Mike's Oud Forums
Not logged in [Login - Register]
Go To Bottom

Printable Version  
 Pages:  1  2
Author: Subject: Iraqi tuning?
crmdgn
Oud Lover
**




Posts: 23
Registered: 11-3-2014
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-16-2019 at 03:00 PM
Iraqi tuning?


I recently bought an oud instruction book that uses the tuning FADGCF as opposed to the standard Arabic tuning.

1. Is this the "high F tuning" I've heard of?

2. If it is, why is it controversial (e.g., see Najib Shaheen's comments here: https://www.oudforguitarists.com/words-of-wisdom-from-world-famous-o... )?
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-24-2019 at 07:13 AM


Yea thats high f tuning, it requires a special set of strings since the hightest course is much thinner, and it doesnt have the single low bass string. I've often seen it called 'Iraqi' style from online shops that sell that package of strings for that tuning, but I know i've heard other oud players play in high F who are not Iraqi like Ahmad Fathi and Mamdouh ElGabaly.

I cannot respect any oud player calling Munir Bachir, Nasser Houari, Charbel Rouhana, Nasser Shamma and so many other devoted oud masters "clowns" and mediocre players. Such arrogance! Such a statement by Najib is unforgivable and his reputation is ruined in my opinion. His mindset is the disguisting side of the human ego that does not belong in this kind of music. Why would he publicly say such a horrible opinion? Sure we can have preferences, he doesn't prefer the sound of high f tuning and floating bridge just like I don't prefer Vilayat Khans sitar style, but I would never call an Ustad a clown or a mediocre musician, or tell newly interested students to avoid his music.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-25-2019 at 08:13 AM


Quote: Originally posted by crmdgn  
I recently bought an oud instruction book that uses the tuning FADGCF as opposed to the standard Arabic tuning.

1. Is this the "high F tuning" I've heard of?

2. If it is, why is it controversial (e.g., see Najib Shaheen's comments here: https://www.oudforguitarists.com/words-of-wisdom-from-world-famous-o... )?


1. Yes, that's the high F tuning.

2. I don't know that I'd say it's controversial. Najib is provocative in his opinions, not because he's egotistical but because in my experience he feels that it engages people and challenges them to think for themselves. There are lots of westerners who start learning middle eastern music and just believe what any "authority" tells them, or think that it's all just personal opinions. This style of semi-combative statements can be effective in personal conversation, probably less so in a written format like the link above, so I understand how some might take offense at his deliberately outrageous way of expressing his ideas.

I've spent a lot of time with Najib and learned a ton from him, he is incredibly well-versed in the tradition and has a depth of knowledge that is extremely rare. I can tell you that he definitely respects Munir Bashir. In our conversations, he will readily admit if he was over-generalizing (usually with a ready smile and laugh), but wants specific evidence, which required me to do my own research so I could back up my conclusions. It's definitely an old-school way of teaching, one that is definitely out of favor (and doesn't work for everyone), but I feel privileged to have learned from a master in a manner that is nearly unheard of nowadays.

That said, there are pretty good reasons for his statement. The reasons are ultimately arbitrary but not random or without objective basis.
Here they are, in less general and sweeping terms:

• The entire maqam system is range-dependent. So the range and register of what you play on the oud has specific musical meaning in the tradition. The high f is almost entirely outside the realm of the maqam system as classically defined. So if your purpose is to deal with the Arabic music tradition, there is no reason to use the high f' on your oud.

• The exception would be if you are moving the whole maqam system to a higher pitch level, particularly to accompany a singer with a high voice. In that case, "rast" becomes concert F, "sikah" becomes concert A1/2b, etc. That presents its own issues, though:

• The Arabic music tradition has particular timbral properties as part of its aesthetic. It favors lower, warmer sounds. Many classic recordings are tuned down 1/2 or 1 whole step. Higher tuning favors brighter, twangier sounds. There's nothing wrong with this, per se, as these sounds are preferred in the aesthetic of Persian and to some extent Turkish and Iraqi music. But it can be at odds with a "desirable" sound in Arabic music generally.

• The main purpose of most people using the high F tuning is to incorporate Western aesthetics and elements in their music. Nothing inherently wrong with that either, but for someone who is part of a tradition and values the tradition as the foundation for further developments, it makes sense to discourage a westernizing development as a starting point (the question was specifically regarding students, especially those without a middle-eastern background).







View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-25-2019 at 10:45 AM


Brian, that is so well said. Double respect from me to you.

Chris, there's another aspect as well. Old style Arabic music seeks to arouse tarab, a type of ecstasy or altered state. The sonorities of a floating bridge oud in F tuning can seem sterile when compared to what can happen on a low-tuned oud when set to vibrating by a player who knows how pull out a sound that simultaneously punches the listener in the gut, stimulates the heart, and activates a wavelength in the brain. Fixed bridge ouds in F tuning seem to occupy a sonic territory in between.

Also, to expand on one of Brian's points, you made reference, Chris, to Indian raga tradition. It was typical of the old-time ustads and pandits to discourage novice students from listening —during the first few yeas of learning —to the music of other traditions which had a different aim or different methodology than the tradition of the teacher. This is to protect the student from getting confused. After the student is well grounded it becomes beneficial to pay attention to skilled practitioners of other traditions. Done too early there is the danger making Frankenstein Monster music. I am reminded of when I was learning sarod from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. A young dancer who had dabbled in this and that came to the Ustad offering to dance for him. He said "ok. why not". She did her dance, he said "thank you" and she went away. The students asked him "what style of dance was *that*?. He said "mixed Oriental".
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-25-2019 at 12:56 PM


"So if your purpose is to deal with the Arabic music tradition, there is no reason to use the high f' on your oud."

So the shocking headline here is that Munir Bashir and Nasser Shamma are not legitimate traditional Arabic musicians. For me Munir Bashir is the top of the mountain and everything he ever played is canon.

Munir Bashir played solo concerts, and his long improvisations are as close to this 'saltanah' or 'tarab' feeling that i've ever felt from listening to any Oud player. No vocals, no westernization that I could detect, just pure Maqam development and modulation. I understand he's somewhat of an 'outsider' but that's what makes him special to me. And I quite enjoy the sound of floating bridge too. Ali Hassan is an example of one of my very favorite musicians.

The bigger discussion about tuning/bridge issues and teachers limiting their students exposure to other musicians is based on a more philosophical debate of what music even is.

I believe that music is all about openness, learning and sharing the beauty of sound from your neighbors. Thats music's role in the human world to me, to break down the imaginary boundaries between cultures and connect with the shared wonder that is contained in a musical instrument. The other side of the debate boils down to the idea of cultural ownership and eventually nationalism based on a superiority complex. All that stuff about 'dont listen to any other style than MINE' is entirely self serving to the teachers sense of authority. Think about the early lives of Baba Allaudin Khan, Munir Bashir, Cemil Bey, Kayan Kalhor, and my favorite Tar player the SELF TAUGHT Lotfallah Majd as well as countless other respected master musicians who, because they incorporate many other styles into their music due to their exposure to them in their formative years, are considered musical geniuses. These are your Frankenstein Monsters? How could Ostad Majd be self taught therefore by default incorporate the styles of other musicians, and still be considered a master of a musical tradition that is based on students submitting their lives to a teacher?

I say Listen to EVERYONE YOU CAN! Find what you like, and more importantly what you dont like. Otherwise your improvisations are not your own but performing is more like taking an exam in front of your teacher. Wheres the magic in that?

I do respect the long human tradition of drawing hard lines in the sand, it's just not for me.

Is this high f tuning? And can you assume that any oud without the bottom C bass string is tuned to high f?

https://youtu.be/15xr6OlbdEU

View user's profile View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-25-2019 at 09:40 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  
"So if your purpose is to deal with the Arabic music tradition, there is no reason to use the high f' on your oud."

So the shocking headline here is that Munir Bashir and Nasser Shamma are not legitimate traditional Arabic musicians. For me Munir Bashir is the top of the mountain and everything he ever played is canon.

Munir Bashir played solo concerts, and his long improvisations are as close to this 'saltanah' or 'tarab' feeling that i've ever felt from listening to any Oud player. No vocals, no westernization that I could detect, just pure Maqam development and modulation. I understand he's somewhat of an 'outsider' but that's what makes him special to me. And I quite enjoy the sound of floating bridge too. Ali Hassan is an example of one of my very favorite musicians.

The bigger discussion about tuning/bridge issues and teachers limiting their students exposure to other musicians is based on a more philosophical debate of what music even is.

I believe that music is all about openness, learning and sharing the beauty of sound from your neighbors. Thats music's role in the human world to me, to break down the imaginary boundaries between cultures and connect with the shared wonder that is contained in a musical instrument. The other side of the debate boils down to the idea of cultural ownership and eventually nationalism based on a superiority complex. All that stuff about 'dont listen to any other style than MINE' is entirely self serving to the teachers sense of authority. Think about the early lives of Baba Allaudin Khan, Munir Bashir, Cemil Bey, Kayan Kalhor, and my favorite Tar player the SELF TAUGHT Lotfallah Majd as well as countless other respected master musicians who, because they incorporate many other styles into their music due to their exposure to them in their formative years, are considered musical geniuses. These are your Frankenstein Monsters? How could Ostad Majd be self taught therefore by default incorporate the styles of other musicians, and still be considered a master of a musical tradition that is based on students submitting their lives to a teacher?

I say Listen to EVERYONE YOU CAN! Find what you like, and more importantly what you dont like. Otherwise your improvisations are not your own but performing is more like taking an exam in front of your teacher. Wheres the magic in that?

I do respect the long human tradition of drawing hard lines in the sand, it's just not for me.

Is this high f tuning? And can you assume that any oud without the bottom C bass string is tuned to high f?

https://youtu.be/15xr6OlbdEU



It's not shocking, I don't know anyone who would consider them to be traditional with respect to the broad canon of Arabic music.

Naseer is certainly not playing traditional Arabic music. He is very far removed from the tradition. Does this make it bad? No, of course not. But it would be a poor model and cause confusion for someone who wishes to understand the tradition. The same is more or less true of Anouar Brahem—beautiful music, but not a good way to learn about traditional Arabic music. Brahem can play traditionally, but rarely does so. Probably Shamma can also, but this is not what he performs on recordings and in concerts.

Bashir is much closer to the tradition, but his style is a mix of Turkish, Arabic, and Iraqi styles. Nothing wrong with it—it's quite beautiful in its own way. It's not a good example of the Arabic tradition, though—it's a hybrid. He did occasionally play closer to the tradition (and was very capable), but again that's not what's mostly represented in his output. He's certainly connected to multiple traditions, which makes him interesting, but not a paradigm of any of them.

High f tuning is about the high f, it has nothing to do with low C. The low C was rare until relatively recently, most of the classic recordings of Farid and Sounbati only had FAdgc' or GAdgc' (or possibly tuned down a bit). The classical range is from approximately two octaves, from low G (Yekah) to approximately the G above the high c'.

I don't have any interest in getting into an argument about your opinions or my opinions. You like the high f' and the floating bridge, that's fine. There's no problem there, you are entitled to your preferences. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to like.

I'm just trying to provide some factual perspective, since the OP asked a genuine question. It is simply a fact that the high f' has always been somewhat anomalous with respect to Arabic music and that it doesn't really fit within the maqam system at the ordinary pitch level. There are reasons why the high f' is problematic.

Najib was literally asked to provide guidance to musicians who are specifically just starting out with the oud. As a master musician, it's not unreasonable for him to assume that he's being he's asked his opinion with respect to the tradition he comes from.
He did not narcissistically volunteer his opinion in his own blog, he just answered a question that was requested. To take that out of context misses the point. He's not saying "don't learn any other style than mine", he's saying "if you're asking about learning the tradition I come from, here's what I think." Which is a reasonable interpretation of being asked that question. He wouldn't even consider it "his" style at all—for someone of his background, the music doesn't have the kind of western-romantic ego component that that implies. It's Farid's style, it's Sounbati's style, it's Rohi el-Khammash's style, it's Qassabgi's style and Mohamed Abdel Wahab's style, and Oum Kulthum's style and countless other giants that together form the canon of Arabic music. It's a collective effort and no one can claim ownership over the beauty that the collective effort of all those masters created. If anything, he's saying something like "all these amazing geniuses worked very hard over generations to create something of great beauty. If you are interested in understanding that, and possibly taking part in that effort, you will be better rewarded by disregarding playing with the high f'." And he is correct on that matter, as a simple matter of history.

You can disagree with him; he'd probably enjoy that if you did it to his face. As I said, he is provocative on purpose. I'm not trying to even defend him, but just to provide a more complete context. You can still think he's an asshole, I'm not trying to dissuade you.

My point isn't "Najib isn't an asshole, here's why", it's "maybe he's an asshole or maybe not; regardless, here is some info that might help one understand what he actually meant, since there is actually meaningful info and history behind his statements."

You're entitled to your feelings about music, he's entitled to his. It seems odd to me that you are demanding he conform to your ideas in the name of "openness." I don't get that, honestly. There's room for purists and there's room for experimentation in this world. I'm glad there are people who devote themselves to preserving traditions and knowledge and I'm glad there are people who devote themselves to exploring new possibilities. The world needs both, and honestly anyone who devotes themselves to serving an art form is on the side of good, even if they're kind of an asshole. It's not like Najib is an arms manufacturer or vulture capitalist.


View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-25-2019 at 09:46 PM


One clarification — Bashir's approach is to transpose the entire maqam system to a higher pitch level. He doesn't use the high f' as a gimmick, but instead as a way to move everything into a higher register. Just like Turkish musicians play most things a step higher, he is just playing things a 4th higher.

In my previous post, I acknowledge that approach was entirely within keeping of the tradition. So to jump to the conclusion that I was in any way denigrating Bashir was unwarranted.
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 05:49 AM


An interesting anomaly is the seven course oud. Rawhi Al Khamash and George Michel used the high F course to extend the range without fingering on the soundboard while still keeping the music in its traditional tessitura and not moving it up a fourth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zWf-O70_9k&list=RDuNncmnhL05k&a...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WPaJygZKcI
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 06:54 AM


I agree, and appreciate the insight Brian. I took offense because to me Munir Bashir is an idol and I listen to his recordings so intensly that my connection to his music is quite personal. Seeing a highly respected Arabic musician calling such a beloved icon a clown still just isnt right. And I tune to High F so I felt personally called out as well. Thanks for clarifying and providing context for his comment though, I understand its a recent innovation. Im sure there have always been purists scoffing at the instruments many developments throughout the centuries, bass string, double courses, nylon rishas, etc. I don't even disagree with the statement that the high-f is not part of the 'collective effort' made by great Arabic oud players of the past. Thats obviously true. I disagree with calling Munir Bashir a clown, thats all. I think that was the wrong thing to say and he should have taken the time to provide a more reasonable and knowledgable response like you did.

Its also no surprise that "Arabic" music doesn't have a super specific definition, and that there is overlap with other neighboring styles. Even the word "traditional" is a vague umbrella term. What are we supposed to call these geniuses on the periphery of their field? Whatever you mean by 'traditionally' when you say "Brahem can play traditionally, but rarely does so. Probably Shamma can also" seems to me to be entirely subjective. Can you expound on what you mean by that?

Maybe there are solid boundaries as to who is traditional and who isnt. There are so many different Oud players its hard to draw lines. I would put Dhafer Youssef on one side of this arbitrary 'traditional' line though. Even within the instrumental, solo Arabic Oud scope its impossible to listen to every player and categorize them as either 'traditional Arabic music' or not. The word has no dictionary meaning. The concpet of 'traditional' vs 'innovative' with Arabic Oud playing is almost a bit like the language relationship between MSA and regional dialact. Every player incorporates their locality into their playing and no one speaks pure MSA. Not a perfect analogy, but interesting. Its the geography and fractal granularity that I find so fascinating about these instruments.

And yes I see that all forms of historic music deal with the balance of innovation vs preservation. Its a tricky subject to form an opinion about because both aspects are right. I can't stand teachers that bash other respected musicians though. There are sitarists who wouldn't call Ravi Shankar a traditional sitarist which is ridiculous to me as well. My former sitar guru was from the Etawah tradition and I remember sitting through his <b>shoot</b> talking about Ravi Shankar in shock at the level of disrespect I was witnessing. Feels bad.

I do see plenty of Ouds with 6 courses though, without the bass string, but i'm not sure if thats high f or not. Wouldn't it have to be? What would 6 courses be tuned to if not high f? I don't see the claim that its used only to play western type stuff either. The players I see seem to be playing purely Arabic music. I'll try to find some examples.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 08:16 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  


There are sitarists who wouldn't call Ravi Shankar a traditional sitarist which is ridiculous to me as well.


Ravi Shankar's raga expression was traditional, authentic, and reliably "pure". His sitar technique was not. Its basis , upon which Ravi Shankar built, was developed for him specifically by Allauddin Khan. It was entirely different from what Baba Allauddin taught other sitar students. And it was entirely different from the technique of any existing sitar tradition. So it's a simple fact that Ravi Shankar was not a traditional sitarist.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 08:29 AM


Adding to my previous reply about Ravi Shankar and which may shed light on the trad oud question: When Ravi Shankar first appeared on the scene in India no one had heard anything like it. He played at a high standard of proficiency and was a good good composer of new music so all these things helped his success. He had good publicity too. But his success was never about how well he played traditional music. The audience was there to hear something new. He reliably gave them that.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 08:43 AM


To me 'traditional' is used to differentiate serious classical musicians from pop and westernized music within a given culture. Which is why Dhafer Youssef is not a traditional oud player in my opinion. Sure some of Ravi's fusions/collaborations were not proper hindustani sangeet but his raga performances were the definition of traditional khastrya sangeet to me. Theres no other word for it. Would you not consider Qolamhossein Bigjekhani as traditional Persian music because he incorporated Azeri styles? Or Ostad Elahi as not traditional Kurdish because his tanbur had an extra string? There can be pioneers within a music tradition that doesnt mean they arent still in the tradition.

But lets play the tape all the way through. Who are some of the absolute most traditional musicians? Whos music is so pure and untouched by "outside" styles and personal innovations that they deserve to be called 'traditional'? Do you not see that any answer can be refuted?
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 09:10 AM


Well, things also change, and at some point it's certainly arguable that what people like Bashir, Shamma, and others have done is a part of "the tradition" as well. Certainly there seem to be a proliferation of people using the high f'.
This is why I think it's important that the question was about students in particular, and remains the appropriate context to understand why Najib brought it up.

An analogy from jazz might be helpful here. The foundation for 80% of what "jazz" is was laid by the beboppers in the 40s and early 50s: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and numerous more peripheral figures. Most of the rest was developed by the late 50s/early 60s players like Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, etc. Even if someone like Mark Turner, Brad Mehldau, or Kurt Rosenwinkel is 100% within that tradition and a great musician, a student would likely learn better from checking out more of the foundations, at least until their foundations were solid (Though my personal opinion is that any path eventually leads to the same place if someone is truly motivated to unravel the mysteries of any music, so I'd usually encourage students to explore what speaks to them, while recommending additional context via more foundational examples).

Similarly, the extended range of the high f', regardless of any assessment of validity for contemporary music, is not part of the foundations of the tradition, and is likely to add confusion for those trying to study the music. It's not so much saying that they aren't "part of the tradition" now, in a historical sense, just that they aren't "part of the tradition" in the sense of being representative of the common language and foundational principles of an agreed-upon golden age canon.

Like, if you want to learn counterpoint, you study people like Bach. Even if Stravinsky's or Wagner's counterpoint is flawless, you sure as hell don't start students there.

Quote:
Maybe there are solid boundaries as to who is traditional and who isnt. There are so many different Oud players its hard to draw lines.

Part of this is that I'm not thinking of Arabic music as being based on the oud or oud players. When you look at the tradition as a whole, with songs, singers, violin, qanun, compositions and repertoire, a picture emerges. The oud fits within that picture, but doesn't define it. Within that picture, extending the range of the oud is something that has happened occasionally, but has no underlying connection to the music as a whole. The risk then, for students, is that it's a distraction from the actually central principles. It's not about "traditional Arabic oud playing" it's about "traditional Arabic music", of which there is a large and well-established canon. Anyone who seriously investigates that musical canon will conclude that the high f' is not a logical part of the underlying musical system and principles. It doesn't have anything to do with "oud playing" or "oud styles" per se.

Regarding regional variation, etc.: so this is a valid point to bring up. Abadi al-Johar is a great example of Gulf traditions, which have many stylistic differences regarding rhythm, timbre, etc., but at a maqam level are the same tradition as Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, etc. Again focusing on variations in playing style is more oud-focused, while what I'm talking about is more focused on the musical tradition, not oud playing specifically.

Ignoring the potentially pejorative connotations for the moment, I've heard the collective urban Egyptian/Levantine style from the Ottoman era to the present referred to as the "classical" style, in contrast to the many "folk" variations in regional styles (Iraq presents its own issues, since it has an urban classical style that is distinct from any other tradition). This isn't to say "classical" means "better" or to denigrate "folk" styles, but that the "classical" style was an urban phenomenon that became codified and spread beyond regional boundaries (which still maintained their own "folk" elements).
So in the above comments, what I'm calling the "tradition" is these codified elements that transcend region, and the foundational elements that preceded them (e.g., the adhan, Ottoman court music). It's not that, for example, Sudanese music isn't part of some tradition, or even that that tradition isn't connected to the classical Arabic canon, just that it isn't the tradition that someone like Najib would be talking about. Not any judgment about its validity as its own thing.

The fact that Iraqi musicians are some of the biggest proponents of high f' tuning and that Iraqi music has a distinct classical tradition apart from the mainstream Arabic classical tradition is probably not coincidental.

I'm not saying it's great to go around disparaging people, and I understand how the comments could be upsetting.
But in all seriousness, Munir Bashir's music stands on its own for people to like or not—he doesn't really need defending.
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 09:29 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Jody Stecher  
An interesting anomaly is the seven course oud. Rawhi Al Khamash and George Michel used the high F course to extend the range without fingering on the soundboard while still keeping the music in its traditional tessitura and not moving it up a fourth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zWf-O70_9k&list=RDuNncmnhL05k&a...

[url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WPaJygZKcI
[/url]

These are illuminating examples. Both are playing within the tradition. Both are mainly using the high course as a kind of "cheat" for easier fingering. Everything they play is playable on an oud without the high string, with the exception of possibly adding in some drone strings that are not possible otherwise.

Another reason a teacher might discourage it—anything you need to play there, you should just develop your technique and play it on the c' string. Anything that can only be played on the f' string is unnecessary.
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 10:40 AM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  
To me 'traditional' is used to differentiate serious classical musicians from pop and westernized music within a given culture. Which is why Dhafer Youssef is not a traditional oud player in my opinion. Sure some of Ravi's fusions/collaborations were not proper hindustani sangeet but his raga performances were the definition of traditional khastrya sangeet to me. Theres no other word for it. Would you not consider Qolamhossein Bigjekhani as traditional Persian music because he incorporated Azeri styles? Or Ostad Elahi as not traditional Kurdish because his tanbur had an extra string? There can be pioneers within a music tradition that doesnt mean they arent still in the tradition.

But lets play the tape all the way through. Who are some of the absolute most traditional musicians? Whos music is so pure and untouched by outside traditions and personal innovations that they deserve to be called 'traditional'? Do you not see that any answer can be refuted?


I was not talking about Ravi Shankar's "fusion" music or his movie scores. I'm talking about when as a young man he sat before an audience with a tabla player and played raga/tala music. Virtually nothing he played had ever been heard before. He played in unusual rhythm cycles. He used left hand ornaments not usually associated with sitar. His right hand patterns were entirely unfamilar to the audience. He changed the tuning, adding a bass string so that he could sound like a rudra veena. His command of laay was such that people were astonished. And so on. I don't have time now to delineate how the other sitarists of that era played or to comment on anything else. Maybe tomorrow.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 11:50 AM


Thanks for the knowledgeable reply and further refining the context of his opinion. I do agree that the presence of a different tuning could confuse a new oud student. But still, telling them that Munir Bashir is a clown is just a hurtful thing to say. Your much more in depth analysis of this canonical tradition is helpful. He could have spoken to that instead of sounding like a child. Anyway… The discussion has many tributary subjects growing from it which may be fun to explore further.

1. The main purpose of most people using the high F tuning is to incorporate Western aesthetics and elements in their music.

Could you provide some examples? I’ve only heard high f oud played solo in the maqam style.

2. The sonorities of a floating bridge oud in F tuning can seem sterile when compared to what can happen on a low-tuned oud when set to vibrating by a player who knows how pull out a sound that simultaneously punches the listener in the gut, stimulates the heart, and activates a wavelength in the brain.

This seems totally subjective and more a personal preference. Is there some science about this?

3. It seems odd to me that you are demanding he conform to your ideas in the name of "openness." I don't get that, honestly.

My hippy free love music rant was more in response the general idea of teachers bad mouthing other musicians, not about him specifically. This is my first impression of the guy, I’ve never heard of Najib before this “Munir Bashir is a mediocre clown” statement. Like I said, you did a great job providing insight into what he meant, but he should be able to do that himself.

4. what I'm calling the "tradition" is these codified elements that transcend region

Sure that makes sense. I’d love if you could further define what you mean specifically and with examples. My definition of traditional Arabic music would include Said Chraibi, Ahmad Fathi, Mamdouh ElGebaly etc. because they share the same ‘tradition’ of playing maqamat on the Oud. Same goes for other instruments too. I would exclude fusioners like Daffer Youssef, Mohamed Abozekry, and Joe Tawadros though I love their music too. I understand there is something of a “standard” with this music, but to me “the tradition” is much broader and basically comes down to whether you are proficient on a traditional acoustic instrument. I include regional styles and innovations in my definition because there isn’t another word to fit that meaning. Again this is like language. Iraqi, Moroccan, Sudanese, all are said to speak Arabic despite their regional dialect and deviation from MSA- which could be likened to what you call the “foundational principles of an agreed-upon golden age canon” (which I’d love to hear more about). But it would be wrong to say that Iraqis don’t speak Arabic, and in my opinion it would be wrong to say that the musicians I mentioned, and those who play high f, don’t play traditional Arabic music. If not, what should they be called?

5. Regarding Ravi Shankar not being considered a traditional sitar player, what i'm saying is that he should be classified as someone playing traditional Indian music. He was obviously a genius, a prodigy, an exceptional master musical innovator but that was all within the context of the english definition of the word "traditional" Indian music. If you went to the record shop and there was no Ravi Shankar in the traditional Indian music spot that would not be right. If you take a college course on traditional Indian music and dont learn about Ravi Shankar that would not be right. If you watched a movie about traditional Indian music that did not include Ravi Shankar that would not be right. Traditional means its not pop. Its not westernized, electric, drum kit, etc. Traditional means a proficient musician playing a recognizable nameable melodic form (be it maqam/raga/dastgah/etc.) an acoustic instrument with a long regional history. Thats my definiton. There is a core and periphery within that definition but like I said there isnt a better word to use.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 01:45 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  
Thanks for the knowledgeable reply and further refining the context of his opinion. I do agree that the presence of a different tuning could confuse a new oud student. But still, telling them that Munir Bashir is a clown is just a hurtful thing to say. Your much more in depth analysis of this canonical tradition is helpful. He could have spoken to that instead of sounding like a child. Anyway… The discussion has many tributary subjects growing from it which may be fun to explore further.


Thanks. I'm not disagreeing with anything you're saying there, but wanted to answer the OP's question and elucidating the background behind Najib's comment was necessary. Certain musicians use provocative statements as jumping off points, and aren't necessarily interested in an in-depth lecture. That's ok, and arguably he succeeded in stimulating a discussion . . .

Quote:

1. The main purpose of most people using the high F tuning is to incorporate Western aesthetics and elements in their music.

Could you provide some examples? I’ve only heard high f oud played solo in the maqam style.


The thing is there's not a "maqam style", there are specific ways in which the maqamat work. Unless you are transposing the whole system like Bashir did, the high f' has no place in the maqam system, since it's simply not a part of the system as it was developed. This is easier to understand perhaps using the traditional note names. The second string of the oud is nawa, the first string is kirdan, the third string is dukah, the fourth string is ashiran, etc. The highest note for which there is a name is the fifth above the first open string. This is reflected in the canonical repertoire, though the range was expanded slightly over time (up to about a m7 above the open first string), the maqam system is functionally circumscribed to this range.
Which leaves these options:

1) The first string in high f' tuning becomes kirdan, the c' becomes nawa, etc. Everything is transposed up. This is actually fine from a tradition standpoint regarding maqam, because everything is kept intact and exact pitch level has always been somewhat arbitrary. This is what Munir Bashir did.

2) You can have the high f' to make playing easier, but actually not play much on it, and keep the maqam to the regular pitch level. This is okay but kind of a cop-out from the standpoint of mastering the instrument.

3) You can play things a whole octave higher than normal, strictly from an orchestration standpoint (i.e., the relative range is maintained, just like a violin is obviously in a much higher register than an oud but relative to itself maintains the same range). This makes some sense if you have multiple ouds or something.

4) You can defy the established path of the maqam and extend it higher. Whether you think this is ok are not probably depends a lot on your musical priorities. Regardless, doing this is the product of Western aesthetics and philosophies that treat instruments as vehicles independent of the underlying musical system. Even if the initial impression is "this sounds like traditional maqam-based music", there is still a westernizing influence. That is totally fine in my book, but again in the context of students might be less than ideal.
To clarify: suppose you have an oud with high f' tuning and you play a rast taqsim on C. There is no part of the traditional musical development of rast that goes above the Bb on your f' string (which is perfectly accessible on your c' string). So, what is the f' string for? Its presence encourages things that will diminish the character of the maqam.

Quote:

2. The sonorities of a floating bridge oud in F tuning can seem sterile when compared to what can happen on a low-tuned oud when set to vibrating by a player who knows how pull out a sound that simultaneously punches the listener in the gut, stimulates the heart, and activates a wavelength in the brain.

This seems totally subjective and more a personal preference. Is there some science about this?


This is Jody's comment so I'll let him respond specifically.
I'll point out that an individual preference is subjective, but noting an observed cultural preference is not.
Whether I or anyone else prefers a particular set of tonal characteristics is not important. But we can observe that Persian music clearly exists amid a cultural preference for more twangy/bright timbres, compared to Arabic music. This is not a subjective opinion, it can be observed in the construction of instruments, in singers' voices, etc.
If a cultural preference is ingrained, then it will affect listeners' subjective ability to connect with the music, should the music violate that aesthetic.

Quote:

3. It seems odd to me that you are demanding he conform to your ideas in the name of "openness." I don't get that, honestly.

My hippy free love music rant was more in response the general idea of teachers bad mouthing other musicians, not about him specifically. This is my first impression of the guy, I’ve never heard of Najib before this “Munir Bashir is a mediocre clown” statement. Like I said, you did a great job providing insight into what he meant, but he should be able to do that himself.


fair enough.

Quote:

4. what I'm calling the "tradition" is these codified elements that transcend region

Sure that makes sense. I’d love if you could further define what you mean specifically and with examples. My definition of traditional Arabic music would include Said Chraibi, Ahmad Fathi, Mamdouh ElGebaly etc. because they share the same ‘tradition’ of playing maqamat on the Oud. Same goes for other instruments too. I would exclude fusioners like Daffer Youssef, Mohamed Abozekry, and Joe Tawadros though I love their music too.


So this is hard to do because I'm not really talking about the oud. I'm talking about Arabic music, which is 90% vocal music. If you don't deal with the vocal music tradition, you won't understand what "traditional oud" means. The codified elements are what you hear when you listen to songs by Oum Kulthoum, Abdel Wahab, Farid al-Atrache, Sabah Fakri, etc.
It's not about "traditional oud playing" it's about the underlying music.

Quote:

I understand there is something of a “standard” with this music, but to me “the tradition” is much broader and basically comes down to whether you are proficient on a traditional acoustic instrument. I include regional styles and innovations in my definition because there isn’t another word to fit that meaning.

I get what you're saying, but words can have more than one meaning.
First, again, proficiency on the instrument is not really relevant. It's musical proficiency that matters. I've met guys that had very little technique on the oud but could 100% play a great taqsim because they are fluent in maqam.
But sure, there is a big tent tradition, which includes all maqam-related music. We could even include Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Azeri, Kurdish, Persian music, etc. But the more branches of the tree you include, the less clear the specific dimensions of each style are.
There is a lingua franca Arabic maqam tradition that is exemplified primarily by:
1) the Muwashshahat and qudud of Syria
2) the golden age of music in Egypt (roughly 1920-1970)

This tradition is the like the trunk of the tree. Your MSA analogy is ok, except that no one really speaks MSA in primary conversation, whereas the tradition I'm talking about is the primary language of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon, and completely compatible with the languages of Morocco, Tunisia, and the Gulf.
Not sure if I'm being clear here . . . there is a common element to all the traditions, and this is most clearly exemplified in the music mentioned above. The regional variations will have certain other elements, but nothing in the traditions above is incompatible with the regional variations.

Quote:

Again this is like language. Iraqi, Moroccan, Sudanese, all are said to speak Arabic despite their regional dialect and deviation from MSA- which could be likened to what you call the “foundational principles of an agreed-upon golden age canon” (which I’d love to hear more about). But it would be wrong to say that Iraqis don’t speak Arabic, and in my opinion it would be wrong to say that the musicians I mentioned, and those who play high f, don’t play traditional Arabic music. If not, what should they be called?

Iraqis refer to their music as Iraqi Maqam, and recognize that it is distinct from "Arabic Music" as commonly understood. They are rightly proud of this tradition, and in my experience wouldn't want it conflated.
What I was trying to convey above is that to some extent this is a matter of practical terminology. If you want to learn Iraqi maqam, then that is what you should study, but Najib isn't a practitioner of Iraqi maqam and his concerns reflect the relationship of the instrument to his tradition, which is a reasonable interpretation of the question, I think.

A good venn diagram might clarify all of this. Like is a duck a bird? Yes. Are all birds ducks? No. If you were trying to teach someone what a bird was, you probably wouldn't start with a duck, because it has a whole lot of specific characteristics not shared by most birds (webbed feet, bill instead of a beak, water-dwelling, etc.)
There's the Arabic tradition exemplified in the musical canon, and then there is the broader culture. Even Arab rock musicians are arguably part of "the Arabic musical tradition" because they are Arab and play music, but they are not "traditional Arab music."

What's the cutoff point? You could choose different points, but often something like this is best determined by the masters within a style. So, as one master of the tradition, Najib is setting a cutoff point, and it's one I've heard echoed by a lot of other masters. I'm not going to presume myself to say "this guy is traditional and this guy isn't" but the opinions of people who have spent their lives within the tradition deserve weight and respect.

I mean, someone might tell me that they think that Kenny G is jazz, and my only response is that almost everyone that is definitely playing jazz would disagree. Like Mormons consider themselves Christian, but nearly every other Christian sect considers their beliefs heretical. In a strictly anthropological sense, they are Christian (they are professed followers of Jesus), but one has to also recognize that they are culturally not accepted as such by the majority of those in that same group.

Quote:

5. Regarding Ravi Shankar not being considered a traditional sitar player, what i'm saying is that he should be classified as someone playing traditional Indian music. He was obviously a genius, a prodigy, an exceptional master musical innovator but that was all within the context of the english definition of the word "traditional" Indian music. If you went to the record shop and there was no Ravi Shankar in the traditional Indian music spot that would not be right. If you take a college course on traditional Indian music and dont learn about Ravi Shankar that would not be right. If you watched a movie about traditional Indian music that did not include Ravi Shankar that would not be right. Traditional means its not pop. Its not westernized, electric, drum kit, etc. Traditional means a proficient musician playing a recognizable nameable melodic form (be it maqam/raga/dastgah/etc.) an acoustic instrument with a long regional history. Thats my definiton. There is a core and periphery within that definition but like I said there isnt a better word to use.


I don't have an opinion about Shankar and don't know enough about Indian music to judge his playing.
I'm not convinced that "the English definition of the word 'traditional' Indian music" is the only correct reference; it seems to me that there are contextual cues that might matter here.

Speaker, audience, musical context matter. Sure, for the purposes of record store genres, it makes sense to place an acoustic Ravi Shankar recording under "traditional Indian music." But for someone who is maintaining a specific tradition in a disciplined way, it might be absolutely correct to regard him as non-traditional. It's not right or wrong, it would just be traditional in one sense and non-traditional in another. Words have multifaceted meanings.

For someone interested in Arabic music in a general way, Naseer Shamma is part of the tradition. For someone who is interested in specifically preserving the tradition as canonized by the greats of the 19th/20th century, he is non-traditional. This is seemingly contradictory on the surface, but really both things can be true.

View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Brian Prunka
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 2553
Registered: 1-30-2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Member Is Offline

Mood: Stringish

[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 02:00 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  

But lets play the tape all the way through. Who are some of the absolute most traditional musicians? Whos music is so pure and untouched by "outside" styles and personal innovations that they deserve to be called 'traditional'? Do you not see that any answer can be refuted?


Okay last thing and then I'm retiring—

The question itself is flawed to me. The tradition is the collective consensus of the canon, it's not able to be distilled to a single musician. It's not about being pure/untouched etc. No individual musician is perfect in anything, but the collective efforts set a certain standard and establish a set of unwritten rules that are intuitively understood by practitioners.
View user's profile Visit user's homepage View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-26-2019 at 06:09 PM


What do you mean by khastrya ? Did you mean kṣatriyaḥ ? That means ruling class in the context of the caste system and doesn’t make sense to me in this context. Are you saying “Ravi rules?” or what?

I’ll go out on a limb and say that “Traditional” in the various Arab musics probably means tribal folk music and urban folk music. I’m on solid ground in respect to India. The average Indian does not differentiate pop music from Indian classical music by comparing pop and trad. Pop music, including the ubiquitous filmi music (which has raag and folk elements) is “music”, whereas raag sangeet is “what is this jing jing jing?"

In the context of North Indian classical music (raag sangeet) “traditional” (generally the English word is used) most often refers to the music of families in which music is the hereditary occupation. Very few known musicians in the 21st century come from such families. When there is talk of tradition among rasikas and raga music practitioners and students the word and concept is not used to contrast raag sangeet with pop music. It is used to differentiate the hereditary techniques (and sometimes repertoire) passed on to family members (and select students sometimes) from the musical attributes of a different family. In some circles the word “tradition” is preferred to the word “gharana” (belong to The House of X) for the very reason that fewer and fewer practitioners singing or playing today are actually related to their teachers. It used to be strictly a family affair. Survival depended on it.

Brian has commented on your five points clearly and factually. I can add very little except to underscore the issues of context and to reiterate that “Iraqi Maqam” does not mean the “tree trunk/lingua franca music” in the style of Iraq. The important thing is what Iraqi Maqam means to its exponents. To them it is a separate tradition with its own sonorities, repertoire, and its own local instruments. Oud was typically peripheral to this. But.. it is a tributary to the musical stream of Munir Bashir. His basic technique came from Şerif Muhiddin Haydar Targan, an ethnic Arab from Istanbul who taught for a while in Baghdad and whose Turkish based technique was developed for the purpose of freeing the oud from technical limitations. But much of Munir Bashir’s musical content came from several other places. There was the music of his Christian Assyrian community, which has some elements in common with folk music of western Iran, there was the Iraqi Maqam that he acquired from Jews living in Baghdad and there was the “trunk” music of Syrialebanonpalestinecairo that was on the radio and could be heard in Baghdad (and which was maqam in Iraq but not Iraqi Maqam), and then there was his own imagination. To appreciate his imagination listen to the music of his equally imaginative brother Jamil who had the same teacher and whose music is so different. (Sometimes I hear echoes of Jamil Bashir in some Naseer Shama’s playing).

Whew, this is exhausting.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-27-2019 at 06:27 PM


Great info and insights here! Thanks for taking the time for such in depth and tedious replies. These discussions are valuable to all who may read them :)


Looking into this has brought up some interesting videos, check these out. I really like your list of 4 options of what can happen with the extra high ff course. What you've said there makes absolute sense.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbGsZ0eGsQw maqam kurd on 8 course oud

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPdNcA31t44 taqsim on high f oud

https://youtu.be/2unkQplT1xo Samai Bayati on a high f oud

Interestingly, Mr Charbel Rouhana plays high f oud with Simon Shaheen on violin! What would Naji think of that??? Reading about him I can say hes from Lebanon and he learned Arabic classical music in Lebanon and also plays a high f tuned oud. Sort of an anomaly I guess.

And what's your take on the other solo high f taqsims, especially Bassam playing Maqam Kurd on that 8 course oud. By playing Maqam Kurd in the higher octaves is he ‘defying the established path of the maqam’?

“Maqam style” is a misnomer I get that, but again like “traditional” its just an umbrella term I was using to encompass musicians that play from the maqam tradition in some way. What I’m most interested in is Solo oud taqsim and if the name of the recording is just the name of the maqam then I put it in the traditional category or “maqam style”, but if the name of the piece is “birds love” or “eastern love” I put in the non-traditional/fusion category. I’m missing out on a whole world but I’m learning a lot still, Im glad I have more specific words to google and things to listen to so thanks : )

I like the duck analogy better then comparing it to language, makes more sense and I see how Bashir/Shamma/others occupy a grey area between Arabic music proper and just being a great oud player.

Jody, sorry about the spelling, I’ve always heard the classical music of India called Shastrya Sangeet. The K was a misspelling, though I do believe the word is somehow related to the caste. Googling Shastrya Sangeet just pulls up results for Indian classical Music FYI.

And yes, Im familiar with the gharana concept, I’m a former student of Ustad Imrat Khan : )

I enjoy your info about Bashirs influences too.

One last thing,

“The important thing is what Iraqi Maqam means to its exponents. To them it is a separate tradition with its own sonorities, repertoire, and its own local instruments. Oud was typically peripheral to this”

This may be a stupid question, but isn’t the oud a native Iraqi instrument dating back to that general area many thousands of years ago? Why would the oud not be considered a local instrument and be peripheral to Iraqi maqam if the instrument has been there since antiquity?






View user's profile View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-27-2019 at 08:11 PM


Brian has retired from the discussion so, unless someone else wants to chime in, I guess it falls to me to answer as best I can.

First of all none of the oud players in these splendid videos are playing in F tuning. None of them are playing a fourth higher. Charbel Rouhana has a 7th high F course. I'm not sure about the 8 string tuning. Bassam Bishara is *not* playing in high F tuning. He is centering maqam Kurd at Dugah which seems to be tuned to C natural here. The bass strings have a thin twangy sound that I don’t respond to. The trebles sound fantastic. Not a typical oud sound but very musical and thrilling.

in the second video: The floating bridge oud sounds ok in ensemble. Again, a superb player. But for my taste the floating bridge sound lacks punch and deep resonance in solo. Again the player, Charbel Rouhana, is NOT playing a fourth higher. this is not F tuning. It's C tuning with an extra ff course on top. Great player.

In the third video, you can hear Charbel Rouhana’s tone in a better recording. Listen to the “vowels” of the strings. It goes nyeee and nyooo and twoing. Now listen to Simon Shaheen’s string vowels during his solos in the ensemble video. Oh, aw, ow. I prefer those to the sometimes metallic sounds that come from the floating bridge oud. I am not knocking Charbel’s playing. I actually gasped a few times at the brilliance of his phrasing. He is a master and an eloquent musician. I just like the sound of a fixed bridge oud better. Yes, this is subjective.

I now understand what you mean by "traditional" but as i pointed out, that is not what some others mean.

Shastriya! Now I see. This means in accordance with the shastra-s , the ancient texts like Natya Shastra or the later Sangita Ratnakara. Another equal meaning is "in accordance with the rules. In accordance with the fundamental principals."

I explained what gharana means for the sake of other readers. I brought up the topic in order to indicate that there is an emerging trend to replace the g word with the T word (tradition).

Iraqi Maqam is one of many musics that have been sung and played in Iraq. The typical ensemble of that genre as defined by the musicians themselves is a singer, a santur, a vertical fiddle called jawza and a variety of hand percussion. The preferred tone is bright, even strident. Naturally oud does not really meet that criteria. Nonetheless sometimes oud is used.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
yozhik
Oud Addict
***




Posts: 43
Registered: 11-13-2017
Location: Sweden
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-28-2019 at 05:31 AM


I've been following this thread for the last week and have really appreciated the responses from Brian and Jody. You have touched on a lot of similar questions that I have had in my mind recently about "tradition" after meeting young oud players here in Cairo (perhaps a better title for the thread now is something like "What is traditional music and how much can musicians innovate while still calling it traditional?")

For what it's worth, here are a few comments about some of the topics discussed:

Najib Shaheen & High-F "clowns": I remember reading Najib Shaheen's comments in the linked article when I first starting playing the oud. Actually, I know nothing about Najib, but this comment left a very strong impression on me at that time because I was just starting out with oud in Sweden and was surrounded mostly by young players who played with a high-F string. At the time I was trying to figure out what all the various oud tunings were used for and which one I should start with on my first oud. As a complete beginner interested in learning oud mostly because of my interest in traditional Arabic music of Egypt and the Levant, I think this controversial comment did indeed have the desired effect that Brian described-- for example, it made me question exactly what Najib meant with "clowns". I did not interpret the word "clowns" as something inherently negative or derogatory (several of my good friends are clowns by profession and I have nothing but respect for them). But a clown has a specific function: to entertain audiences, often using gimmicks or showing off in an exaggerated, flashy style. I understood his comment to mean that from the perspective of the traditional Arabic music repertoire where the focus is on faithfully performing a specific canon of music, the "extra string" is not necessary (as Brian explained) and would just be a distraction for beginning students interested in the traditional repertoire, since the range of notes simply does not require the extra string. Perhaps Najib's choice of word "clowns" was a bit over the top since it could be perceived as a personal attack on players who choose to play a certain type of music, but from the point of view of traditional Arabic music (and not specifically oud playing) I think the comment is fair. It would however be interesting to know what he thinks of the relatively recent addition of the single bass drone string. Is this also just an uncessary gimmick? Lots of Egyptian players I know play the traditional repertoire with only five double courses and no low C or D single string (although recently many seem to be adding the high-F string as a "cheat string" on top, not because they need it or use it that much, but simply because there is room on the instrument for it).

Najib Shaheen & floating bridge: I found Najib's advice about avoiding floating bridge less relevant than the high-F sting advice. Although floating bridge ouds have a strong association with certain westernized or regional (Iraqi) playing styles, as far as I can tell traditional Arabic music can be played authentically on many different types of string instruments with different types of bridges. Generally, the specific timber of the traditional Arabic sound seems most easily achieved with the fixed bridge, but there are many other factors to consider (picking technique, type of risha, soundboard, quality of oud, etc). For example, Marcel Khalife plays a floating bridge oud on songs like "Ommi" and "Asfour", which for me sound decidedly "Arabic"/"Levantine" (yes, his music is outside the realm of "traditional Arabic music" and I guess he is also incorporating Western aesthetics in his music, but for me the sound is certainly "Arabic").

High-F to make playing easier: I am taking lessons with an old oud player in his 70's here in Cairo and was surprised to see that these days he plays on a a six-course oud with a high f string. This is a guy who is firmly rooted in traditional Arabic music in Egypt and who has played with Warda, Abdel Halim Hafez, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, etc. He is playing in the normal register (not transposed a fourth higher) and mastery of the instrument like playing up the neck, etc is not in question, so I asked him why he has the extra string these days. His answer was simple: "When you are performing on stage accompanying someone, you need all the help you can get. It's enough pressure being on a big stage in front of a big audience, why make it harder on yourself? If you can stay in first position and use the high f string instead of going up the neck, there is less to worry about in your performance." From his perspective of performing the oud as part of the traditional Arabic repertoire where the oud and other instruments are generally accompanient for a singer, he is saying that the focus is on playing the music itself, not showing off one's technical mastery of all the possibilities of the instrument.

What is traditional Arabic music?: Here I found Brian's comments particularly helpful, i.e. one way to define the lingua franca of the "Arabic maqam tradition" is 1) the Muwashshahat and qudud of Syria, plus 2) the golden age of music in Egypt (roughly 1920-1970). Actually, this is about the best answer I've seen formulated here and wish somebody had pointed me in this direction when I was a beginner. At that time all I knew was that I liked the sound of this particular Arabic maqam tradition from Egypt/Levant, but had no idea about the history of it or how to draw the lines between it and the other traditions from the region which also use oud as an instrument. Really, as an outsider what I wanted to start learning was the "core" of this Egyptian/Levantine tradition, but I ended up "wasting" quite a bit of time with oud teachers who themselves were not rooted in this tradition. Just as Brian commented about Brahem and Shamma, these teachers could certainly play some Arabic/Egyptian classics if you asked them, but that's not the approach to oud that they normally play or teach. I wish I had known more about this when I started out so that I could be more critical when choosing which teachers to study with.

Arabic music canon: Perhaps Brian has retired from the disucssion, but I'd like to finish with a follow-up question about his last comment:

Quote:

The tradition is the collective consensus of the canon, it's not able to be distilled to a single musician. It's not about being pure/untouched etc. No individual musician is perfect in anything, but the collective efforts set a certain standard and establish a set of unwritten rules that are intuitively understood by practitioners.


With this being said, does anybody have a good list of songs/recordings that one can listen to to better get a feeling for all the unwritten rules of this particular canon of traditional Arabic music? There are a lot of names tossed around in this forum which I can of course search for on YouTube, but I don't have enough knowledge yet to know which particular songs/performances could be considered part of this canon, which performances were more avant-garde for their time or which performances were specifically regional variations. I'd be happy to compile a list of such recordings if it doesn't exist, but am not sure where to start. For example, could I iinclude everything from Qasabgi that I can find on Youtube? What about Al-Atrash-- are all his performances part of this canon with unwritten rules, or are some better examples than others?
View user's profile View All Posts By User
crmdgn
Oud Lover
**




Posts: 23
Registered: 11-3-2014
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-28-2019 at 10:19 AM


Wow. That was a much greater level of detail than I was expecting, and a lot of it went over my head (in a good way). Very helpful. Thanks to all who contributed.
View user's profile View All Posts By User
Chris-Stephens
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 101
Registered: 5-19-2016
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-28-2019 at 03:14 PM


Glad you enjoyed those videos Jody, we have similar preferences regarding Oud tone :) one thing is really puzzling me now though

"this is not F tuning. It's C tuning with an extra ff course on top."

What is F tuning then? I was under the assumption that the high f was just an extra higher course on a standard tuned oud - optional Low C or D, FF or GG, AA, DD, cc, ff
I must be missing something crucial to my understanding of the high f addition. Care to fill us in? How are the other courses on an oud with a high f tuned differently? I also notice that Mr. Charbel never actually plays his high f course when he's playing the upper octave taqsim with the ensemble interestingly. And i believe the highest course on the 8 stringer is tuned to Bb?

I do understand Najibs comment more now and regret my harsh opinion of him.


View user's profile View All Posts By User
Jody Stecher
Oud Junkie
*****




Posts: 1154
Registered: 11-5-2011
Location: California
Member Is Offline


[*] posted on 4-28-2019 at 04:24 PM


Quote: Originally posted by Chris-Stephens  
Glad you enjoyed those videos Jody, we have similar preferences regarding Oud tone :) one thing is really puzzling me now though

"this is not F tuning. It's C tuning with an extra ff course on top."

What is F tuning then? I was under the assumption that the high f was just an extra higher course on a standard tuned oud - optional Low C or D, FF or GG, AA, DD, cc, ff
I must be missing something crucial to my understanding of the high f addition. Care to fill us in? How are the other courses on an oud with a high f tuned differently? I also notice that Mr. Charbel never actually plays his high f course when he's playing the upper octave taqsim with the ensemble interestingly. And i believe the highest course on the 8 stringer is tuned to Bb?

I do understand Najibs comment more now and regret my harsh opinion of him.




F tuning is the six string tuning that began this discussion. The highest four courses are a fourth higher than in C tuning. The maqamat are played on the usual strings as in C tuning. So the second string, nawa/neva is C instead instead of G. Dukah/Dugah, the third string is G instead of D, and so on. When you finger Rast it will come out F instead of C etc,

High ff on a 7 course oud is standard C tuning with a 7th course added on the treble end, a "cheater string" (as the Armenian-American ud players used to call it). Having seven courses does offer the option to play a fourth higher but as you can see from the videos, that is not the usual option taken. Naseer Shamma on the other hand plays in F tuning. So do lots of other modern oudists. My favorite F tuning guy is Naser El Houari. Here's a link to his Rast taqsim. The fixed bridge oud here is deep and resonant. And the pitch Rast is F, not C.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM0SgGsiYAY
View user's profile View All Posts By User
 Pages:  1  2

  Go To Top

Powered by XMB
XMB Forum Software © 2001-2011 The XMB Group