What is mugam? This question cannot be answered unequivocally. Mugam is also called the genre of Azerbaijani folk music, and its inherent special fret organization. Once in the framework of this system, there were many frets, but at present there are seven main ones. Each of them consists of five tetrachords (sequences of four sounds arranged in an incoming manner), which in a certain way are interconnected. This connection can be fused: the top sound of a given tetrachord is simultaneously the bottom sound of the one following it. The frets formed in this way are called quart. But there is also a separate connection, otherwise called adjacent: a new tetrachord does not begin with the last sound of the previous one, but with the other following it. This is how quint mugams are formed. There are also large-text or small-text ones in which at the boundary between the tetrachords a third occurs, filled with an additional step.
In these ways tetrachords are connected, having a different structure: two tones-semitone, tone-semitone-tone and others, five varieties are distinguished in total. Each scale formed in this way has maye – a reference sound (analogue of the tonic). As a rule, the fourth step becomes such. The steps, which are in a quarto-quintal relation with it, acquire the meaning of “foundations of the second plan”, local. Sounds grouped around them form a sheba – mode sections.
So, the modal system of mugam knows five varieties of tetrachords and four ways to connect them. Using simple mathematical calculations, it can be established that two dozen different scales can be obtained in this way, but seven of them have gained leading importance in the practice of folk musicians. These frets were very colorful and poetic described by the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He associates the fret with vigor, the segas with love, shur, with the lyrical but cheerful mood, the chargy with passionate excitement, and the bayati-shiraz, shyushter and humayun frets, according to the composer, express different degrees of sadness and sadness. The most common frets are shur and shogi. Along with the main frets, there are several additional frets that arise when connecting sound scales that differ in structure – shakhnaz, hijas, locust, bayati-curd and others.
This is, in general terms, the modal system of mugams. But what is mugam as a folkloric genre? First of all, this is a cyclic piece performed by hanenda – an Azerbaijani folk singer – to the accompaniment of a string-plucked or bowed instrument – a container or kemanchi (however, a purely instrumental performance is also possible). Mugam as a work is kept in a certain fret – the performer improvises on the basis of this fret, subject to certain rules: in some frets, raising and lowering the levels is allowed, in others – not, not every step is possible jump-like melodic moves. As a rule, each next section begins in a higher case than the previous one.
There are two main varieties of mugam. Dastyagkh is a large-scale form; such mugam can be both vocal-instrumental and purely instrumental. Zerbi-mugam is a trio composed of a tarista, a kemanchist and a performer on drums, one of these musicians is also a singer.
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The art of mugam became known outside of Azerbaijan at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the first records with the recording of such music appeared. The first record was released by the English company Gramophone in 1906, French, German and Russian firms followed suit. A new wave of interest in mugam dates back to the 1970s. Since that time, events have been held dedicated to traditional Azerbaijani music. Over time, interest in it does not fade away: in 2008, the International Mugam Center was opened in Baku, and since 2009, the festival “Mugam World” has been held.
Like many other folk traditions, mugham was embodied in academic music. The mugams are based on Hajibeyov’s operas Asli and Kerem, Leyli and Majnun, Muslim Magomayev’s opera Shah Ismail – these works are called mugam operas. The special genre of Azerbaijani academic music was the symphonic mugam, which began in 1948 with the composer Fikret Amirov. Subsequently, many Azerbaijani composers worked in this genre: Suleiman Aleskerov, Asef Zeynalli, Eldar Mansurov and others. In the late 1930s. jazz-mugam arose in Azerbaijan, originating from jazz improvisation of saxophonists on the basis of mugam frets.
In 2008, UNESCO ranked mugham as a masterpiece of intangible cultural heritage.