Gusheh and Dastgah in Persian Music: Classic Framework and Modern Interpretations

  June 17, 2021   Read time 2 min
Gusheh and Dastgah in Persian Music: Classic Framework and Modern Interpretations
Though there is variation in how musicians and scholars interpret modality in the radif-dastgah tradition, the growing definition and independence of the avaz-dastgah in the twentieth century did facilitate more consistency in utilizing distinct modalities in performance.

The relationship between the gusheh and the dastgah is complex and different musicians and music scholars have described it in different ways. In keeping with the basic premise of the twelve maqam, one common approach to analysis used by musicians is to position each dastgah as an abstract modal framework or scale, and to describe the gusheh associated with each dastgah as being an individual melodic manifestation of a specific dastgah’s modality or scale. Within this analysis, each of the seven dastgah and four to five avaz-dastgah represent distinct modal frameworks and each gusheh consists of small musical ideas and larger compositions that express features of the modal framework to which it is assigned. There is some disagreement, however, on how to represent exactly the essential parameters for these distinct modal frameworks. For example, figures 8 and 9 show two different possibilities, one documented by the ethnomusicologist Jean During according to the teachings of Nur ‛Ali Borumand (1906–1976) and the other documented by the ethnomusicologist Lloyd Miller according to the teachings of Dariush Safvat (1928–2013). Each scholar’s analysis shows how two different masters of the tradition described slightly different ideas about what constituted the essential features for modal frameworks in the tradition. The names of the original seven dastgah are Shur (shūr), Mahur (māhūr), Homayun (homāyūn), Chahargah (chahārgāh), Segah (segāh), Nava (navā), and Rast-Panjgah (rāst-panjgāh). Of the avaz-dastgah, Bayat-i Isfahan (bayāt-i iṣfahān) is derived from a set of gusheh that originally belonged within the dastgah of Homayun. Dashti (dashtī), Abu ‛Ata (abū ‛aṭā’), Bayat-i Tork (bayāt-i tork), and Afshari (afshārī) are based on distinct sections of gusheh taken from the dastgah of Shur. One additional avaz, Bayat-i Kord (bayāt-i kord) may be added to the avaz of Shur, or simply counted as a section of Shur.

The complexities of defining distinct modalities for the dastgah and avaz-dastgah extend from the gusheh themselves, which have varying amounts of commitment to a single, shared modal framework when organized within their constituent dastgah. The later designation of the avaz-dastgah extended in part from melodic sections of the original seven dastgah having a degree of modal independence from their source dastgah. The discrepancy in the number of avaz-dastgah extends from disagreements about whether or not four or five distinct modal frameworks can be extracted from the dastgah of Shur.

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