Middle Eastern Music

The Middle Eastern musical area is large, extending from Morocco in the North-West Africa to Central Asia and Pakistan in the East, including the eastern Mediterranean and Balkan States.

The Music from the Middle East includes a huge amount of styles which have mutually influenced each other over centuries.

Arabic Music

Arabic Music Before Islam

When Muhammad was born ( 570 a.C ) music life was very poor, since it was reduced to songs from nomad camel drivers, these are known as hudas which were very simple monodic chants that followed the animal’s balancing. This how these travelers entertained themselves and the camels trough their long crossings over the dessert.

Other form of musical practice was the songs from the Qainas these were female slaves that entertained their lord or clients in the taverns and brothels with their tunes. They used to sing while pouring wine. Although they had some disrepute, they were often more educated than their lords and/or clients, because in order to sing poems they had to have a certain training and a lot of capability to memorize.

In the year 622, music was a frown upon art by Muslims. While the profession of poet was consider as a distinguished occupation. Being a musician was denigrating because it was associated with licentious and immoral environments, as before mentioned: brothels were wine was consumed and sins were committed.

Forbidden Music

The first Caliphs prohibited any kind of musical practice that wasn’t the recitation of the Koran, the art of the tajuid or the prayer call from the minarets of the mosques, the azan.

Naturally, these prohibitions didn’t last for too long, the culture of the new Islamic religion incorporated the music performance as a main element of their civilization.  Music acquired so much reputation that it turned into a scientific discipline linked to other areas of knowledge like math or philosophy. Arabians consider its importance because they discovered that music was way much more than just pleasant melodies; it was an authentic ‘science of the emotion’ a sound study of feelings and passion

Egyptian Music

Egyptian Music in Antiquity

The Egyptians used music for diverse daily activities, but the temples and their ceremonies was were the music had a more intense development. The invention of music was attributed to the god Thot and Osiriswould use it to civilize the world.

It is still very imprecise how Egyptian music was because it was agogical (non-written) it was transmitted by oral tradition; nevertheless some of the texts used in some ceremonies allow making some suppositions.

For the study of Egyptian music there’s graphic documentation in hieroglyphs, bas-reliefs and ancient texts that describes the use and shape of their instruments and their importance in the religious ceremonies. Amongst the most prominent instruments are: the sistro a percussion instrument made with a wooden bow with an U shape and a handle to grab it, with crossed bars that had metal plates.

Turkish Music

The diverse folkloric Turkish music comes from Asian steppes. It contrasts with the refined classical Turkish music of the Court of the Ottoman Empire or with the military music of its army but the three have characteristics that unite them, although that is the basis of another article that would be elaborated in more depth.

As far as musical traditions are concerned, Turkish popular music is varied and of a remarkable cultural richness, perhaps due to the geographical dispersion – and therefore an amazing cultural assimilation – of this people in the course of history. Until recently, folk music was not recorded, and thus the traditions have been preserved throughout history by the Aşıklar (troubadours), who kept the musical memory of this town alive from town to town. 

Away from the musical record of traditional Turkish music is the Ottoman military music, performed in the Ottoman army campaigns where it fought and that today can be heard thanks to the Mehter takımı (Jenízara Band) in cities of Turkey like Istanbul. This also has its origin in Central Asia, and timbales, clarinets, cymbals and cymbals and bells are used for interpretation. The unforgettable sound that dominates the mystical music of the Giróvagos Dervishes or Mevleviler is the cane or ney flute, and can be heard at Konya during the Festival in honor of the famous Sufi mystic Myvlana (S.XIII) in December.

Greek Music

Music in the Ancient Greece

The music in the ancient Greece occupies an important place in the beginnings of the history of music and ancient civilizations.

About 1900 B.C. to Greece came tribes such as the Ionians, Achaeans and Aeolians. These were the creators of the Mycenaean culture when mixed with the Minoan culture of Crete.

In 1200 BC Greece suffered a major invasion, due to the subsequent significance it was going to have; it was that of the dorians. From this period we have as a testimony the texts of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey, with the narrations of the deeds of the Mycenaean heroes. From these texts the singers drew inspiration to create their songs, which were followed by traditional melodies or nomoi.

In addition to these, we will call them professional singers; there was also popular and choral music, performed by groups of citizens in their performances or artistic or ritual manifestations.

Music in ancient Greece was a compulsory subject of study, a fact that demonstrates the evolved culture of the Greek people, not only in the field of other artistic aspects that we already know, but also in the musical field.

The most popular musical instruments were the lyre and the zither, but there were also the aulos. The aulos were a wind instrument formed by two double angled pipes. This instrument was dedicated to the worship of Dionysus.

In the seventh century b.C. Lyric poetry appears, named for accompanying texts with music performed with the lyre, a term that lasts until today. The themes were basically of a loving nature, although there were other types, such as heroic deeds, etc.

Other musical instruments of ancient Greece are the harp, sambyke or magadis, and their minor forms, pectis and barbitós.

At the beginning of the 5th century, and even at the end of VI b.C, Athens took over from Sparta in terms of being the predominant cultural center in Greece.In the music field, it is then that the ditiramboand drama appear, both of which are extremely important, because of the transcendence they had in universal history.

Greek Drama

The ditirambo, created in the cult of Dionysus, consisted of dances and songs accompanied by the aulos.

Probably, the Greek dramas are based on these ancient rites. The poets-musicians created pieces with music and drama; that is, they included poetry, dance and music. The dramas were represented in the amphitheaters by actors who sang and danced. The texts could be expressed both by declaring and singing. The dance, called orchesis, was performed in front of the stage by a choir. This place where the dance was performed was called orchestra. 

In the fifth century b.C a greater evolution towards more complex forms is already observed, and the poets-musicians were professionalized in the creation of dramas, perhaps leaving aside, quite a bit, the popular root they had in the beginning.

Pythagorean School

The Pythagorean School was founded by Pythagoras (585-479 b.C), in which among other subjects, his musical theory was taught as a foundation for moral or spirit education.

Pythagoras’ musical theory, to explain it in simple terms, was based on mathematics and established a relationship between the length of a string and the sound emitted by it. This was measured with a monocord, which was an instrument that, as the name implies, had only one string and a mobile bridge.

However, this was behind a whole metaphysical theory. In this theory it was said that music influenced both the universal and the personal or human, which made music a very powerful weapon at the service of the State.

The same idea was formulated by Plato in his work ‘The Republic’, in which he analyzed what types of music, enriched and benefited the formation of citizens. Later Aristotle demonstrated the therapeutic purposes of music and its influence on mood.

It is extremely interesting to know the dawn of the history of music by the hand of these great civilizations, which are still the foundation and root of ours.

Poetry and Poetic Composition

Not all poems or songs were performed in a uniform manner, but traditionally (due to certain laws belonging to a particular literary genre, for functional or linguistic pragmatic reasons) their “performance” occurred in various modalities.

In the first place, the recitation, a form of more elementary diction, of a monorrhythmic character, typical of ephemetric poems, on the one hand, and of the dialogues of the actors in the attic drama.

In second place is the song (sometimes synonymous with lyric), typical of both the choral songs of the archaic lyricists and the great choral songs of the drama; the latter are usually characterized by their complex mix of diverse rhythms. This mode of singing implied a musical and dance accompaniment (a more or less austere choreography).

Thirdly, the modality called παρακαταλογή is an intermediate form, a mixture of recitation with musical accompaniment. It is the way in which the poems of the primitive and honographs could be executed, the typical anapestic systems of the times when the choir entered or left the scene (páradoepipárodoor exodus), as well as certain uses of the trochaic tetrameter in the attic comedy (in spice in the parabis).