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Longa Nahawand - Arabic Music
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tanburi cemil bey
Fig. 6.10 Tanburi Cemil Bey

Longa Nahawand is a traditional Arabic musical piece, and this particular arrangement is based on a version composed by the Ottoman composer Tanburi Cemil Bey (1873-1916). Arab music is often defined as music traditions in the Arabic-speaking world, and it should be noted that there are many regional differences within this broad category. As a general overview, Arabic music originated in antiquity, and its present form today was shaped by factors such as:

  1. Contact with assimilated cultures. Exposure to musical traditions of Syria, Mesopotamia, Byzantium, and Persia resulted in reciprocal influence and the cultivation of new forms of Arabic music.
  2. Contact with the Classical past. The introduction of ancient Greek treatises to Islamic scholars resulted in many Arabic music treatises being written between the ninth and the thirteenth centuries.
  3. Contact with the Medieval West. The Islamic occupation of Spain from 713-1492 brought contributions from Moorish Spain to Arabic musical forms.
  4. The influence of Turkish music. Many elements of Arab music and Turkish music became assimilated during the Ottoman Empire's period of dominance over Arabic countries, particularly during 1517-1917.
  5. Contact with the modern West. Beginning in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, contact with the West resulted in the increased use of Western instruments, notation and theory. [68]

Classical Arab music is monophonic, and is based on melodic modes called maqam (plural, maqamat). These melodic modes often utilize microtonality: intervals that are smaller than the half-step and whole-step used in traditional Western art music. Unlike Western art music which uses twelve intervals to divide the octave, modern Arabic music theory divides the octave into twenty-four equivalent intervals (quarter-tones are used to achieve this scale). When Western notation is used to notate these quarter tones, a flat symbol with a slash through it is usually used for half-flats, and a sharp with only one vertical line is used for half-sharps. Some Arabic musicians use the 24 note scale as a point of reference, and assert some notes deviate even further from this scale by the slight interval of "a comma" (kuma). They use terminology such as the note should be played "a little high" or "a little low" to express how the note should be slightly lowered or raised from the note's standard position. [69] [70]

Arabic music frequently utilizes rhythmic patterns or metric modes called 'iqa, played by percussion instruments. Each 'iqa has a pattern of strong and weak beats which can range from two to twenty-four or more. It should be noted that some Arab music scholars assert that all Arabic music does not utilize rhythmic patterns, and that some genres utilize a free rhythmic-temporal organization. [71] [72] [73]

Improvisation is a key component of Arabic classical music. Arabic music employs various forms of improvisation such as forms that are entirely improvised, partially improvised forms and rhythms inserted in a composed piece, and improvised ornaments used within a composed piece. Some of the ornaments used in instrumental music include turns, trills, grace notes (above and below), glissando and vibrato. Although great freedom is used in these improvisations, established modal patterns are used to structure, develop and resolve these improvised forms. One of the most highly regarded forms of instrumental improvisation is called taqsim (plural, taqasim). The Arabic scholar and musician Ali Jihad Racy asserted that Arabic musical improvisation is not only used for affective reasons (on a stylistic and connotative level), but also for symbolic reasons (for social and artistic values). Racy described the effect improvisation in Arabic music can have on listeners:

Instrumental and vocal improvisation, which may be heard in combination with non-improvised compositions or alone, are known to require extraordinary skill, talent, and inspiration, and to generate deeply felt emotions within the listeners. When properly performed they are considered ecstatically moving, as well as technically sophisticated. [74]

Some of the instruments commonly used today in Arab music include traditional Arabic instruments such as the qānūn (a plucked, boxed zither), 'ud (a short-necked lute), and nay (reed flute), as well as Western European instruments such as the violin (during the 19th century, the European violin began to replace the Arabic spike fiddle or kamanja in most Arab countries). After World War I, ensembles of Arabic folk instruments called takht (meaning "perform") were expanded into an orchestra that included other members of the violin family.[75]

Although most Arab musicians hold the violin, viola and cello in the Western style of playing , members of the violin family are generally tuned differently. The following notation illustrates a common Arabic tuning for the violin: G D G D instead of the Western tuning: G D A E. [76] [77] [78]

Western tuning       Arabic tuning

TECHNIQUE TIPS: The piece Longa Nahawand uses the Nahwand maqam. This maqam is similar to the Western harmonic minor scale as it ascends, and the Western natural minor scale as it descends.

Nahwand scale
Nahwand maqam

Longa is a traditional form of music used in Arabic and Middle Eastern music. It is a fast dance form that originated in Turkey or Eastern Europe. [79] Although there are many versions of Longa Nahawand (different musicians often use their improvisatory skills to create their own interpretation of Longa Nahawand), this arrangement is based on a version of Longa Nahawand composed by the highly regarded Ottoman Empire composer Tanburi Cemil Bey (Tambouri Djemil Bey). Bey was born in Istanbul in 1873 and died of tuberculosis at the age of 43 in 1916. He was a prominent composer of instrumental art music during the late period of the Ottoman Empire. Bey was a skilled performer on many instruments, including the violin, as well as Turkish instruments such as the kemençe (a small, three-stringed bowed fiddle played with the instrument placed upright and resting on the performer's knee). Bey also played a Turkish instrument called the tanbur (a long-necked, plucked lute), and a bowed version of the tanbur called the yayli tanbu. Bey was renowned for his taksim (instrumental improvisations on melodic modes called maqam, or makam in Turkish), and some of his early recordings on records have been digitally re-mastered and can still be heard today. [80] [81] [82] [83] [84]

As you play this arrangement of Longa Nahawand, use a lively dance tempo. You may want to try adding a few ornamental embellishments such as turns, trills, grace notes, slides and glissandos. In Arabic instrumental music, vibrato is considered an ornament, and is often played by using light pressure to rapidly play the finger just above the intended note—the upper neighboring finger. Arabic slides are short and fast, somewhat like a vocal sigh. To achieve the effect of an Arabic slide on your instrument, use the finger of the intended pitch as you slide. A few ornaments have been added to the score for you to try: slides in measures 11 and 12, and grace notes in the last two measures of the piece (measures 39-40). [85] [86]