Iranian traditional music

The traditional art music of Iran’s culture is called Iranian classical music. It is quite close to the traditional music of the region, particularly neighbor countries because Iran’s music has highly influenced them. Sufism has also deeply affected Iranian classical music. This kind of music is incredibly connected to poetry. The rhythmic patterns of poetry are in a relationship with the tunes of the music. Sometimes tunes are composed based on poems and sometimes poems are modeled for an existing tune.
Dominant instruments in Persian classical music are long-necked lutes (tar, setar, tanbur, dotar), spike-fiddle (kamencheh), drums (tombak, daf), end-blown flute (ney) and hammered dulcimer (santur).Usually small ensembles perform this modal and monophonic kind of music led by a vocalist.
Iranian classical music is of six types, four instrumental, and two vocal: four instrumental (pishdaramad, daramad, cheharmezrab, and reng) and two vocal (tasnif and avaz). Generally a piece of music that makes a ‘suite’ is composed of all six forms being played in order. Iranian classical music is improvised to some extent but the basis in the form of tunes and modes are also parts of it.The musician needs to ‘dress’ the tune in extensive ornamentation to show the real art and skill. Melody concentrated on a relatively narrow register, fast tempo, simple rhythmic patterns,repetition of phrases at different pitches, emphasis on cadenza are other standard features.

There is evidence that Iranian classical music was formed during Sassanid period (6th century) however we cannot realize how it is connected to the current one since at that time there was no musical notation. The first classical music known to be linked to the present one belongs to Safavid period (16/17th century) although its systematization into the current one dates back to Qajar dynasty (19th century). This kind of music was solely limited to the royal family and the rich until the 1900s. About a hundred years later, the types of audience were widened and the musicians could demonstrate their art to more people.


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