TAQASIM OUD

 

"Taksim" (improvised music) has musical measure

After many years of practising music, I realized that the "Taksim" or else (improvised music) has musical measure.
Maybe for some people it looks weird, but I believe that is true.
This I figured out by writing many times, various "taxims" on rythm.
After then by analyzing some phrases of music, I found out that some phrases sounded good , and others did not .
I believe that only by making many recording we can understand it perfectly, by Nikos Dimitriadis

And if this can be understood by musician , then the results of "Taksim" will be spectacular.Arab music tradition is the urban-based music of the eastern Mediterranean region ranging from Cairo to Beirut, Damascus and Aleppo. This music consists predominantly of precomposed songs that is, pieces in which a composer has determined the form and content of the music to be performed. With such a repertoire, the musician's role is that of interpreter, charged with artistically rendering someone else's creation. The Arab instrumentalist is, however, accorded the opportunity to improvise his own creations in a genre called taqasim (singular and plural in this usage). Individual taqasim are not simply free-formed products of the instrumentalist's fancy; instead, the instrumentalist improvises according to a complex set of preestablished rules and conventions. Because taqasim gives the instrumentalist the opportunity to present his own creation rather than rely on another's composition, it is a highly valued musical genre.

Individual taqasim commonly last from three to five minutes but may end within a single minute or extend to eight or ten minutes, and rarely may be even longer. The length of a specific taqasim is often determined by the amount of time alotted to the performer, and also by the performer's mood at the time of performance.

A taqasim is multi-sectional, with sections separated from each other by moments of silence. The musical coherence of each section is achieved by the instrumentalist focusing on one melodic idea, usually a specific melodic mode (maqam; plural, maqamat) and, commonly, on only one aspect of a maqam's melodic features. (Each maqam has a unique scale and special melodic features.) The entire taqasim is thus a gradual unfolding of a specific mode's unique characteristics. Generally, such unfoldings follow an ascending progression, with the musician beginning at the bottom of a modal scale and slowly working his way up to the higher notes (often those in a higher octave). Showing more than one maqam in a single taqasim is also common. Listeners take special delight in the moves from maqam to maqam (modulations) and in the eventual and obligatory return to the maqam with which the taqasim began.

The various sections of a taqasim generally end with cliched cadential phrases called qaflat (sing., qafla), another source of particular enjoyment for the listener. Forceful qaflat are commonly met with cries of approval from audience members. It is commonly said that a good qafla can make up for a bad taqasim, but that a bad qafla can spoil an otherwise strong taqasim.

The taqasim genre thus gives the instrumentalist the opportunity to show his abilities and sensitivities as a composer. Listeners judge the shape and structure of a taqasim, the performer's ability to bring the improvisation to dramatic climaxes at appropriate points, his use of modulations and silences and his mastery of the various maqamat.

In addition, taqasim allows the musician to demonstrate the extent of his technical mastery of his instrument. Musicians take care to show moments of technical virtuosity (e.g., dazzling picking or bowing displays by string players) as well as moments of softer, more tender musical expression.

Young musicians learn taqasim performance by imitating performances of friends and any senior musicians with whom they come in contact. Commercial recordings have also come to play a major role as students often memorize the commercially recorded taqasim of the greatest masters. While this helps to develop technical proficiency and a knowledge of both the taqasim genre and the various maqamat, the aspiring musician must, in time, develop his own style, his own improvisations, for taqasim are, above all, an expression of individual creativity. The greatest performers have developed their own unique styles and approaches, so that their improvisations are clearly marked as their own.

Taqasim are an important part of most gatherings of musicians. At informal parties or whenever one musician visits another, the casual and spontaneous playing of one song after another will be broken occasionally by one musician or another launching into his own taqasim. This provides variety of sound and mood and allows for moments of highly valued personal expression.

In more formal concerts, the position and frequency of taqasim performances have changed over time. At the beginning of the 20th century, urban-based performances were structured in terms of suites (waslat, sing. wasla) of instrumental and vocal pieces. Taqasim were featured in the opening moments of wasla performances. A late example of such a performance is found on the cassette Layali wa Ughniyyat Layh Ya Banafsaj featuring the Egyptian singer Salih 'Abd al-Hayy (1896-1962). In this studio recording, we find excellent examples of taqasim performed on the `ud (the Arab lute), the violin and the qanun (a trapezoid-shaped zither). The recording begins with the `ud taqasim. Next, a small ensemble plays a piece called "sama`i Rast" composed by the Turkish/Armenian musician, Tatyus. The performance of the sama`i is then interrupted by the violin taqasim, after which the sama`i is completed. This is in turn followed by a short taqasim on the qanun which serves as an introduction to a vocal improvisation called layali. The qanun player intersperses additional taqasim phrases within the layali when the singer, Salih 'Abd al-Hayy, rests after completing individual sections of his improvisation. Finally, the singer presents the song "Layh Ya Banafsaj" with instrumental and choral accompaniment. While full-blown waslat would have been substantially longer, commonly including a number of chorally performed songs called muwashsha hat, this Salih 'Abd al-Hayy recording provides a high-quality example of the common repertory context for late 19th/early 20th-century taqasim performances. Following common practice, the names of the individual musicians on this recording are not given, the only names given being those of the singer and the song's composer and poet.

From about the 1930s, the wasla lost favor in Arab music performance and was soon replaced by a new genre called ughniyya (literally, "song"). Of approximately the same length in performance as the earlier wasla, the ughniyya featured a multi-sectional song sung by a solo singer, with an instrumental introduction for the song as a whole and for each of the song's internal sections. The ughniyya has reigned as the dominant genre of urban-based Arab music up through the 1970s and 1980s. Taqasim were seldom included in such compositions and thus came to be relegated to more informal gatherings of musicians, to small parties and to dance routines where dancers liked the change of mood that taqasim offered from the often rhythmically driving songs.

It was in this setting the virtual loss of taqasim from mainstream performances that Farid al-Atrash (1905-1974) found a way to create his own personal niche, his own claim to fame, in terms of taqasim performance. A movie star, singer and composer of phenomenal fame, as well as a virtuosic `oud player, Farid would commonly sing only his own compositions. When composing his songs, he would compose the instrumental introduction (muqaddima) in such a way that he would give himself a lengthy `ud taqasim within the muqaddima. After the taqasim, his ensemble would finish the muqaddima and he would then sing the vocal sections of his compositions. This format proved so successful that Farid al-Atrash soon came to be the single-most famous `oud player in the Arab world, and more specifically, the most famous performer of `oud taqasim. In time he came to be referred to as malik al-`oud, i.e., "the king of the `oud." Among his most famous taqasim is one he performed in a live concert, during the muqaddima of his song "al-Rabi". The entire song with the taqasim can be heard on cassette or CD.

One of the most interesting aspects of taqasim performance is the dynamic relationship that often exists between the performer and members of the audience. When someone in the audience likes a specific moment in a performance, he might call out any of a number of cliched words or phrases with which to show his appreciation ("Allah," "ya habibi," "ya 'ayni" or simply the performer's name: "ya Farid," i.e., Farid al-Atrash). The performer is thus encouraged and, ideally, moved to greater heights of creativity. Recordings of Farid al-Atrash's public performances are excellent examples of enthusiastic audience response. The above cited recording is no exception: wild cheers erupt with the initial phrase of his taqasim and reoccur frequently throughout the improvisation.

While the "Rabi" recording is an excellent example of a taqasim set within the muqaddima of a lengthy song, those interested in hearing a number of taqasim by Farid al-Atrash are referred to a separate release of five taqasim extracted from various muqaddimat. Audience response is heard in each of these live taqasim. The quality of the individual recordings is uneven, with none having the clarity of sound that studio recordings can offer. However, this does not detract from the importance of this release as documentation of Farid's taqasim. (The tape begins with a studio recording of one of his `ud compositions.)

Back-to-back listening to a number of Farid's taqasim clearly reveals the recurring features that characterize his style and technique. He is especially known for the displays of right-hand picking virtuosity with which he ended all of his taqasim performances. A consummate crowd pleaser, he still reigns as king of the `oud for most in the eastern Arab world some twenty years after his death. In the present day, young `oud players are often greeted by cries from members of the audience, calling out "ya Farid" -- that is, they compliment the young performer by comparing him to the great one, Farid al-Atrash.

While Farid al-Atrash is without question the favorite `oud player of the common folk, musicians commonly recognize Riyad al-Sinbati (d. 1981) as the consummate musicians' musician. A prolific composer and respected singer, Riyad al-Sinbati made a cassette of six studio-recorded taqasim for the Egyptian government's Sono Cairo label. Here the `ud is ideally miked and thus has a deep, rich sound. Al-Sinbati's taqasim have a slower-paced, more relaxed style than those of Farid al-Atrash. Among al-Sinbati's characteristic stylistic features is his frequent use of lower octave drop notes (i.e., when playing a phrase in a higher octave, he periodically echoes individual notes by playing the same note in a lower octave).
Other important taqasim recordings include those by the Egyptian violinist Ahmad al-Hifnawi, the Iraqi `oud player Munir Bashir.

Middle East Studies Association  http://fp.arizona.edu/mesassoc

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