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Author: Subject: Muwwashsha from Andalus?
oudman71
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[*] posted on 10-6-2017 at 10:07 PM
Muwwashsha from Andalus?


Forgive me dear friends if this has been covered, I've only just resumed participation in this wonderful forum.

My impression is that the Muwwashsha song-form is Syrian in origin. But I sometimes hear people speak of Muwwashshahat like Lamma Bada as originating in Andalus during the Cordoba or Taifa era. Why is this the case?

My Moroccan friends tell me that if you want to hear the music of Andalus, the closest we have to that is the Ala Andalusi of Fez.

I would welcome any clarification on these issues.
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al-Halabi
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[*] posted on 10-7-2017 at 08:23 AM


There is good reason for confusion about the origins of the muwashshah repertoire and the various claims made about them. The muwashshah is a genre of strophic poetry that developed in Spain in the tenth century. Muwashshah poems were set to music, and the composition of such songs, which were also called muwashshahat, became part of the musical tradition of the region. The writing of muwashshah poetry and the composition of songs based on the poems of Andalusian origin and well as of others who wrote muwashshah poetry spread from Spain to North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

Because the muwashshah originated in Muslim Spain it is common to see the repertoire of muwashshah songs being referred to as "Andalusian muwashshahs" (muwashshahat Andalusiyya), although the term is quite misleading as most of the corpus of muwashshah songs we know today was composed outside Spain and long after Muslim Spain had ceased to exist. The classical musics of North Africa lay claim to being the direct descendants of the Andalusian tradition and the authentic representatives of the muwashshah genre. The Andalusian classical music of Morocco does not employ the microtonal intervals characteristic of the music of the Middle East. The musical system of Muslim Spain did not have these intervals either, which reinforces the claim that Morocco has preserved most faithfully the musical features of the Spanish muwashshah. In the eastern Mediterranean Syria, and more specifically Aleppo, became another creative musical center that cultivated the composition of muwashshah songs. Hundreds of muwashshah poems were composed in Aleppo during the Ottoman period (that is, after the Christian Reconquista in Spain), and many of these poems as well as the compositions of the Spanish poets were set to music in the city. The anthologies of Aleppo muwashshah songs from that period (many still in manuscript) reveal something interesting about this process of composition: the same muwashshah poem would often be set to melodies in different maqams. A local musician/composer would take the verses of a muwashshah song and set them to a new melody, which would give the poem a new life and sometimes supplant the older version of the song. In the nineteenth century many of the Syrian muwashshahs had melodies different from those we know today. So not only are these muwashshah melodies not of Spanish origin, but many of them are relatively recent compositions. During the first half of the twentieth century the prolific Aleppo musician Umar al-Batsh composed dozens of muwashshah songs and added new sections to older ones, and these have become classics of the Aleppo "Andalusian" repertoire. Needless to say, this whole repertoire is founded on an Eastern maqam system that did not exist in Spain. A romantic idealization of al-Andalus has helped to perpetuate the association of this repertoire with Spain, where the muwashshah poetic genre was indeed created, although not the repertoire of songs known today. One can see how Moroccans and Syrians could both claim ownership of the muwashshah song form.
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[*] posted on 10-10-2017 at 08:50 AM


Ahlan Halabi!

Thank you for the detailed reply. I was aware that Muwwashsha referred to a type of poetry, and I had the suspicion (which you've confirmed) that this contributed to the confusion of the situation.

Your comments on the Aleppan musicians reworking of the music for the Muwwashshahat is very interesting. Thank you for this info. You're the first person I've run into who's mentioned that the Andalusian Music did not employ quarter tones. Can you tell me anything about their modal/maqam system? For instance, did they use Kurd or Hijaz? Almost all the Ala I have heard from Morocco is in a version of Maqam Ajam, although they will sometimes emphasize the notes in such a way that it seems to inflect into Kurd briefly. I would welcome any insight you have on these matters.
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[*] posted on 10-31-2017 at 02:05 AM


Just a brief contribution, i'm not enough inform on those subjects.
but from what I have heard during workshops, the quarter tone was introduce to the Abbasid court by Zalzal. So somehing probably existing previous in this area but seems it is him who introduced it as officially recognized.
Then as said in the detailed answer of Al Halabi quarter tone was not in the repertoire of others area like the music of Al Andalus.
Looking forward to read if someone can develop on this subject
best




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al-Halabi
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[*] posted on 11-1-2017 at 09:23 AM


The master oud player Zalzal (9th century) is credited with introducing some of the distinctive microtonal intervals of Middle Eastern music, although not all of them. The most precise description of the tone system at the height of Abbasid rule is given by al-Farabi (who died in 950). He used the strings of the ud and the finger positions on the fingerboard to indicate the various intervals that were in use. Using the g string as an example these intervals (with their approximation measured in cents) were:

- a flat (at 90 cents)
- a higher a flat (at 114 cents). This is used as the second note in maqam Hijaz.
- an a "half-flat" at about 145 cents, which was of Persian origin (it was called wusta al-Furs, or the middle finger of the Persians). This would be equivalent to the second note of maqam Bayyati, for example. This interval represents roughly a note flattened by a quarter tone (approximately 50 cents).
- a higher a "half-flat" at about 170 cents attributed to Zalzal (wusta Zalzal). This would correspond roughly to the higher half-flat used as the third note of maqam Rast (typically in ascending phrases), or the tonic of maqam Sikah/Segah.
- a natural (at 204 cents)
- b flat (at 294 cents)
- a higher b flat (at 318 cents) attributed to Zalzal. This would be the second note of Hijaz played on a.
- a b "half-flat" (at about 350 cents) attributed to Zalzal. This would be the second note of Bayyati played on a (that is, b flattened by about a quarter tone).
- b natural (at 408 cents)

The two different semitones were already known from Greek music theory: the smaller pythagorean semitone was the Greek limma (90 cents or 4 commas) and the larger semitone was the apotome (114 cents or 5 commas). It was the microtonal intervals between the semitone and the whole tone that represented an innovation and became a distinctive feature of the region's music.

So the basic intervals of the tone system that we know today were set more than a millennium ago. They were shaped by Persian influence and the cultural creativity of this period, which modified the Greek musical legacy and the traditions of Arab music. This tone system with its microtonal intervals did not spread to al-Andalus.



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[*] posted on 11-2-2017 at 03:05 AM


al-Halabi, Thank you for this excellent summary of micro tone history. I have been studying some styles of playing from Morocco, not the well known maestros but those captured randomly on amateur recordings. I have found a relationship between the use of the quarter tone and it's variations and the natural position of the left hand fingers. For example I can hear a Bayat improvisation with the second note being the same as the one used in Rast. However the the 'f' (the 3rd note of bayat on 'd') is then played slightly flat. Furthermore the player doesn't use any vibrato or slide technique and remains consistent in voicing what seems to be his own way of interpreting maqam Bayat. I have also noticed a Nahawand on 'C' in which the player sharpens the Eb on the 3rd course but only slightly. And on the 1st course he then plays the Eb flat, the opposite to the way he plays it on the 3rd course. This distinguishes the Nahawand as very different from the Western C minor scale we often compare it too. I guess these variations are personal. It's a joy to discover them through listening and copying.



Best Wishes, Charlie
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[*] posted on 11-2-2017 at 07:51 AM


Thanks for the explanation. I never understood why those muwashahat sounded so different if they were indeed from the same origin. Turns out they aren't related that closely.





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al-Halabi
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[*] posted on 11-2-2017 at 09:00 AM


Charlie, the microtonal adjustments you mention are examples of the intricate system of intonation that guides actual performance. Music theory, both Arab and Turkish, is hardly helpful in enlightening us on the many intonational nuances we hear. It identifies the set of pitches and melodic intervals that make up the tone system as if they were all fixed and stable. The most glaring case is that of a note such as sikah/segah, which in practice has a mobile intonation that is modified depending on the maqam, the directional flow of the melody, the pull of neighboring notes, etc. The theory remarkably identifies it as a single pitch, with no recognition of its intonational variations. Turkish music theory defines segah as a note that is flattened by one comma, making the interval dugah to segah one of 180 cents. This is a high version of the half-flat, one that is not typically used in modes such as Bayati, Uşşak, and Saba, which in practice feature a lower version of segah. Turkish musicians refer to this lower segah as Uşşak, a note that thus exists in performance practice but has no basis in theory. Tanburs and lavtas include frets for the lower as well as higher varieties of segah. In contemporary Arab music theory sikah is defined as a note flattened by a quarter tone, with no reference to higher or lower variations of it. Turkish music theory and Arab music theory don't agree on what the pitch of this pivotal note is, and neither acknowledges its fluid character. Other pitch adjustments that we commonly hear and that we make in our own playing are also unaccounted for in the music theory. The ear is our best aide.

Fortunately, the instrument we play is capable of bringing out the intonational subtleties of the music, which contribute so much to its beauty.
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[*] posted on 11-4-2017 at 03:10 AM


I really appreciate the time you have taken to explain this fascinating aspect of oud music. Thank you.
When I decided to focus on intonation my ears and mind were hearing extraordinary combinations of notes. I now consider any theoretical concept relating to intonation as a rough guide only. You are so right when you refer to the contribution of beauty which comes from expressive pitch selection in passages played on the oud.




Best Wishes, Charlie
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