Arabic music reached the peak of its sophistication in the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries and was frequently performed in the mansions of the nobility and wealthy. Arabic improvised instrumental music or taqsim is a stylized improvisation played always on a solo instrument and composed of melodic modes called maqams. A maqam is a melodic mode that is formed with two or more jins, which are small melodic cells made from a series of four or five pitches, also called a tretra-chord or penta-chord. Main Arabic instruments which a taqsim may be composed for are the ‘oud, the quanoun, buzq and the nay. A taqsim is multi-sectional composition with each section being focused on one melodic idea that exhibits the maqam’s unique characteristics. Taqsim is characterized by the deviation and bending of pitches and consists overall, of repetitive musical motifs and melodic cells. Although each maqam possesses its own set of melodic/rhythmic configurations, the richness of the taqsim depends on the personal style of the performer.

 

Resources:

Smithsonian Folkways – Traditional Taqsim on the Quanoun: http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=16530

Melodies and Rhythms of Arabic Music (PDF):

http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW08451.pdf

 

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