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There are two major concepts I'd want experienced musicians to consider, at the heart of this presentation: 1. the idea that Tarab is related to memory, and to the networks of common experience; and 2. the understanding that musical vocabulary is arbitrary in the same way spoken language is arbitrary.

I'll address arbitrariness first. Arbitrary doesn't mean "random" or "meaningless" or "senseless," as it does in the colloquial use of the term--instead it means that something has been selected from among a range of choices, and hence not previously determined by laws. In music, that means that although the laws of acoustics and the limits of aural perception narrow the range of choice available for the selection of notes, rhythms, and melody combinations, there is still choice inherent in every selection. And since the arbitrary is a selection, rather than something determined by laws, it must be remembered, because it cannot simply be "derived" from first principles. The activity, not just of individual memory, but of collective memory, is what is important here: it is that which enables something to be understood and exchanged by whole communities. In Language, it is the arbitrary nature of the sign that enables it to be given meaning, and for that meaning to be understood universally by any who have learned the sign; in music there is no direct pairing of the arbitrary "meme" to a meaning, but the arbitrary nature of it enables melodies, rhythms, etc. to serve as tokens of identity for communities, or as carriers of emotional or other kinds of content.

Since the elements of music are arbitrary, they can (and do) change over time--and it is that change that is one of the major pieces of evidence that those elements are indeed arbitrary. That is the evidence I discuss in the Alternate Pathways section of the site, and in more detail in the article Maqam Analysis: A Primer. Because we see that a pathway for a given maqam can change over time, we understand that therefore there can be nothing inherent in the nature of a given scalar structure that *requires* or *determines* particular modulation pathways or melodic motions. I would expect the expert musician to understand my meaning here--everything you know is something you can remember, something you had to learn piece by piece. It is that piece-by-piece learning that gives you the vocabulary to enable you to improvise, compose, ornament, create, and interact with other musicians and audiences on the spot.

There have been many discussions on the elements of Tarab (most notably those of Jihad Racy), but I'd like to bring an understanding of Tarab into an explanation of what motivates the larger-scale structure of not only individual songs, but the maqam system as a whole. Although many who experience Tarab may believe it is the exact opposite of the Arbitrary (because they have ecstatic and spiritual experiences listening to music, which may seem to be god-given, or outside the range of human choice). But if that were true, then everyone would experience Tarab immediately upon listening to Tarab music, even if they had no previous encounters with that music. This is not the case: first time listeners to Arabic music find it bewildering at worst, or interesting/exotic at best. The more experience one has with the music, the more the experience of Tarab deepens--which means that Tarab is related to memory. Tarab often results from ecstatic repetition... that repetition deepens and ingrains something into memory further. In my discussion of Aruh li meen I talk about the Tarab in the 4th verse, the incessant repetitions of the peak of the melody. But that experience is really only fully accessible to those who expect that particular Secondary Rast melody (the approach to the octave from below) in the overall trajectory of Maqam Rast, an expectation that is built from the memory of hearing the common Rast pathways over and over again until one's ears will not be satisfied unless the melody is presented in its completeness. So the experienced ear waits for the melody of the 4th verse, and when it gets that melody, and not only once, but over and over again, the experience of Tarab occurs, and it calls to the forefront of perception the entire experience of Maqam Rast--this is what we might call "Saltanah," when we are taken over by the maqam, the maqam inhabits our whole being. This experience is the ultimate arbitrary experience, because it is the ultimate experience of memory access.

The other kind of Tarab--the experience of surprise, rather than the experience of the expected--is also the result of memory-based expectation. Only if we have expectations, can they be thwarted. Thus the surprise has to stay close enough to expectations, in order to remain comprehensible. We find this in the 3rd verse of Aruh li meen when, after two verses that present the fully conventional, we depart into a distant territory, and then gradually work our way back. Without that body of accumulated memory, none of this would have any impact on us.

The brilliance of Aruh li meen is to return, after the surprise, to the thing we've been waiting for, therefore giving us an amplified experience of Tarab. That model is used over and over again in Arabic music, and quite frankly, in every kind of music: the conventional, followed by the surprise, eventually followed by the expected conclusion; in other words, excitement followed by satisfaction. This entire trajectory of experience is built from memory, and it is the guiding principle for the whole large network structure of the Maqam system. The closeness of every point to every other--the result of the "Small-world" network structure I discuss in detail at the end of Maqam Analysis: A Primer--is what allows for a whole range of melodic choice that nonetheless always has pathways back from the unexpected to the familiar.

In other words, when arbitrary elements are built into a network structure that is closely connected, with small average path length, they give rise to an emergent property--in this case, that of musical ecstasy. That is the same basic argument that is being made in many different fields over the last decade, and it is the central argument of this entire analysis.

And now, I have a few questions for you (feel free to answer these questions on the forum):

What do you think of the new ajnas I've identified in the "Previously Unnamed Ajnas" section? Are there any others you identify, and if so, in which maqamat? There are a few (rare) others I've encountered once or twice, but which I didn't add to the site, but I'd be curious as to what other musicians have encountered.

Can you think of any other good examples of alternate maqam pathways--and of course I'm not talking about different branch maqamat, but true differences in maqam pathways that have changed over time. The one that comes to my mind is the older form of Maqam Hijazkar, in which Jins Nahawand occurs on the octave. The emphasis on Jins Rast 5 within Maqam Nakriz that occurs in the Abdel-Wahhab Dawr "Il-'albi Ya Mantazar" (and which some might call "Maqam Basandeeda"), seems to give a different kind of emphasis to Nakriz than I feel in more contemporary compositions... although I haven't heard enough examples of older Nakriz (nor any other songs in "Basandeeda") to really have enough comparison, and quite frankly even the contemporary repertory in Nakriz is sparse. Do you know of other examples we could compare? In Maqam Nahawand, I hear an emphasis on Jins Ajam 3 in some early recordings of Abu-l-3ila Mohamed, which isn't as strong in later versions of Nahawand. And then of course there are the new developments in Maqam Kurd in the mid-20th century, reflected in long form in Umm Kulthum's "3awidi 3einy" and in short form in Layla Murad's "Raydak wu naasi hawaak." If you can think of any other interesting examples of significant change, with recorded documentation, please let me know.

Same for the unique pathways; if you know of any really good examples, please let me know. I'm always curious to collect those sorts of things, to know how far people have taken the maqam system. There is a very early Abdel-Wahhab Qasidah "Waylah ma Hilati"--he sounds like a teenager--where he starts in Maqam Rast and then eventually modulates to Bayati on the second scale degree, and from there to Hijaz on the 2nd scale degree, and ends the piece there without any further echo of the original Rast. I haven't encountered anything remotely like this anywhere else, and I can't tell whether I think it's an interesting unique pathway, a possible older pathway that we simply don't have any more examples of, or, on the contrary, the lack of focus of an inexperienced musician, whose control of maqam is not fully developed (despite the impressive vocal prowess he displays at that age and in this qasidah), and who has wandered off, or something else entirely. Opinions, or other examples of this?

If you have the patience to contribute analyses along the lines of what i've done here--in other words, by doing some audio cutting up of songs into jins-by-jins samples, I'd love to post more analyses. Of course the coding is also somewhat labor intensive, but I hope to use the current version of this site as a template for a PHP version, so that new analyses can be added without having to re-code everything by hand. (Anyone out there willing to contribute some PHP code would have my eternal gratitude; or maybe someday I'll get some funding for this project.) Ultimately, I'd like to have analyses of this type done for all of the maqamat in use in the tradition I love, but I simply don't have the time at this stage, and the only other people who can do it are real expert practitioners.

But for the time being, please don't hesitate to post additional analyses on the forum, on the pages devoted to each maqam. Even just a link to a song with a descriptive analysis of the sequence of ajnas in it would be helpful to many people, I'm sure.

There is a lot more work to be done overall, and I outline some of that in the "Work to be done" section. A project I'd love to do is a complete analysis of all of the early Umm Kulthum songs (everything pre-1950), to get a real sense of the maqam system in early 20th century Egypt, from that (very useful) lens. That analysis doesn't have to involve audio editing and coding, just graphing of the jins modulations in each song, so we can see what are the common pathways of the time period, and what may have been common then, that has disappeared subsequently. But for the time being, I need to devote my energies to parsing the melodic vocabulary more minutely (into its constituent melody "words") and documenting that, in the project I've started with Maqam Rast in Early-20th Century Egyptian Layali & Mawawil (which you can currently see on the home page of www.maqamlessons.com). So anyone who can add more analyses of the type I've provided here would be welcomed--as I won't be doing any more of these in the near future, until I've gotten that other project out of the way.

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