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On The Methodology of the Investigation:

Author:                   City : Baku   Country : Azerbaijan
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Urmavis Influence Upon Later Treatises and the Contemporary Traditional Music of Azerbaijan and Turkey*



In recent times, many important works on the history of music have been published. A substantial part consists of research into medieval treatises on music of the Middle East. All these developments are pleasing but, unfortunately, with the increase in quantity of these publications the number of erroneous assertions, which are repeated and passed from one publication to another, is also increasing. As a result of this process, important facts of the history and theory of medieval music are presented incorrectly and this is eventually accepted as correct.

Studying the treatises on music should not be only a matter of examining the contents. It is very important to get to know how and why it was written just in such a way. It is necessary to draw conclusions on the basis of comparative studies of written sources and a review of available contemporary publications. Only the right methodological approach and all-round elucidation (historical, geo-political, philosophy, language-linguistic, literary-poetical, musical-theoretical, etc.) of the topic can help to attain successful results.

The absence of necessary research methodologies for the study of treatises on music makes the study of musical culture of past ages more difficult.

Not claiming to resolve this topical problem completely, I would like to emphasize only several important methodological aspects of the study of treatises on music. These are the aspects which are related to the Urmavis influence upon later authors of the treatises and the contemporary traditional music of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

This paper is based on the analysis of much contemporary research devoted to the history and theory of traditional music and on the study of primary sources, which are the manuscripts of 9 19 centuries (Farabi, Ibn Sina, Urmavi, Amuli, Kashani, Maraghi, Abdulaziz Chelebi, Mahmud Chelebi, Yusif Kirshehri, Seydi, Ahmedoglu Shukrullah, Ladiki, Koukabi, Isfahani, Dervish Ali, Mirzabey, Hashimi and many others).

As the critical character of my writing is not related to my personal opinion on any specific author and has a character of generalization, all the references are listed in the end of this paper. The purpose of this work is to cast light on the most typical cases of confusion of factual materials, to determine the necessary methodological aspects essential for the study of musical arts of the past centuries and to make modest contribution to the creation of the objective picture of the history of the musical culture of the Middle East.

Historical aspect. Correlations of cultures and contribution to musical culture by Safiuddin Urmavi



The role of an outstanding scientist and musician of 13th century S.Urmavi in the professional musical arts is substantial and undeniable. His most important achievements were the creation of a universal 17-degree scale and systemization of the modes constituting the essence of traditional professional music of that time (Fig.1). A complex of several factors was the reason for the creation of this theory: the enormous talent of S.Urmavi, his deep knowledge of native music as well as different kinds of music which were being played in the cities of Arabian Khalifat, his close acquaintance with the scientific works of his great predecessors like Farabi, Ibn Sina (who were Central Asian by birth) and other similar factors.

The most important aspect of the universality of Safiuddins achievement is related to the specific historical period and specialty of development of professional musical art.

The professional musical art of the Middle East nations is a complex and multilateral concept. It was created as the result of mutual relations and influence among Arabic, Persian and Turkic cultures. These relations were very various in the Middle Ages. Different empires were being established and collapsing in the territory of this giant region. The occupation of numerous territories by ambitious rulers was resulted in disorder in the existing borders of countries and their replacement with new ones (Fig.2). Of course, depending on the political and economical situation, the geographical position of scientific, literary and art centers, as well as the centers of musical art, were being changed. Because of that, many talented people had to migrate both willingly and unwillingly. Among the different reasons for this migration there were: having better opportunities for improving their skills and education, providing more suitable circumstances for demonstrating their qualifications and professions or the command from vainglorious rulers who were forcefully bringing the most famous scientists, artists, musicians to their own cities. Rey, Baghdad, Damask, Tebriz, Ardebil, Shirvan, Samarqand, Gherat, Bursa, Edirne, Istanbul this is the incomplete list of the cities of the empires replacing each other periodically. Of course, such replacements created a relationship among Arabic, Persian and Turkic cultures (in different cases in different degrees). Absorption of these cultures into each other occurred also as the result of the existence of a number of common elements such as religion, Arabic writing style, monodical type of music, etc. However, it should be noted that trans-cultural processes did not mean the loss of origins. On the contrary, the works of talented people like S. Urmavi confirm that such relations caused the mutual enrichment of cultures. That is why his theory was used for centuries by different nations of this vast territory.


* This work is based on my paper which was presented on international congress Safiuddin Urmavi in Iran in January 2005, and it was published in Persian.


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