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Theory and Practice in Eastern Melodic Multimodality: A Comparative

Analysis of the Ottoman-Turkish Makam and the Hindustani Raga Modal Systems

Skoulios Markos

Unpublished PhD Thesis (2017), Ionian University, Corfu, Greece

Supervisor: Prof. Giannelos Dimitrios


The main purpose of this research is the investigation of determinant mechanisms and
characteristics found in eastern melodic multimodality, through a multileveled comparison of
two of its richest and most complicated representatives, the Hindustani (North-Indian) Ragas
and the Ottoman-Turkish Makams. My research demonstrated on the one hand the existence
of significant similarities and differences on the level of "grammar", "syntax" and "melodic
pronunciation"; on the other hand it showed the joint delimitation of an eastern "philosophy"
of non-tempered multimodality, defining a large number of melody types which present
discrete melodic nuances. As a starting point of my research, I present a synopsis of the main
theoretical standpoints in the field of Makam and Raga modal theories. Further to that, I
attempted a mapping-determination of the types (based on their intervallic composition) and
the statistical presence of modal entities constituting the two compared systems, by means of
a revised model of genera found in contemporary modal theory of byzantine Octoechos. In
the frame of this mapping, the self categorizing models of both modal systems have been
taken into account. At the same time, relevant theoretical standpoints have been compared
with results of contemporary computational ethnomusicology research, as well as with
additional targeted computational analyses of recordings by outstanding performers of both
traditions. Computational results certified the multi-intervallic and non-tempered nature of
both traditions, as well as their differentiation concerning the dominance of neutral intervals
and of mild genera in the Ottoman-Turkish Makams, in contrast with the almost complete
absence of these elements in the Hindustani Ragas. Another important difference between the
two systems, highlighted by their above mentioned mapping, is the dominant presence of
major tense diatonic modal entities as well as entities with fewer than seven degrees
(phenomenon of transillience), elements not found in the Makam system. The area of
intersection of these modal maps came out to be the tense chromatic and the minor tense
diatonic modes. The former of these two categories appeared to be the most interesting for
our comparison, while at the same time containing approximately 1/4 of the total number of
entities in both systems. For a further focus on the modal characteristics beyond intervallic
composition, I selected the prevailing modal families Bhairav and Hicaz, both having a tense
chromatic tetrachord of the form semitone - trisemitone - semitone founded on their finalis.
At first the fundamental modes of both families were analyzed, namely the Raga Bhairav and
the modal tetraptych of Hicaz, followed by the analysis of their modal branches summing up
to 32 Ragas of the Bhairav and 26 Makams of the Hicaz families. The presentation and
investigation of the modal entities of these two families contain a synopsis of their theoretical
references, modal analysis of the collected compositions, plus transcription, modal and
computational analysis of recordings found for each one of them. The performed comparative
analysis demonstrated similarities as well as discrepancies in a wide variety of modal
mechanisms and characteristics, concerning issues such as the fluidity and general philosophy
of tonal management in correlation with phenomena of "melodic attractions", the melodic
direction and the rigidness of melodic progression schemes, the usage of crooked melodic
unfolding and "directional transillience", the determination of the tonal area of emphasis, the
existence and role of a "general scale" in correlation with the positioning of each modes'
finalis on it, the role of reference octave scales of modal entities and their analysis in
tetrachordal and pentachordal subunits, the degree hierarchy and the different types of time
and cadencial dominance, the role of stereotyped melodic phrases, the types of drone
practices, the existence of composite modal entities along with the role of modulative
parentheses in the development of modes, the position of the various modal morphemes on
the Hood & Powers "continuum". For the majority of the above mentioned characteristics,
deviations between theory and practice have been documented, a result, I argue, of the
freedom inherent in the performance of traditions relying largely on orality and improvisation.