International Council for Traditional Music

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Report on the 7th meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Maqām

Groups audience: 

Longterm conceived but shortterm embedded in the IInd International Musicological Symposium on Mugham within the framework of the International Festival “Space of Mugam” (March 14-21, 2011, Baku), the 7th meeting of the ICTM Study Group “maqām” was held in Baku on March 15-17, 2011 in the concert hall of the Composers’ Union of Azerbaijan. The conference, organized in cooperation with the ICTM Study Group under the auspices of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic and the Union of Composers of Azerbaijan pursued the orientation of former meetings, namely to concentrate on real music practice and its theoretical foundings and historical relations. Centered on the Azeri mugam/mugham the main topic was: “The mugam of Azerbaijan and related traditions in Middle East”. The problematics was specified by questioning for relationship of maqam-principle and mugam, for construction and formation of mugam music, for personal style in mugam performing and so on. The result of the conference directed this way was very impressive.

There have been 22 scholars from twelve countries who contributed to the succes of the conference accessible also to the public. The papers treated the subject given in a multilayered manner. The ideas of some scholars revolved about the scope of tonal system on which the mugams are based. As for the development and the changes of music making and transmission in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries a certain dichotomy between traditional performance and socialization of traditional music took place. Modern composition and music teaching bound to notation favoured the adoption and use of the western notation and consequently the installation of the corresponding tonal system. At times its introduction has been even a centralistic political position, as it was noted by Suraya Agayeva and Shamil Hajiyev (Azerbaijan) in their contribution on “Problems of research into the pitch systems of Azerbaijani mugams”. Referring to the tar, the main instrument of mugam, they prepared an unequal scale of 17 degrees. The essential differences between this scale and the equal tempered tonal system reflected in some computer programs were shown by Imina Aliyeva (Azerbaijan) in her paper on “Preservation of Azerbaijani modes as cultural heritage and computer technologies”. An interesting trace of the intervallic change in the tonal system followed Ehsan Khezrlou (Iran) with his explanation on “Azerbaijani mugam intervals: the process of neutral intervals elimination”, whereas Ozan Yarman (Turkey) contradicting the “Yekta-Arel-Ezgi school” canvassed eloquently in his speech “From Bosphorus to Maraga: Theoretical pursuits & applications that strive for the genuine in expressing maqams” a tonal system with an exhaustively multiplied stock of degrees. Last but not least Jamila Hasanova (Azerbaijan)  revealed modal characteristics and connections of some mugams in her presentation of “Problems of modus interrelations in Azerbaijani music”.

Concerning structure and formation of mugam there were a few contributions covering rather various aspects. Münir Beken (USA) dealt in his paper “Pitch-form continuum in maqam based musical traditions” with some aspects of the contrary conception in melodical formation East and West. The complicated but promising management of analysis by computer-assisted research formed the base of Mondher Ayaris/Olivier Lartillots (Tunisia/Finland) interesting presentation “Analysis of performances and computational modelling of maqam improvisations”. Jürgen Elsner (Germany), referring to his interviews and recordings with Bahram Mansurov and Gabil Aliyev in 1984 and based on extensive transcriptions, offered in his “Remarks on structure and formation in recent mugam” a description and structural analysis of the mugam/shube Dilkesh performed several times on the kamanja by Gabil Aliyev. Concerning another aspect of maqam construction Robert Simms (Canada) elaborated in his study “Foreground structures and processes in the Avaz of Mohammad Reza Shajaran” formal turns and particles in maqam performance being independent as to modal implications. He defines it as “androgenous melodic shapes” representing a primary structural level though not recognized explicitly by traditional music theory.

Concerning the historical aspect as third field of inspection it has been Zemfira Safarova (Azerbaijan) who started the proceedings of the conference by a far-reaching bridge-building between medieval and modern theory with her paper on the “Mugam-mode systems in S. Urmavi’s and U. Hacibayli’s scientific works”. Tamila Djani-zade (Russia) drew a similar large bow in her contribution “Synchronistic and diachronic aspects of mugam phenomenon studies” trying to differentiate various ethnohistorical periods and the corresponding terminology and to contrast mugam and maqam as “not equivalent” concepts. Referring to historical practice and medial conditions Faik Chelebiyev (Russia) described in his lecture on “Azerbaijani dastgah … “ some conrete changes in mugam transmission since the end of the 19th century. An especially interesting contribution to the history of the Azerbaijani Dastgah delivered William Sumits (USA) with his description of “Suite performance of maqam in the 17th century and its possible ties to the Azeri dastgah of the 19th century”. Referring to a treatise by Mir Sadr ad-Din Qazvini (d. 1599) he points out the old term shadd which has got at that time a new meaning. The text a little bit obscure becomes more clear with the manuscript Naqavat al-advar of ‘Abdulaziz Maraghi (d. 1602) who describes “the shadd as a musical form composed of a suite of various melody types”. Handed over to later centuries the shadd is equated in the “Treatise on the four great dastgah” (18th c.?) with the dastgah from where obviously a trace can be drawn to the Azerbaijani dastgah of the 19th century and later on. The lists of names of maqams and shu`bes given in some tables have been very impressive and enlightening.

The fourth branch of reports covered the investigation on relations between different regions and traditions of the Near East. Ariz Abdulaliyev (Azerbaijan) demonstrated this particularly by comparison of scales and tonegroups in his description of “Mugham ‘Bayati’ in traditional professional music of the East”. Jean During (France) concentrated his interest upon the position and interrelation of the mugham within respectively to the neighbouring regions and countries. In his lecture on “The place of the Azerbaijani mugham in its Caucasian and Iranian environment” he uncovered a lot of mutual historic influences and takings as well as plenty of stylistic convergences and divergences. An interregional comparison on the base of a genre delivered Arash Mohafez (Iran) with his paper on the tasnif in the Azerbaihani muqam and the Iranian dastgah. Comparative attempts were also done by Rena Mammadova (Azerbaijan) and Yasin Muhpul (China/Sinjang). Finally it has been Salih Turhan (Turkey) who looked for “Turkish equivalents of Azerbaijani rhythmic mugams”.

Furthermore there were some reflections on Khoresmian makoms (Rustam Boltayev/Uzbekistan) and the integration of mugam into modern Russian musicology (Sergey Lebedev/Russia). Aida Huseynova (Azerbaijan/USA) offered an interesting idea of the great mugam singer Alim Qasimov who was eager to maintain the classical tradition as well as to modernize mugam art.

If the results of the mugam conference may be evaluated in general as much rewarding and stimulating there is no doubt that it has been a great chance for the scholars to join some of the multifarious practical presentations of the mugam festival. Its program covered daily performances of mugams. A series of mugam performances, followed alternatively by performances of Iraqi maqam, Shashmakom (by the great Yulduz Turdiyeva/Uzbekistan), Uzun Hava (Turkey), Iranian maqam or Raga took place besides a few concerts given by various orchestras as well as improvisatory music making in the Baku Jazz Centre. An imposing part of the festival has been the daily presentation of a mugam opera. Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s operas “Leyli and Majnun”, “Asli and Kerem” and “Arshin Mal Alan” could be listened to as well as Fikret Amirov’s opera “Sevil” and Muslim Magomayev’s opera “Shah Ismayil”. Additional events like the International Mugham Contest, Master classes in instruments etc. completed the festival program.

Altogether the complexity of the IInd International Mugham Festival in Baku with regard to its practical and artistic as well as its scientific and theoretical aspects proved to be a good base for discussion on maqam phenomena and particularly on mugam and related traditions. This should be a valid reason to desire the chance to continue the scientific activities at the IIIrd International Mugham Festival which will be held in springtime 2013.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Elsner

Co-ordinator of ICTM Study Group on Maqām