Inside the Music | The Maqam | World of Music | Classical
The fundamental characteristics of Arab classical music are described in splendid treatises including those by al-Kindi (c. ad 801–873) and al-Farabi (d. c. AD 950), in which we read of melodic and rhythmic modes, aesthetics and the physics of sound. The classical music of the Arab world is unified by a system of modes called maqam – analogous to the Indian system of ragas. Each maqam has its individual scales, extra-musical associations, tonal centres, final tones, and formulae for melodies and cadences. For this reason, Arab classical music can sound curiously exotic to Western ears, because the scales of the maqam modal system are seldom diatonic. Some 900 treatises in the Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages were written down between AD 900 and AD 1900, detailing the classical and religious musical traditions of the Islamic nations.
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