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Example 4 Research, Part 3a: Overlapping of the Words: Flute, Whistle and Pipe; and the Primitive Reedless Woodwind Aerophones

For my third example, using the previously explained nonatonic scale, I decided to write a piece for the flute. This is the first part of the research about the instrument, focusing on the earliest period of its emergence.

In the broadest sense, flute is a reedless woodwind aerophone – a hollow tube (or sometimes a globe and other shapes), which produces a tone when a stream of air is projected against the sharp edge of its opening. (Fig. 1) Under this loose definition, the term flute is a general name for a very large and varied family of wind instruments, but this denotation overlaps with the terms pipe and whistle.


Fig. 1. The mechanics of reedless woodwind instruments

Pipe can refer to not only the specific instrument – the three-holed pipe played with tabor (Fig. 3), which is classified under the flute family, but it can also have a very broad meaning – any instrument in the form of tube, or any aerophone in general, with or without reed. In this sense, pipe can be categorized as the generic term, with the flute being its subcategory.


Fig. 3. The tabor pipe Continue reading “Example 4 Research, Part 3a: Overlapping of the Words: Flute, Whistle and Pipe; and the Primitive Reedless Woodwind Aerophones”

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Example 4 Research, Part 1: Nonatonic Scale and its Coincidental Use until Tcherepnin

While I knew about the whole-tone and octatonic scales prior to the course, I never heard about nonatonic or nine-step scale. None of my teachers mentioned it to me, nor did I find it among any of my earlier study material. Even online, there was very little information about this scale. As it seems, it has been rather neglected by musicians.

Similar to the whole-tone scale, but especially the octatonic scale with whom it shows a strong link, nonatonic scale also occurs from the symmetrical division of the octave. While this is done using the whole/semitone alteration within four minor third sections, which equally divide the octave in the octatonic scale, the nonatonic scale is formed by the alternation of whole/semitones in the octave divided into three equal major third sections. In the major-third tetrachord, the tones may be arranged in following ways: semitone/whole tone/semitone, whole/semitone/semitone, and semitone/semitone/whole tone. (Fig. 1) Depending on this arrangement, there are three versions of the nonatonic scale. (Fig. 2)

Fig. 1. Three versions of the major-third tetrachord

Fig. 2. Three versions of the nonatonic scale Continue reading “Example 4 Research, Part 1: Nonatonic Scale and its Coincidental Use until Tcherepnin”

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Example 1 Research, Part 2: Whole-tone Scale in the Music of Liszt

Continuing on from my last post, where I wrote about the early occurrences of the whole-tone scale, here, I will focus on its manifestations specifically in the music of Liszt (Fig. 1), who developed unique progressions from which the scale emerges.

Note that most of the examples given here were analyzed by Harold Adams Thompson (1974: 133-278) in his dissertation, so I cite this work as the source for a large part of this blog post.


Fig. 1. The young Franz Liszt

In his Grand Galop chromatique, the scale is achieved in a downward sequence of dominant sevenths in 6/5 inversion and root major triads, by the use of suspended tones, repeated for two octaves and a major third. (Fig. 2) Continue reading “Example 1 Research, Part 2: Whole-tone Scale in the Music of Liszt”

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Example 1 Research, Part 1: The Use of Whole-tone Scale until Liszt

For my first example, I chose to explore the whole-tone scale. It belongs to the category of symmetrical scales, in which the scales are built from symmetrical repetition of an interval or a short intervallic pattern. In the case of the whole-tone scale, the interval of major second is repeated between the neighboring tones, resulting in the scale having six tones within an octave – being a type of hexatonic scale. (Fig. 1a) It can also be conceived as two augmented triads a major second apart. (Fig. 1b)

Continue reading “Example 1 Research, Part 1: The Use of Whole-tone Scale until Liszt”

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Example 2 Research: Octatonic scale and Orientalism

After writing my first example using the whole-tone scale, I decided to employ octatonic scale for my second example, which results from the alternation of whole and semitone steps. There are two versions, depending on whether the order begins with a whole tone or a semitone. (Fig. 1) Note that there are several other manners to notate the scale, depending on whether sharps or flats are utilized for specific notes. (Fig. 2) With no standardization, all of these notational variants are used, varying from composer to composer, depending on the musical ideas.

octatonic modes

Fig. 1. Two versions of the octatonic scale

octatonic modes 2

Fig. 2. Some notational variations of the octatonic scale

But before I focus on the properties of the octatonic scale, I have to address how puzzled I was as to why it was associated with Middle East in the West. I’ve already started my research on the Middle Eastern modes, which you can read in my three-part research here. As I wrote there, the modern practice of Arabic maqam, Turkish makam and Persian dastgah, and the related Afghanistan, Central Asian and Caucasus systems, actually use heptatonic modes. It is in the older traditions that we see the octatonic modes. Continue reading “Example 2 Research: Octatonic scale and Orientalism”

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Example 3 Research, Part 3: Modulations of the Arabic maqamat

In the last blog post I wrote about the basic Arabic modes and their basic units – jins. In this part of the research, I will focus on modulation.


Fig. 1. Arab party dancer by Guilio Rosati

Modulation is the practice of moving from one maqam to another within a musical piece. As I briefly mentioned in the last part, it plays a major role in the Arab music, especially in terms of the sayr -melodic development. As Marcus (172) points out, modulation was probably present from the medieval period.

For example, Wright (1974: 498) mentions in his discussion about the practice described in the thirteenth-century music treatises:

“Although a composition would generally be based on just one mode, extraneous units could also be judiciously introduced, especially in improvisatory passages displaying to the full the performer’s technical prowess.”

Shiloah (1981:37) also states that a group of subsidiary modes in the medieval and pre-modern practice were used, although not yet as “… complete or independent modes, but rather serve[d] towards the elaboration of the principal modes”

In fourteenth-century, modulation played an important role in the genres called kolliyat and kull al-nagham, latter of which was the progression that included all melodic modes. (Wellesz, 1957: 452) Although these were the genres of the Persian musical tradition (Simms and Koushkani, 2012: 208), the system certainly influenced and was close with the Arabic at the time. Continue reading “Example 3 Research, Part 3: Modulations of the Arabic maqamat”

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Example 3 Research, Part 2: Arabic Maqamat

The previous post introduced the Middle Eastern traditions and their modes with some basic notion. Here I will concentrate on and write specifically about the Arabic system.

I will first start with the building blocks of the modes – jins or ajnas in plural, which I also mentioned in the previous part of my research. The Arabic modes, which are heptatonic, are made of two sets – upper and lower. These can be joined on the same note – conjunct, be separated – disjunct, or overlap. It is based on the lower jins that maqamat are classified into families or branches. (Gu, 2014: 105) While jins are usually defined by tetrachords, there are some reasons to use trichords.

In case of Ajam and Jiharkah, this is because the three of their notes may be enough to convey the mood of maqam. Both of these are similar to the first three notes of the Western major scale. (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1. Ajam and Jiharkah trichords Continue reading “Example 3 Research, Part 2: Arabic Maqamat”

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Example 3 Research, Part 1: Introduction to the Middle Eastern Modes

I have written a little bit about the Middle Eastern music in terms of rhythm in the previous part of the course, which you can read in the second half of this post. Here, I will explore its melodic and modal system.

middle eastttern.jpg

Fig. 1. Hippolyte Lazerges, The Musician, 1894

There are three major traditions in the Middle Eastern music: Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, and there are also the related traditions in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. (Randel, 2003: 551) The mode system is called maqam in the Arab world, makam in Turkish, and dastgah in Persian (Iranian), while in the Caucasus the term for the Azerbaijani version is mugam, and in Central Asian Uzbekistan, there is the system called shashmaqam. With the different traditions, there are many variations, where similar or identical modes may have different names, and the same term may have different meanings. Continue reading “Example 3 Research, Part 1: Introduction to the Middle Eastern Modes”