In this course, we will examine and put into practice the approach and mindset essential for a Western-trained musician to successfully approach non-European (or even early European) modal music traditions. During this course, we will attempt to define and explore the common ground on which all major modal systems operate and, through specially devised exercises, learn how to assume a modal perspective in our improvisations, compositions, and performance of traditional repertoire. This course aims to counter overly complicated historical writings on modal music and provide a guided practical approach to clarify basic concepts, thus leaving the deeper understanding of a given musical idiom to a matter of time and experience.
This course will introduce students to the concepts of the mode, modal fragment, modal path, and how these ideas are developed in different traditions. We will primarily look at the Ottoman makam system, including a historical overview of it, and delve specifically into one makam, starting with simple repertoire (Ilahi, simple songs, dances) to gain familiarity with it. We will then move to more complex pieces in that makam (saz semai, peşrev) to understand extended capabilities of the modal path and basic modulations.
We will also work on improvisation using the phrasing and melodic direction of the makam. Students will be given the assignment to compose a short melody in it. We will then move onto other makamlar (such as Ussak, Rast, and Hicaz) in exercises for composition and improvisation. In the last few sessions, we will engage with different modal traditions (Persian dastgah, Indian raga) in a comparative study, so as to underline the different approaches and provide the students with experience in learning modes from a different perspective. This course is open to all instruments, including vocalists. They should be comfortable on their instruments, as this course will not cover technique.