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Defined here: tonic, scale degree, interval, jins, modulation, tonicization, maqam, maqam family.

A tonic is a note of emphasis and resolution within a melody. Consider the following three samples, which occur one after another in a song, all of which have the same tonic:

emphasis is 2nd degree above tonic

resolution of previous

In the first and third examples, the note that is the final note of the phrases is the tonic, while in the second sample, the note of emphasis is higher than that tonic.

The scale degree of a note identifies the number of steps that note is away from the tonic, so in the previous example the middle phrase started on the second scale degree above the tonic, or simply "on 2." For those familiar with "Do Re Mi," "Do" is the tonic of the scale, and each scale step has its own name: the second scale degree is called "re," the third "mi," the fourth, "fa," the fifth, "sol," and so on. The melody "Do - Re - Mi" is "1 2 3" represented in terms of scale degree (1 = do = the tonic). The tonic is often frequently best identified through the feeling of resolution--and the tension, caused by lack of resolution, in a note other than the tonic. The tension created by emphasizing the 2nd scale degree here:

is resolved to the tonic here:

An interval is the distance between two notes. In the example below, the 3rd scale degree ("mi" if you are counting from "do") above the tonic changes from sample to sample. It is raised in the second sample ("Rast"), and lowered again in the third sample ("Nahawand").

So we can say that the interval between 2 and 3 is bigger in the "Rast" sample than in the "Nahawand" sample. Which brings us closer to understanding what a jins is. Let's make the same Nahawand vs. Rast comparison in the next example; notice that the third scale degree in the Rast sample below is raised relative to the Nahawand sample--but all of the other notes (1,2,4,5) are the same between both samples:

Now compare the same Nahawand Sample with the Nakriz Sample, and notice that in this case, the notes 1, 2, 3 & 5 are the same, but the 4th scale degree in Nakriz is raised relative to the Nahawand:

And you can make the identical comparison (in a different key), with examples from yet another song:

These fixed interval relationships that make Nakriz different than Nahawand, and Nahawand different than Rast, are the first defining feature of jins (pl: ajnas). The Arabic word "jins," derived from the greek word "genus," and meaning "kind" or "type" (also being used in Arabic to refer to gender and other type classifications), has been used in Arabic Maqam Theory to refer to a "tetrachord" (4-note scale fragment) or "pentachord" (5-note scale fragment), with a defined set of intervallic relationships. But as I show in the Jins Baggage Section, melodies using these ajnas extend beyond the traditional theoretically defined boundaries (those 4 or 5 notes in the original definition). Melodic vocabulary is another characteristic that distinguishes the ajnas from each other--and though I do not define that vocabulary on this site, it needs to be mentioned. The final distinguishing factor is mood, which, although subjective, is nonetheless distinctive and distinguishable. We can thus define jins as: an area of melodic activity/focus within a maqam, with a specifically defined set of interval relationships relative to a tonic, a specific melodic vocabulary, and a characteristic mood.

One characteristic of Arabic music distinguishing it, for example, from Indian music, but making it similar to Western Classical music, is what is known as "modulation," the movement from one area to another, which relies on tonicization, the act of turning a note into a tonic. In this example, the second box of melody (Jins Hijaz) tonicizes the 5th scale degree relative to the original tonic of the first:

It is fair to say that the boundary line between emphasis and tonicization is often ambiguous--and in fact often deliberately so, as one of the things performers and composers play with in order to tease or intrigue the listener. But it should be clear that there is such a thing as tonicization, where a new note is emphasized enough as to feel as the new "home" note of melodic activity, a new point of resolution. The ambiguity may make different listeners parse the point of modulation differently, but ultimately they will agree on what the modulation is.

There are two types of modulation: 1. jins change on the same tonic, and 2. movement to a new tonic. Incidentally, these are the same two types of modulation as in Western music, except that in Western music, the first category is much smaller (having only two kinds of same-tonic modulation: from minor to major on the same tonic, or the reverse; while Arabic music has many more ajnas, so the number of possible moves is much greater)--while the second category is much bigger in Western Music than in Arabic music (Western music can move to many different and distant key areas--new tonics--within a given song, while Arabic music has a more limited palette of such, having the option to move to only a few different areas relative to the original tonic).

Maqam will take the rest of this website to define. We start by understanding that there is a finite number of common modulation pathways (i.e. ways of moving from one jins to the next). I demonstrate what those look like on the Common Pathways Page. A given maqam may include numerous common pathways, if it is a frequently-used maqam. On the other hand, some of the lesser-used maqamat make use of only a few jins pathways. Either way, we can only understand the aggregate of pathways within a given maqam by comparing multiple songs in that maqam, to see what pathways are used repeatedly, and what pathways are unique. With experience, we discover that there are almost no unique pathways (there are a few, however, detailed on the Unique Pathways page), but that there are some that are more common, and others that are less common, and others still that are quite rare but nonetheless repeated in a few songs, and hence recognizable as remembered pathways, vocabulary units known by practitioners of the tradition.

To sum up our definitions:

Tonic: a note of melodic resolution

Tonicization: turning a non-tonic note into a tonic.

Scale Degree: the number of steps relative to the tonic (which by convention is labeled "1", the first scale degree)

Interval: the distance between two notes.

Jins: an area of melodic activity/focus within a maqam, with a specifically defined set of interval relationships relative to a tonic, a specific melodic vocabulary, and a characteristic mood.

Modulation: the movement from one jins to another, either on the same tonic, or by tonicizing a new note. A pathway between two ajnas.

Maqam (pl "maqamat"): a set of pathways among ajnas, centered around a primary root jins (the root jins being the one that serves as the final resolution of a song or piece of music).

Maqam Family: a collection of maqamat sharing the same root jins, but with different secondary ajnas and hence different modulation pathways (e.g. Maqam Rast family, with family members Maqam Suznak and Maqam Dalansheen). Maqamat of the same family do share some pathways in common, usually those surrounding the root jins.

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