Summary Report

International Symposium
"Oriental-Occidental Accord"
Salzburg, Austria, July 12th - July 15th, 2007
Summary Report
by Johannes Kotschy
(Johannes Kotschy, composer, Salzburg, together with Dr. Memo Schachiner, musicologist, Vienna, initiated, organized and led this symposium, in co-operation with Kulturelle Sonderprojekte des Landes Salzburg.)
start: 17 september 2007, up-date: 17 september 2007
It was the task of the international Symposium "Oriental-Occidental Accord" to develop the common basis of European and oriental music and to discover a common root of both music cultures. For the first time after the historic Congress of Cairo in the year 1932, musicians, composers and musicologists of fifteen countries of Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa met again at Salzburg to lectures and to discuss these affairs. The daughter of Mahmoud al-Hefny, who once had led and managed the Cairo congress, Dr.Ratiba al-Hefny, was the guest of honour of the Salzburg symposium under the patronage of the Austrian commission for UNESCO, the foreign minister of the republic of Austria, Dr. Ursula Plassnik, the vice-governor of Salzburg country, Dr. Wlifried Haslauer, and the mayor of Salzburg town, Dr. Heinz Schaden.
Considering the nowadays manifestations of European and Oriental music, it seems to be erroneous to believe in a common origin or a common history of development of these both music cultures, for they are appearing in most various forms. In Occidental music, for example, polyphony predominates with a large multitude of chords and most different combinations of sounds, in contrary, Oriental music prefers homophony with a multitude of pitches derived from various scales in melodic and rhythmic structures. Even in heterophone forms, Oriental music has no harmony comparable to European music, which in contrast confines its pitches to a stock of twelve semitones only. In spite of that it can be taken for granted, that these different music systems once had had a common origin and made similar steps of evolution. During the course of the symposium "Oriental-Occidental Accord", that had taken place at Salzburg in July 2007, 22 lecturers confirmed this assumption, and they proved the continuation of mutual relations till our days that will certainly have their progress in future.
A significant epoch for the divergent development of both music cultures could have been the time between the 9th and the 11th century. It is necessary to imagine, that European polyphony has made its first steps of evolution, while the Arabic music was in its heyday - it has been in the 9th century, one thousand years before that epoch we like to consider the peak of Occidental music development. So the time-factor is of importance.
Al-Andalus - Arabic Culture in Europe
The time when Oriental music was in its heyday, fell in the same time of the flourishing of Arabic science and culture, and even of political power. The cultural centres of the world 1200 years ago had been Baghdad, capital of the Abassid imperium under the rule of the legendary caliph Harun al-Rashid, and Cordoba on the Iberian peninsula, court of the Omayyad Prince Abd ar-Rahman II, who was a successor of those Omayyads that have been defeated some decades before by the Abbasids and driven out from the Eastern part of the Arab imperium. This imperium, comparable to the Roman Empire, once had extended from Hindukush to the Pyrenees. To get an imagination of those times, it would be worthwhile to reconstruct the life of Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Nâfi, called Ziryab. Born at Cizre (today: Diyabekyr), he was a divinely gifted musician and oud-player at Baghdad court.
Of his origin, he could have been from the South of the Arab imperium, for his skin was dark, and this could have been the reason for his name "Ziryab", that means "blackbird". Having got into quarrel with his teacher Ishaq al-Mawsili and fallen out of favour at the court, he left Baghdad in 813 and went to Alexandria in Egypt after a short stay at Damascus in Syria. Some years he spent at the court of Ziyadat Allah at Kairouan in Tunisia, before he finally arrived at Cordoba in the year 822. There, at the court of the Omayyads, he became an important and influential person of character. He founded the first music conservatory, performed the first kind of opera, and, what is more, brought fashion, manners and culinary art to Europe. The cultural influence, spreading out from Cordoba, is obviously to history: at Cordoba, where Muslim, Jews and Christians peacefully lived together, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and music achieved the highest level in the history of that time, and even the philosophy of the ancient Greeks had been preserved to our days with the help of Arabic translations. 1)
The "reconquista" - the re-conquest of the Islamic part of Europe by the Christians, and the retreat of the Moors to Northern Africa were the beginning of different developments of culture. The influence of Moorish music lasted for a while - so the origin of the canto of the troubadours had almost certainly been at the courts of Andalusia, and the rich ornaments of oriental singing are to be found again in the sacred music of the Christian Occident in the 13th century ("Cantiguas Santa Maria"). 2) Even in "Flamenco" you can find elements of the Moorish past - but from that time tunings and tone-systems had a different way of development. Similar the situation was in Eastern Europe, where Byzanthinian music developed further that music it once had taken over from the cultural centres of the Orient and Ancient Greece. Parts of Byzanthinian music have been present in the Balkan countries until the beginning of the 20th century, including Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. 3)
The Separation
So, considered by music history, the period between the 9th and 13th century can be regarded as the period of separation of musical forms in Europe and Orient. Al Farabi (870-950) and Ibn Sima (Avicenna, 980-1030) stated the tuning systems of oriental music precisely, 4) simultaneously Guido von Arezzo (995-1050) gave precise instructions to string dividing. 5) But now plain differences became more and more evident: the tuning system of Guido von Arezzo exclusively contains Pythagorean whole- and semitones with semitones that are too small (limma, = 90 C) to be fit together to a whole tone (204 C). Farabi and Avicenna, on the other hand, include a microtone, the "komma" (24 C), and this enables them to add this komma with two semitones ("limmata") to a correct whole tone. So there occurred a tone-system of 17 steps, not only containing semitones and whole tones, but also pitches between. This had an effect on the arrangement of frets of string instruments in practice - it led to several divisions of the distance between the second and the fourth in the geo-graphical region of Chorasan in Persia, which were called "the Persian" and the "Zalzal" fret. Probably it is a method that has been practised in Orient in the pre-Islamic era already, and this so-called "neutral third" has become a particular character of Oriental-Arabic music. 4) This pitch, "sikah" (Persian: "segah" - the third), never has to be regarded neither as a quarter- nor as a three-quarter tone at all - so the statement of the participants of the symposium, for this incorrect estimation has been pronounced in the 19th century intending to justify the introduction of pure quartertones to the tempered European scale in order to represent Oriental tone-systems. This "sikah"-interval can be interpreted in some different ways, and its true size depends on local traditions as well as on the interpreter's personality and the used maqam (scale), it even can be varied by the singer's temper. 6)
All these tunings, including the tunings of Guido von Arezzo and Odo von St.Maur as well, were only usable for monodic modal forms like the Byzanthinian "ichoi" (gr.: eichos, sg.), the basic scales of the sacred vocal music of the Eastern church. Evidently the manifestations of music had still been rather similar, but the most used scales with their various pitches got more and more different, according to regional conditions.
The final separation of these music cultures was caused by establishing polyphony in European music. Tonality, harmony and the increasing development of keyboard instruments with their possibility of transposing scales demanded a total simplification of tone-systems, and therefore usual modal forms had been reduced to major and minor. In the Oriental world the various regional forms of music led to extensive variety that made it impossible to speak about Oriental music generally, as it is impossible to speak about a standard European music, though its scales had been standardized by the so-called "well tempered" system.
It was left to the Ottoman imperium, the new empire of Middle East, to move the dispersed music systems closer together again. This first happened by numerous military conquests in the first half of the 16th century. By taking Constantinopel in 1453 the Ottoman imperium had adopted Byzanthinian culture and musical traditions already, in the following decades they integrated Arab sacred music. The Ottoman court also appropriated the theory of Urmawi and Maraghi after the conquest of Persian territory, and in the same time, the Sephardim, expelled from Spain, settled at Constantinopel and Thessaloniki and brought the Maqam-I Nihawand and Hijaz in Moorish tradition with them to Middle-East. 7) Thus all Oriental tone-systems. Including the Persian "rast"-scales, were present at the Ottoman court till to the 20th century. 8) In his theoretical works, written in the 17th century, Prince Dimitrie Cantemir put together 61 oriental tone-systems. In the end of the 19th century it was being said that hundreds of them existed in the Ottoman imperium.
Strangely enough, the term "maqam" has not been mentioned in any scientific or theoretical writing until this moment, though the use of most various styles, tone- and tuning systems had its maximum extension in the whole Orient, from Maghreb to India, an from the Balkan peninsula to Sudan. Safi al-Din al-Urmawi in fact had listened the most used scales in the 13th century already, and he divided them into four primary and eight secondary scales in 43 scales altogether, but the term "maqamat" appeared only to the end of the 19th century. 9)
Apart from art music at the Ottoman court, some maqamat had found their way into the provinces of the empire and influenced the existing music cultures. You can find elements of this music in the Southeast of Europe, in Bosnia, Macedonia, Greece and Albania, rhythmic elements as well in Bulgaria and melodic elements in Klezmer music.10) These elements had been scorned or promoted, depending on political situations, and some of them adapted themselves to a folkloric colour. 11) On the other hand, Western music became established in Middle East, and in accordance to that, endeavours to adapt the systems increased. In 1886 already, the Syrian mathematician Mikhail Mishaqa tried to realize a quarter-tone system in analogy to the European twelve-tone system, but a tone-system, following the Western example has been introduced in Turkey after the decay of the Ottoman imperium in order to enable polyphonic compositions in many parts without ignoring Oriental tradition (Arel-Ezgi-System). This was an experiment that was condemned to fail in the end in real musical practice. 12)
A similar aim to unify Oriental musical tradition and modern music in a creative way was pursued at the historic conference of Cairo 1932. The three-week conference met in various study groups to which belonged the European composers Bela Bartok, Alois Hába, Jenö Takacs and Paul Hindemith as well as the musicologists Curt Sachs, Erich v.Hornbostel, Robert Lachmann and others. 13) Alois Hábas proposal to make headway in development by using a quartertone-piano, first was not popular with the audience, but nowadays this method seems to have become generally accepted, for modern light-music-industry has taken the expanding market of Middle East and offer keyboards in "Arab tuning". The system is most simple (quartertone-alteration of particular keys) and does not cause additional costs.
In the sector of music education it is clearly visible, that this development could not be without consequences to Oriental music. Therefore there was elaborated an alternative strategy to counter the danger of general decline of Oriental music to a very low level by elementary music education and conservation of tunings and tone-systems. 14, 15) Such endeavours should be more effectively supported by politics. For the use of tempered quartertones is still increasing, and it is unbearable to persons with well-trained hearing, because ensemble playing is incompatible to tempered and traditional instruments on the other side - these instruments have a more differentiated tuning.
As it is ascertained in the development of European music, it is necessary to accept notation only as a framework of approximately given pitches, even added by quartertones, and that notation is obliged to leave latitude enough to the interpreter to intone in specific and atmospheric ways. Deviations of fixed pitches are allowed to exceed the borders of a vibrato and enable the listener to be aware of the ambiguity of chords and context, so that listening to music enriches human personal experience. 16)
In this way Orient and Occident become closer again. There is no line that points the way ahead. But willingness to learn from each other and to integrate these experiences into the own work is already existing. 12.17) This cannot happen by adapting or the exchange of forms and techniques of composing. Such experiences had already been made in the past, and this had been confirmed during the symposium. So the main question came to the fore again: What kind are the points in common in Oriental and Occidental music, and is there a common root of both music cultures?
This last question should actually be answered with "yes!" - If you take the statement that has been drawn up during the course of the symposium as starting point, involving that the separation of the music cultures began with the appearance of polyphony and harmony one thousand years ago, then obviously similar or parallel developments must have occurred in history, consequently all these developments are to have a common starting point.
There is a Common Root
It certainly will be uncontroversial, that in human civilizations independent from the level of development, music has been of real importance to mankind - mostly in connection with dance, rituals and celebrations, especially to enjoyment and entertainment. For this purpose music had served primarily in the Sumerian culture already, where musicians, especially female musicians had been held in high esteem like Nina from Ur, three thousand years before Christ. There had been even more advanced civilizations, but it is supposed that music of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt influenced most the development of European music, including that the music of the Egyptians and Ancient Greeks probably had got their stimulus from Northern Africa ("the Libyan culture drift"). 18) All these musical trends became perfected first in the culture of Ancient Greece. Music has enjoyed the same high standing as arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. Greek philosophers and mathematicians regarded music and science of equal importance. One of the most important representatives of this era, whose thoughts still have effects on present music theory and have influenced the development of music for more than two thousand years, is Pythagoras (572-493 BC).
The intellectual streams of his time had been united in his person: born at Samos, he got his knowledge at Theben in Upper Egypt and at Babylon, where he had been deported by the Persians. In the Babylonian traditions he found the relations of numbers in music, and he concluded the "tetraktys", the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, to be the basement of music and all tone-relations. 5) This theory has not been the only one in those times, for the relations of tones and numbers including higher numbers, depicted in the "lambdoma" (this arrangement of proportions, beginning with 1/1, was traced back to the Pythagorean school by Jamblichos in the third century) also had been the basis of theory by Archytas of Tarent (433-351 BC) and Aristoxenos (354-300 BC). 19) The Pythagorean system, however, was determining the music of the following centuries in Europe and in the Orient as well, and even the Chinese music is based on the same principle. It took till the end of the 15th century, until the inflexible Pythagorean system has got into move, when the natural third took the place of the Pythagorean third that consists of two whole tones (Erlangen treatise, Ramos de Pareja, 1482). 5) The nature third had been disputed a long time, and religious reasons had been asserted against its use. This suggests that the natural third had come from Islamic countries, where the different whole tones - small and big whole-tone, fit together to the natural third - were well-known a long time ago. Those different whole-tones had been postulated already by Archytas (about 365 BC) and Claudius Ptolemaeus (83-161 AD). So it is conceivable that the divergent development of music in Orient and Occident had already begun in the second century and had led to a particular development in the area of Alexandria in the East Roman Empire, to a music that had been adopted by the Persian Sassanids in the beginning 7th century and later on reached its full flowering in the capitals Baghdad and Cordoba.
Here suppositions come to an end. From now on there exist many documents proving further developments of music in Orient and Occident - but what has happened between the end of Hellenism and the appearance of Prophet Muhammad in the Early Christian and pre-Islamic era - of that we have no knowledge. This era will be the subject of incoming research and studies. Certainly we would have got excellent information by the scripts of the famous library of Alexandria, but as it is well known, all these treasures of knowledge had been irretrievable destroyed by fire in the year 391 AD. Fragments of this knowledge possibly may build an altered view on cultural development in the first centuries AD. Beginnings had been set by recordings of actual music in the Kurdish district of Iraq: there are songs still alive, sung without any accompanying instruments to working or to ballads, completely corresponding to ancient Greek tetrachords. 20) The pitches are very different, and you may discover parts of maqamat as well as steps of European scales.
This one starting-point demonstrates, that the symposium "Oriental-Occidental Accord" is the beginning of the research to find out connections between Oriental and Occidental music. But there was done the first important step in the days of July at Salzburg: co-operation of musicians, composers and musicologists of Orient and Europe has begun and will be continued, led by the receptive and amicable atmosphere of those days. A web site is built by Dr.Schachiner, Vienna, in order to guarantee the exchange of ideas and the presentation of research results: International MIM Society
As personally contacts are most important to progress in these studies, like it has been demonstrated at Salzburg, this symposium should not remain the only event of that kind. So it is necessary, that there will exist a public and political interest in supporting the continuity of this common work that had made a remarkable start at Salzburg with "Oriental-Occidental Accord".
1) Prof.Dr. Horst-Peter Hesse: "Music in Historical Moorish Cordoba"
2) Prof. Abdalla M. Sebai: "The Influence of Arabic Music Elements on European Music"
3) Prof. Violeta Dinescu: "Byzanthinian Influences on the Music of Romania"
4) Mag.Ali Nikrang: "Continuity of Musicological Methology of Avicenna and Farabi by Maraghi"
5) Klaus Lang: "Medieval European Tone Systems"
6) Johannes Kotschy: "Introduction into Arabic Music"
7) Dr.Memo Schachiner: "The Role of the Ottoman Imperium in the Iincreasing and Spreading of Musical Modi"
8) Dorit Klebe: "Performing the Maqam Concept in Vocal Music of the Ottoman-Turkish Court"
9) Prof.Dr. Amnon Shiloah: "The Maqam Concept in Arabic Writings"
10) Joshua Horowitz: "The Main Klezmer Modes"
11) Dr.Ardian Ahmedaja: "To Maqamat and its Interpretation in the Musical Life of Albania"
12) Stefan Pohlit: "Pythagoras and the 21st Century"
13) Hossam Mahmoud: "The Maqam Conference of Cairo 1932"
14) Mag. Rakya Mohsen: "Arab Music after 1932, with particular Consideration of Al-Oghneyah (canto)"
15) Prof. Dr.Kifah Fakhouri: "Challenges Facing Arabic Music Education"
16) Prof. Yalcin Tura: "Microintervals and their Different Functions in Oriental and European Music"
17) Ali Osman: "Sudanese and Arabic Music Elements in Serious Music"
18) In memoriam Prof. Dr .Martin Vogel: "The Libyan Culture Drift" (Johannes Kotschy)
19) Prof. Peter Michael Braun: "A Universal Basis of Music"
20) Mag. Dalshad Said: "The Use of Maqam in Kurdish Music"