Mirza Abdollah's Radif Theory

  August 14, 2021   Read time 2 min
Mirza Abdollah's Radif Theory
According to present usage, each dastgah is normally played on a certain pitch for each instrument. For instance, Shur is most often played in A on the violin, G on the santur, and G on the tar and sehtar.

This pitch is called rast kuk (right tuning). When the instrumentalist performs with a singer whose voice is not suited to this pitch, he uses chap kuk (left tuning), which is a perfect fourth lower. But, in order to facilitate comparison between the different versions of each gusheh within a single dastgah and also between different dastgah-ha, all the examples that follow have been transposed to start on the note c' or c". The pitch on which this piece was written in the original sources is indicated in brackets. And in the text, the rast kuk for the three most popular instruments will be listed.

The order of presentation of the dastgah-ha is close to that used by many Persian theorists: Shur and its four naghmeh; Mahur; Homayun and its naghmeh; Sehgah; Chahargah; Nava; and Rast Panjgah. This arrangement seems not to be based on any intrinsic feature of the twelve systems but rather on popularity. Shur and its four naghmeh are the ones most often played in Persia today, whereas Nava and Rast Panjgah are hardly played at all. The dastgah-ha in between these seven are equally common, with perhaps a slight preference for Mahur and Esfahan.

Two sets of recordings of Persian art music that could be consulted in conjunction with this chapter are generally accessible in Western music libraries: The Folkways recording Classical Music of Iran: Dastgah Systems contains all twelve dastgah and all the important instruments. The Bärenreiter recordings, A Musical Anthology of the Orient, Iran I and II, tend to have longer selections, but they contain only Abu Ata, Bayat-e Tork, Dashti, Sehgah, Chahargah, Bakhtiari (in Homayun) and Esfahan.

The radif is a body of material that has been handed down mainly by oral tradition, and there is no one certified version of any part of it. Furthermore, there is no single theoretical opinion agreed to by all Persian m-usicians. Hence, the examples of the daramad-ha quoted in score below and the listing of the important gusheh-ha given in the text are by no means exclusive. They were presented as objectively as possible, but by a foreigner whose knowledge of the tradition is necessarily limited. Moreover, these examples stem from one tradition, the radif of Mirza Abdullah as transmitted mainly through Mussa Mac ruffi, Abol Hassan Saba, and Nur Ali Borumand. This school does not represent the entire maqam tradition in Iran but merely one of its major branches. Native Persian readers and non-Persians who have learned the radif from a different source may well disagree with these selections and interpretations.