Definition Oregon Teaching Standards for the Arts: Understand how works of art relate to the time periods and cultures in which they are created and how certain works of art from various time periods and cultures are related.

Content: Relate works of art from various time periods and cultures to each other. Describe how historical and cultural contexts influence works of art.

Full curriculum, focus on music

Iranian Music links by National Geographic

Historic Retrospective
The history of musical development in Iran [Persia] dates back to the prehistoric era. The great legendary king, Jamshid, is credited with the Invention of music. Fragmentary documents from various periods of the country's history establish that the ancient Persians possessed an elaborate musical culture. The Sassanian period (A.D. 226-651), in particular, has left us ample evidence pointing to the existence of a lively musical life in Persia. The names of some important musicians such as Barbod, Nakissa and Ramtin, and titles of some of their works have survived.

With the advent of Islam in the 7th century A.D. Persian music, as well as other Persian cultural traints, became the main formative element in what has, ever since, been known as "Islamic civilization. Persian musicians and musicologists overwhelmingly dominated the musical life of the Eastern Moslem Empire. Farabi (d. 950), Ebne Sina (d. 1037), Razi (d. 1209), Ormavi (d. 1294), Shirazi (d. 1310), and Maraqi (d. 1432) are but a few among the array of outstanding Persian musical scholars in the early Islamic period. In the 16th century, a new "golden age" of Persian civilization dawned under the rule of the Safavid dynasty (1499-1746). However, from that time until the third decade of the 20th century Persian music became gradually relegated to a mere decorative and interpretive art, where neither creative growth, nor scholarly research found much room to flourish. Since the early 20™s, once again, Persian music began to find broader dimensions. An urge to create rather than merely perpetuate the known tradition, and an interest to investigate the structural elements, has emerged. Fundamentally, however, what can be still recognized as the national music of Iran [Persia] is the tradition of the past with marked imprints of 19th century performance practices. This traditional or classical music represents a highly ornate and sophisticated art whose protagonists are professional city musicians. Prior to the present century, such musicians were patronized by the nobility. Today, in a progressively modernizing society, they are generally engaged by broad casting and television media. They are also active as teachers both privately and at the various scholars and conservatories of music.

Perpetuated through an oral tradition, the classical repertoire encompasses a body of ancient pieces collectively known as the RADIF of Persian music. These pieces are organized into twelve groupings, seven of which are known as basic modal structures and are called the seven DASTGAH (systems). They are: Shour, Homayoun, Segah, Chahargah, Mahour, Rast-Panjgah, and Nava. The remaining five are commonly accepted as secondary or derivative Dastgahs. Four of them: Abouata, Dashti, Bayat-e Tork and Afshari are considered to be derivatives of Shour; and, Bayat-e Esfahan is regarded to be a sub-dastgah of Homayoun. The individual pieces in each of the twelve groupings are generally called GOUSHEH, but each gousheh has a specific and often descriptive title. A gousheh is not a clearly defined musical composition; rather, it represents modal, melodic, and occasionally rhythmic skeletal formulae upon which the performer is expected to improvise. Thus, the radif submits an infinite source of musical expression. The flexibility of the basic material and the extent of the improvisatory freedom is such that a piece played twice by the same performer, at the same sitting, will be different in melodic composition, form, duration and emotional impact. The principle involved in the construction of Persian modes is based on the concept of conjunct and disjunct tetra chords comparable to the ancient Greek system. Chromaticism is not used and an octave never contains more or less than seven principal tones. Contrary to a persistent popular notion no such a thing as a quartertone exists in Persian [Iranian] music. A very characteristic interval, however, is the neutral, second. This is a highly flexible interval; but, in all its variations, it is noticeably larger than the minor second (half-step) and smaller than the major second (whole-step). Another interval peculiar to some of the modes is an interval which is larger than the major second, but not sufficiently large to be an augmented second. In authentic Persian music the western augmented second is not used. Rhythmically, the majority of gushes are flexible and free and cannot be assigned to a stable metric order. However, in every dastgah, there are a number of metrically regulated gushes which are played among the free meter pieces in order to provide periodic variety in rhythmic effects. Both, double and triple meters are common; asymmetric meters, found in the folk music of certain regions, are rare in the classical music. As in the case of many non-western musical cultures, Persian music has not evolved a systematic harmonic practice. The development of this music has been primarily melodic. As such it has attained a far greater measure of melodic refinement and subtlety western music.

Folk and Popular Music
The modal concepts in Persian folk music are directly linked with that of the classical music. However, improvisation plays a minor role as folk tunes are characterized by relatively clear-cut melodic and rhythmic properties. The function of each folk melody determines its mood. The varying aesthetic requirements of wedding songs, lullabies, love songs, harvest songs, dance pieces, etc., are met with transparent and appropriate simplicity. The majority of the classical instruments are too elaborate and difficult for the folk musicians. Instead, there are literally dozens of musical instruments of various sorts found among the rural people. In fact, each region of the country can boast instruments peculiar to itself. Three types of instruments, however, are common to all parts of the country. They are, a kind of shawm called Surnay (or Sorna ~ Zorna), the various types of Ney (flute), and the Dohol, a doubleheader drum. A discussion of Persian music must necessarily include the new hybrid of mixed Persian-Western music which is functioning as a popular-commercial music. The use of western popular rhythms, an elementary harmonic superimposition, and relatively large ensembles composed of mostly western instruments, characterize this music. The melodic and modal aspects of these compositions maintain basically Persian elements. On the whole, it would be something of an understatement to say that the artistic merit of such a melange as this is rather questionable.

- Hormoz Farhat

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Submitted by faramarz on Fri, 02/22/2008 - 5:46pm.