of the practice in the west. Perhaps you are right in that we only has half the story because of censorship.
The example was fascinating to listen to, a heart felt lament that felt very pure and visceral.
Thanks for these postings Socrates, I have found them very informative and edifying.

The Byzantines still have blue notes in their holy services Mike. :-)
Only their theology became so distorted about the 11-12 century, so that they forbidden all instruments from those services, with the result that we can observe and talk today only about a vocal tradition and only religious. The serious secular music did not survive the onslaught of the patriarchs and the theocratic last emperors, save perhaps in the folk tradition somehow, and later in the Ottoman court whose musicians were mostly Greeks and Armenians.
By the way, the diatonic Lydian mode (today's Ionian C to C), is the basic hard genre Pythagorean scale taken as a measurement, upon which all other scales and modes have been negotiated for the last 2500 years. Not much different aurally from what we call equal temperament. Soft genre is to me only a medieval "young upstart".
I want to present the measurements in another thread. I work on this from time to time, but MIDI is not really a serious tool for this kind of work from what I can gather (unless of course there is something in it which I don’t know), but I think that I cannot get with it even a quarter tone correctly because the pitch bend message goes up and down in increments of three, so my quarter tones can be either 48 or 51 cents and not 50 as they should be, let alone other more complicated intervals of the soft variety. (Not that my ears can discern any difference in anything less than 6-7 cents, anyway :-) but there are others who can )
I wonder if there is alternative but affordable technology for this kind of work.

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