4 December 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

A birthplace of complex musical instruments “Iran”

Music is a form of art, which derives from the Greek word meaning “art of the Muses.”

While it is not certain how or when the first musical instrument was invented, most historians point to early flutes made from animal bones that are at least 40,000 years old. The oldest known written song dates back 4,000 years and was written in ancient cuneiform.

Instruments were created to make musical sounds. Any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument if it is specifically designed for that purpose. But what about complex musical instruments?

Archaeological records of Elam, the oldest civilization in the southwestern Iranian plateau, suggest the ancient land is the birthplace of the earliest complex instruments, which date back to the third millennium BC.

Narratives say the initiation of music in Iran dates back to the time of the mythical king, Jamshid. However, fragmentary documents from various periods, including rock-carved carvings, suggest millennia of musical practices in every corner of the ancient land.

Harp a string instrument that flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 3000 B.C, until the 17th century. The original type was the arched harp as seen at Čoḡā Miš and on later third millennium seals. Around 1900 B.C they were replaced by angular harps with vertical or horizontal sound boxes.
Harp a string instrument that flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 3000 B.C, until the 17th century. The original type was the arched harp as seen at Čoḡā Miš and on later third millennium seals. Around 1900 B.C they were replaced by angular harps with vertical or horizontal sound boxes. Source: Encyclopedia Iranica

Archeologists have discovered many trumpets made of silver, gold, and copper were found in eastern Iran attributed to the Oxus civilization and date back between 2200 and 1750 BC. The use of both vertical and horizontal angular harps has been documented at the archaeological sites of Madaktu (650 BC) and Kul-e Fara (900–600 BC), with the largest collection of Elamite instruments documented at Kul-e Fara. Multiple depictions of horizontal harps were also sculpted in Assyrian palaces, dating back between 865 and 650 BC.

Not much is known of the musical scene of the classical Persian empires of the Medes, Achaemenids, and Parthians, apart from a few archaeological remains and some notes from the writings of Greek historians.

Xenophon’s Cyropaedia also speaks of many singing women at the court of the Achaemenid Empire.

Chang players depicted on a 6th-century Sasanian relief at Taq-e Bostan
Chang players depicted on a 6th-century Sasanian relief at Taq-e Bostan

The Sassanian period (226 CE-651), in particular, has left us ample evidence pointing to the existence of a lively musical life. Sassanid ruler Khosrau’s II reign is considered the “golden age” for Iranian music.

In a large relief at the Taq-e Bostan archaeological site, he is shown among his musicians, holding a bow and arrow and standing on a boat in the middle of a group of harpists. The names of some important musicians such as Barbod, Parkash, Azad, Nakissa, and Ramtin, and titles of some of their works have survived.

With the advent of Islam in the 7th century CE, Persian music, as well as other Persian cultural taints, became the main formative element in what has, ever since, been known as “Islamic civilization”.

Lute player statue from the time of the Parthian Empire, kept at the Netherlands's Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.
Lute player statue from the time of the Parthian Empire, kept at the Netherlands’s Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.

According to Encyclopedia Iranica, Persian musicians and musicologists overwhelmingly dominated the musical life of the Muslim lands. Farabi (d. 950), Ebne Sina (d. 1037), Razi (d. 1209), Ormavi (d. 1294), Shirazi (d. 1310), and Maraqi (d. 1432) are but a few among the array of outstanding Persian musical scholars in the early Islamic period.

In the 16th century, a new “golden age” of Persian civilization dawned under the rule of the Safavid dynasty (1499-1746). However, from that time until the third decade of the 20th-century Persian music became gradually relegated to a mere decorative and interpretive art, where neither creative growth nor scholarly research found much room to flourish.

Karna, an ancient Iranian musical instrument from the 6th century BC, kept at the Persepolis Museum, southern Iran.
Karna, an ancient Iranian musical instrument from the 6th century BC, was kept at the Persepolis Museum, southern Iran.

When it comes to structure, perpetuated through an oral tradition, the classical repertoire encompasses a body of ancient pieces collectively known as the “radif” of Persian music. These pieces are organized into twelve groupings, seven of which are known as basic modal structures and are called the seven “dastgah” (systems).

They include : Shur, Homayun, Segah, Chahargah, Mahur, Rast-Panjgah, and Nava. The remaining five are commonly accepted as secondary or derivative dastgahs. Four of them: Abuata, Dashti, Bayat-e Tork, and Afshari are considered to be derivatives of Shur; and, Bayat-e Isfahan is regarded to be a sub-dastgah of Homayun. The individual pieces in each of the twelve groupings are generally called “gushe”, but each gushe has a specific and often descriptive title. A gushe is not a clearly defined musical composition; rather, it represents modal, melodic, and occasionally rhythmic skeletal formulae upon which the performer is expected to improvise. Thus, the radif submits an infinite source of musical expression. The flexibility of the basic material and the extent of the improvisatory freedom is such that a piece played twice by the same performer, at the same sitting, will be different in melodic composition, form, duration, and emotional impact.

For those with a passion for music, it is worthy to spend a few hours in one of the museums dedicated to the music of the nation. An example is the Isfahan Music Museum located in the Armenian quarter of Jolfa in Isfahan. It showcases 300 regional and national musical instruments.

Source: Tehran Times

Banner
Related Post

Foundations laid with human blood “Foundation sacrifices”

5 September 2021

5 September 2021

The custom of sacrificing a human being at the erection of a new house or fortress is very old. Foundation...

Unsolvable Megalithic Mystery of ancient Greek “Dragon Houses”

4 July 2022

4 July 2022

The Dragon Houses of Euboea, which probably dates to the Preclassical period of ancient Greece, are one of the historical...

Jordan’s mysterious ancient wall “Khatt Shebib”

22 October 2022

22 October 2022

The accomplishments of ancient civilizations are typically woefully underappreciated because we stereotype them as primitives who only wore loincloths, and...

Some interesting facts regarding its use the Galata Tower in Istanbul

10 July 2021

10 July 2021

The Galata Tower is one of Istanbul’s most recognizable landmarks, and its bright lights can be seen from all across...

Iran’s legendary ruined city “Susa”

12 August 2021

12 August 2021

Ancient Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world. The Elamite, Persian, and Parthian empires formerly ruled over...

From Prehistoric Georgia ‘World’s oldest wine”

12 July 2022

12 July 2022

For many years in a row, wine has been a popular alcoholic beverage consumed worldwide. While we associate many things...

Martyr Skeletons Dressed in Jewels “Catacomb Saints”

16 September 2021

16 September 2021

The story of the saints in the catacombs of Northern Europe is a peculiar story. It is rooted in the...

Georgia’s Queen of Kings “Tamar the Great”

17 August 2021

17 August 2021

Queen Tamar (1160-1235 CE) reigned during Georgia’s Golden Age, when the country’s frontiers stretched from the Black Sea to the...

Balkanatolia: The Forgotten Continent That Sheds Light On The Evolution Of Mammals

25 February 2022

25 February 2022

A team of French, American and Turkish paleontologists and geologists led by CNRS researchers has discovered the existence of a...

700 Years After Dante’s Death, His Handwritten Notes Are Discovered

11 July 2021

11 July 2021

Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet, and scholar are best known for his masterwork La Commedia (also known as The Divine...

The Oldest “Book” of Europe: Derveni Papyrus

4 September 2022

4 September 2022

The Derveni papyrus is considered Europe’s oldest legible manuscript still in existence today. It is an ancient Greek papyrus roll...

The Dispilio Tablet: may be the earliest known written text

7 January 2022

7 January 2022

Although traditional archeology claims that writing was not invented in Sumer between 3000 and 4000 BC, an artifact that contradicted...

“If this site (Sharda temple)is restored and conserved, it will attract thousands of Hindus and Buddhists from Kashmir and the rest of the world”

7 August 2021

7 August 2021

Sharda Peeth, a historic learning institution located 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Muzaffarabad, the capital and largest city of Pakistan-administered...

Michelangelo, the artistic giant, was actually rather short

3 September 2021

3 September 2021

The legendary Michelangelo Buonarroti left huge works behind as an artist. But Italian researchers found that the shoes of this...

The mystery of Cathedral of Salamanca’s astronaut figure, isn’t what people think it is

10 March 2022

10 March 2022

There is a photograph of an “astronaut” carved in a 16th century Spanish cathedral in Salamanca. Known as the Catedral...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *