You speak of 10 most used scales.What are the scales called? and what are the intervals? Please start on "C".For instance C major C D E F G A B C, whole step,whole step,1/2 step, whole step, etc. I am a music teacher in the U.S. teaching a student from Egypt who is interested in his native music. Any technical material that you have would be helpful.Thank You, Joe ErcoleI replied on 26-Aug-1998
Dear Joe,Robert Greenhouse wrote on 23-Dec-1998
I'm so pleased to have received your message. I believe you meant the ten scales used in our traditional ecclesiastic (=Coptic) music. No-one knows how they were called at that time, but we do have contemporary names for them (although, I'm afraid, most of which are of persian or turkish origin). Ten out of the ten scales contain quarter-tones, so I trust you're going to need a Roland GS (or something similar) to be able to reproduce those tones. I hope you'll find another page of mine useful in that regard.
The scales are as follows (hb = half-flat; i.e. almost halfway between Eb and E):
Rast: C D Ehb F G A Bhb C Nahawend: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
(i.e. exaclty like the Minor Mode; the melodic variety is used too)
Bayati: D Ehb F G A Bb C D Sabah: D Ehb F Gb A Bb C D (sometimes Db) Nishabork: D E Fh# G A Bb C D Sikah: Ehb F G A Bhb C D Ehb Hozam: Ehb F G Ab B C D Ehb Gaharkah Masri: F G A Bb C D Ehb F Agam: Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
(i.e. exactly like the Major Mode)
Eraq: Bhb C D Ehb F G A Bhb
Hope to be of help. Best regards.
Hello Hosam - I came across your web page via the Canvas Carry-all page of Gord Braun and I find it very interesting. I am interested in learning more about how to play quarter-tone and other microtonal music on my SC88-Pro which I bought about a year ago. I have been a more or less traditional composer (I am a Research Scientist in real life) for about 38 years now, but I occasionally do non-traditional music as shown in my web page http://www-ks.rus.uni-stuttgart.de/people/schulz/fmusic/wtf/ on the Well-Tempered Fractal, a DOS based program I wrote a number of years ago. I still prefer to do most of my sequencing on a DOS machine, but I have a Windows machine for the musical scoring.Timothy James wrote on 30-Dec-1998
I have done a small amount of microtonal music, though I don't understand how to do it very well. You said that you have a PC version of your sysex generator. I would love to try it since my DOS machine has no internet capability and it is therefore difficult to use your Java version. I would really like to know how to generate the sysex messages to get the quarter tones.
I did an experiment which you may find interesting - I took a standard hymn and arranged it for four string parts. At one point in the piece I begin to change the tuning of the parts unequally such that the bass tuning stays the same, the tenor goes up by a tone, the alto by a half tone and the soprano by a tone and a half. That is to say, each part is being retuned, but linearly with different slopes. In the middle, the harmonies are completely different than the original. Then after a while with the new tunings, I modulate them back to their original state and the original harmony is finally resolved. This process creates a great deal of tension, but the result is quite interesting.
Thank you very much for a very interesting web site.
Dear Hosam,I replied on 13-Jan-1999
Very interested in Coptic scales regarding feeling/mood. What is the traditional view on the tones as evoking rather than mearly expressing subtal emotional affect? Would like to hear other sampelings.
My profession (passion) is in the field of psychiatry/psychology, and personally especially concerning spiritual life. Have always held an interest in musical compositions as a kind of subtal therapy for the heart/soul.
Plan to visit you site again ...
Joy to the World!
Dear Timothy,Timothy James wrote on 14-Jan-1999
As much as I felt flattered by your message, I also felt quite at a loss as to how I should proceed to answer it! You see, you talked about the spiritual effects of Coptic Music; well, I suspect I'm the least suitable person for talking about that.
Basically, I'm a programmer, and as such I'm more inclined to analyse phenomena rather than search for their spiritual (essentially metaphysical) value. Even as a composer, or a listener for that matter, I almost never care about any potential, spiritual side in music. But, before any misunderstanding should intervene, let me precise what I mean by "spiritual", as I suspect I could be influenced by how we understand the term in Arabic.
The way I tend to use the term "spiritual" has much to do with the devine side of the stem "spirit"; as a christian, I believe that a human being, much like God's Father (entity)/Son (mind)/Holy-Spirit (life) trinity, is made of three persons: body/soul/spirit. But, unlike God, these persons are separable, and when that does happen, physical death ensues. I'm also aware of the fact that, in most people's minds, the two terms "soul/spirit" are often interchangeable, or at least overlapping. At any rate, "spirit" to me is not something that is uniquely human. Under that light, I fail to see how music, or any form of art for that matter, could be viewed as spiritual, much less spiritually enriching; because, as far as I'm concerned, nothing can possibly enrich the soul/spirit but coming in contact with God, the origin from which that soul/spirit sprouted.
Still, I couldn't possibly deny that people do (claim to) get "spiritual" messages through music, although I suppose I won't be telling you anything you don't already know should I start talking about the importance of past experiences, personal moods and/or affinities, the atmosphere, ... etc, in determining how people react to music. Perhaps you have already heard about some of the analyses offered by Music Psychology, so I shouldn't bother you with details of these, either.
The only other person whom I know to be deeply interested in persuing spiritual content in music is my dear friend George Kyrillos, the founder of the Group David, specialised in singing our traditional, coptic (ecclesiastic) chants. ... Unlike myself, he's never able to see things but as an indivisible whole!
Bye, for now.
Thank You, Hosam!I replied on 20-Feb-1999
Your comments are much appreciated. It is similarly difficult to me that anyone could doubt that musical sound has the potential to lift and inspire both attention and affection for the Divine. I agree that only the benificent glance of God Himself can truly enrich the soul, but surely that which turns the soul of man toward the Kingdom of God must certainly represent something of immesurable value. That is spiritual music.
Yes, you mentioned the Coptic Liturgical Chants. Here is a grand example of preserving the vital potential of musical intonation which inspires appropriate mood and attitude in the soul's approach to the throne in the heavenly realms. You must feel the powerful intonations in the Hymn of the Seraphim and Cherubim during the liturgy! That I am certain is one of many countless gifts of God. He has formed us and designed us in such a way that sound intonations may become invocations of the Divine presence.
I am most interest in what might be available in recording (digital or otherwise) of Coptic Liturgical Chants. I currently have some rather crude cassette recordings I attempted to make myself. Please let me know of any possible contacts with better quality recordings. The Coptic heritage has preserved an amazing gift to the Church Universal and the world!
Also, I must mention that you surely know of the spiritual power of the holy icons of the Church. The coptic icon of abba Bishoy is one of my favorite. Art has a similar potential as musical intonations.
Please accept my gratitude and respects,
Dear Timothy,Timothy James wrote on 24-Feb-1999
I'm really sorry for not writing back sooner. I had a terrible computer crash at work, amongs many other nuisances by the enemy of everything good!
This is just a quickie, I'm afraid, but I wanted to tell you of these two sites with loads of RealAudio recordings:
I couldn't locate any Coptic churches you might contact for dicent recordings. I'll keep trying, though, and I just might be able to send you some if you gave me an address.
On another note, your refined style of writing (getting rare these days) got me thinking: if God in effect gives people the gift to speak, and write, good words, in such a manner that other people, the recepients, would recognise that gift, and later praise Him as I did on reading your message, then music could indeed be a similarly noble medium. Only words have meanings; in the case of music, though, it wouldn't be as easy to make the same assertion.
Anyway, I'll keep thinking and write you more on it.
Dear Hosam,Badie wrote on 22-Feb-1999
Thank you for the wonderful links. Saint Mark's is very nice. Only wish some of Pope Shenouda's sermons were available in english. The chanting is very deeply moving, and richly ornate with affective overtones. Coptic hymnology has preserved a great storehouse of spiritual gems. If we but have ears to hear. Always glad when my words get people thinking. You are truly blessed, your musical ability allows you to communicate not only words but sighs and groans too deep for words. Please remember to thank God and share what has been entrusted to you.
Always appreciate hearing from you,
I just visited your page with a wealth of information about that rare musical field. I was hoping to listen to many musical examples (that is music to my ears). I was wondering if possible to add such samples in future times. I will visit your site frequenly for that purposeI replied on 24-Feb-1999
Dear Sir,Badie wrote on 22-Feb-1999
I was a little at a loss really as to whether to provide my music samples in MIDI or in WAV (or MP3, or RealAudio) format. I'm open to suggestions.
Thanx for your kind e-mail.John Chalmers wrote on 03-Mar-1999
It seems to me that your speciality subject matter of ancient music is a vry interesting subject to many many people around the world, myself included. It also seems to me that you have a wealh of information about that subject. It also appears that it is a little known area that could possibly be found in academic circles only. But thanx to people like you and the computer age to get portions of it out of the Jini Bottle, so to speak. You should also be proud of the fact that you are doing a great service educating many people around the world about that field, and my idea is to make that experience a little more intresting, by adding audio clips to support your presentation, and ultimately video presentation too. Let me tell you about myself, I am, or was, self taught musician. I started playing on our piano at home at the age of 4 on my own. Throughout the years I was very active in Egyptian music, and sometimes other kinds of music. Over the years I have a technical career and my hobby at his time is
ANYTHING computer. I just got into learning the audio aspects and applicaions in computers and still learning, and might have some ideas during that learning stage. To add audio clips to your site could be done in the ways you mentioned and probably other ways too. The criteria would be many things, for example: the quality you intend to present - the amount or length of your audio clips - your audiance capabilities benefiting from your presentation - and of course the limit on your site size. Here is my analysis : MP3 is fairly new and majority of the internet community don't even know is exists, and don't know how to use it yet, but it is gaining popularity everyday. The quality is probably the best overall, besides it's portability feature using external devices like Rio and may be there are others by now.
Midi is small enough in size to fit just about any restriction on the site size, but the limit would be lack of portability, and it is limited to certain instruments only.
Wav, has good advantages since you are not limited to specific instruments, and open to just about any kind of sound including vocal. It's size is much larger than any that I am aware of. The quality is in direct relation to the
size. It is alsp the basis for conversion to many other farmats.
Real Media, is excellent in quality and reasonable in size compares to Midi. But it requires the audience to download the plug in, which is not very painful process to the average user. It usually offers the download near
where the download file is. It also has the feature of live streaming. So, the user can liten live and/or download the file for later listening - and sometime it is either/or. It also has the video capability.
Real audio, is about the same like real media, except it is older and many computer users have that plug in and did not bother upgrading to real media. In other words it is very convenient to the majority of users. It lacks he
video capability that exists in Real Media.
Files intended for download could also be compresed to the popular Zip format which can reduce the file size. But in the audio files, the reduction in size in not significant.
If I can be of any further assistance please let me know. And if you live in Egypt, I intend to visit Cairo in few weeks, and will be proud to get in touch with you then.
Keep up the good work and keep in touch.
HI: I visited your web page, but I was unable to get your tetrachord sound files to play on my Mac. Sorry.I replied on 05-Mar-1999
Could you tell me what your interval notation means, in cents preferably or fractional tones (or Aristoxenian parts). I'd like to tune them up and try them. The names are similar to some Arabic tetrachords, but I suspect the tunings are different.
Dear John,Joe Harb wrote on 26-Mar-1999
What you'r asking about has always been a controversial subject matter. Most electric organ manufacturers adjust their siblings so that a quarter-tone is exactly half a semitone, i.e. 50 cents. We almost never use the interval per se, rather we use the three-quarters, e.g. C-D-Ehb-F, where the Ehb is (almost) 50 cents below diatonic E.
By the way, try downloading those tetrachord MIDI files; they're quite tiny each. I think it could be done by clicking on the plugin while holding down a special key on the keyboard, and choosing from the menu that appears then.
I even began reading pages of Sysex implementation documents and specifications to resolve this. One problem I had was identifying my Manufacturers ID # which would be Creative Labs. I have a Korg M1 that already gives me access to quarter notes but my Sound Blaster Live soundcard and midi does not interpret the sysex through the Cakewalk sequencer. So I am planning on spending atleast another couple of months trying to figure out how to load the thing and it would be well worth my time know if the arabic scale syx is a real time controller.
I would be so thankful for any suggestions you have came across while getting this function to work. Thanks! Good job on the site.
Dear Jawad,John Chalmers wrote on 28-Mar-1999
I'm really delighted to be of help.
Look, System Exclusive Messages, or SysEx's for short, can only be applied to a single manufacturer's range of products; i.e. SysEx for Roland GS products cannot in any way be applied to a product by Korg, Kurtzweil, Creative or anybody else. This is precisely why it's called "Exclusive".
I know that SB Live claims to support GS, but in practice it only supplies the GS timbre variations, not the total range of features. I'm really sorry; you must be feeling let down!
As far as the possibility of playing quarter-tones real-time, this is certainly the way it's done using the appropriate SysEx's supported by a given piece of equipment. With the SB Live, it's possible to build an sf2 file with certain keys lowered or raised as desired. Hardly economical, but might just be the only other alternative, short of putting Pitch Bend messages for every quarter-tone!!!
I have no access to your Korg's SysEx details, otherwise I could help you sort this out.
I enjoyed reading your web pages very much. I'd appreciate some dates for the various scales you describe and some references. A picture of a Nai would be nice (or a drawing).
There is no question in my mind that quartertone intervals have a very long history in Egypt. In about 160 CE, Ptolemy wrote about the tetrachord 12/11 x 11/10 x 10/9 and described it as sounding "rather foreign and rustic" to his Greek-trained ear (he was living in Alexandria). I suspect he heard it from his choice of adjectives. This
tetrachord is probably the progenitor or at least the holotype of such Arabic tetrachords as 150 + 150 + 200 cents (roughly, 9 + 9 + 12 in Aristoxenos's "parts") and permutations.
The Greek quartertones had fallen out of use by Ptolemies time (by about 4 or 5 centures) and in any derive from splitting the semitone in the hemitonic pentatonic.
The 3/4 intervals of Arabo-Persian music are usually attributed to Zalzal (or Zulzul) who used a neutral third (C-Eb- instead of the Pythagorean 32/27 or 81/64. Previously A-P music used the 17-tone scale of ditonic commas and limmas (with an i, not e) which you mention. It is thought that Zalzal's tuning was closer to practice than the 17 tone scale.
I'm not familiar enough with contemporary Egyptian music to have an opionion, but I certainly hear intervals in Islamic musics which sound about 1/4-tone from 12-tet. That's close enough for me to call them quartertonal intervals.
There has been a ferocious (well, not quite, but heated) exchanges on the tuning list over the question of whether 24-tet is actually in use in contemporary Islamic music, with opinion divided. Although theorists say that quarter-tones are widely used in Islamic music, a Turk on the Alternative Tuning list disputes this for Turkish music, saying that the precise intonation varies according to the instanteous musical demands and the performer's taste. In any case, 24-tet tuning is not in use, despite some claims by theorists such as Karl Signell.
KurdBoy wrote on 12-May-1999
Hello Mr Hosam !
I found your home page when i searched for quarter tones in alta vista. I found yours very intressting. I wonder how you set harmony, like bas & chord etc.. to an arabic song ? And i wonder if it's possible to hear quarter tones
directly from the soundcard when you play midi files without help of Gs midi synths ?
I hope you answer my question.
Thank you very much !
I replied on 15-May-1999
Yuur posing one of my most favourable questions!! Harmony...
It has always haunted me. But have you read those articles I put recently (My theory of Quarter Tones)? I did touch on the subject, although not expansively. I might just consacrate an article to this issue. You're giving me ideas!!
Basically, though, it's exactly like in the occidental music. In my above-mentioned article, I said something about a master thesis I had read some time ago that proved that our scales adopt the same good old Tonic / Dominant / Subdominant scheme; no matter what intervals are comprised in the scale.
In my music, I always use this, and nobody seems to get offended. I'll search in my archive for an example. I might even be tempted to include it in my Web Page.
As for your second inquiry, unless the sound card happens to be a genuine Roland card (e.g., RAP-10, SC-55, ...), GS SysEx will have no effect. Because even though many cards claim supporting GS, what they actually support is the Program Change variation scheme, but not the internal registers of a true Roland GS beast.
The only way to do this is to use Pitch Bend messages, like in the little tune you heard on accessing my Home Page. But, I have to admit, it's ugly! You either need to put one message before EACH half-flattened tone, and another before the next normal tone to anull it, OR you use another channel to hold all the half-flattened tones, with a starting Pitch Bend. Both are clumsy hacks, if you ask me!!
Me again on 19-May-1999
It's me again. I just did what I promised you I'd do. I'm sending you a specimen of harmonised quarter-tones; à la myself (only works with a genuine Roland GS thing)!
It's the skeleton of religious song for children. Tell me what you think, and then maybe we could discuss it further if you like.
KurdBoy wrote on 19-May-1999
Hello Mr Hossam !
Thank you for your mails and the midi file you send to me. The midi files sounds great but I couldn't hear the quartertones. Played the file with my sound card (Soundblaster 64), because I sold my Roland E-70 for last month, I have a Korg 01WFd synth, but I think that sysEx is for Roland Gs synths ? I'm going to buy a new Roland Synth soon, I'm looking forward to hear your midi with q-tones.
I have looked for people that are intressted in arabic/middle east music the last two years, without any success, until I found your home page for a couple a weeks ago. I have read your articles, very intressting ideas. The harmony parts are only one page, to short to clearly understand your idea and suggestions for harmony. My experiences with quartertones is that you don't add quartertones to bas tones / Chords. But if I'm not wrong so you use quartertones for all your arrangements (all instruments) ? When I set harmony to a song, I just add q-tones to the solo parts. But my problem is that I have studied music in a western country, most of them have never heard about q-tones. I live in Sweden. As you know there are chord progressions in Western harmony, like Tonica, subdominant, dominant etc... Sometimes you add harmony with little respect to the melody tones, like the pop songs. they follow some kind of chord progression, have you any ideas how it works with arabic music ? I have listened to many arabic, turkish, persian... songs and music styles, the bas player often follow the melody lines. But I don't like that so much. I'll be grateful if you share your ideas with me.
I tried Pich Bend messages to a solo part and first recorded the whole part then I did edit the even list and changed the q-tones to another midi channel. It works, but it take so much time that you forget the music composing soon, and there you are a Eventlist-editor :) But it's sometimes good for Web pages. Thank you !
Best Regards !
I replied on 24-May-1999
I wish I knew a proper name I could use instead of just "there"!
I thought of sharing my thoughts about harmonizing tunes containing three-quarter tones this time, but I reconsidered: instead, I'm sending you a GM version of the same snippet (using Pitch Bends) so we can have
something to discuss.
Please tell me what you think; your impressions, your criticisms, etc.
Morad (a.k.a. KurdBoy) wrote on 26-May-1999
I think your arrangement sounds good in general, but in Bar 9,12,13,16,17 it sounds a little strange, I don't know why ? Mybee because Oboe play high q-tones or maybee I'm not used to such harmoy. I tested a little with your melody my self. I added piano with q-tone in the first verion (My1Qumu.mid), and with tempered tones in the second one (My2Qumu.mid). What do you think about them ?
You didn't answer my questions in my mail last time.
Waiting for your reply.
Best regards !
I replied on 31-May-1999
I've heard the two versions of my original, the ones that you suggest are less strange to your ears. To mine, the main difference that caught my attention was one of style: banjo-style accompaniment rather than part-writing. Harmonies are definitely less striking than in my version.
But let me share my thoughts with you.
- All researches made in the Psychology of Music, since the 30's of this century, proved that our judgements about music are based on our past experiences, rather than on the absolute value of the musical content itself. Our minds interpret what we hear according to how familiar we are with it. Apparently, perfectly sane people can "see" and "hear" things that exist in fact only in their heads!
- So, it's basically all a matter of time. Given time, and with no conscious, logical reasons in the way, we CAN end up absolutely happy with what we frown at at the moment. We have the whole history of Music to prove it.
- If you examine any piece of four-voice part-writing, especially by any classical composer, you'll notice that the inner voices, as well as the cantus firmus (commonly in the treble) and the bass, give an unmistakably distinct impression of the SAME mode and key of the main voice. This, in spite of the fact that they usually start and/or end on another note than the tonic. In my experience, if I can fulfil this criterion, the harmonies feel just perfect.
- In our music, all ancient composers stressed the importance of the "Rokooz" (arabic = settlement) and the "Ghammaz" (arabic = strain) that they considered to be the corners, or the pegs, of ANY scale. The first is nothing but our old friend, the Tonic, and the second is the Dominant. So, from the melodic side of things, our music uses the Tonic/Dominant basis, just like the Occidental music. There is indeed no reason that the harmonic side of things be any different. After all, harmony is, in the final analysis, a condensation of melodic forces. Let's not forget that harmony is only the simplification, the reduction, of Counterpoint (which preceded it historically).
- The reason I rely more on note-to-note counterpoint rather than bare-bones harmony is that I believe in the voice leading techniques' power to alleviate the strangeness of which you complained. The ear usually attributes more importance to a melody, harmony becoming something "coincidental" rather than the main attraction; a mere by-product of the superposed melodic movements.
Well, what do you think?
Morad wrote on 01-Jun-1999
Hello Mr Hosam !
Thank you for your reply.
Sorry my bad english, I think you missunderstood with my points. I liked your arrangement very much and it sounds good, but I felt that it may sound strange on the bars I mentioned. The main reason can be my soundcard, it doesn't sound so good as synths/keyboards... But i'm going to buy a synthmodul soon. Do you know any good sound modules that can handle quartertones ?
The two versions on mine was only a little test, nothing seriuos. and the banjo style don't match the main melody line so much :) I just wanted to hear your ideas. I agree with all your thoughts that you wrote in your last mail.
agree 100% when you say " -"The earusually attributes more importance to a melody, harmony becoming something "coincidental" rather than the main attraction;
I rely more in bar-bones harmony, because i like the new style music and play synthesizer and beside of that I'm not good in part-writing harmony. My main problem was how to set chords and bas to a arabic melody line.
Similiary harmonies like the new arabic pop groups etc...
But your compositions are very intressting to me, I have never seen other musicians or composers set arrangements to quartertones based melodies, well maybee sometimes when they have to. The composers I've met really hates quartertones, and just want to work with non-quartertone based scales when they works. I think it's wrong. Because there are more impressions and feelings when you hear q-tones :)
Well, have you other works that you want to share with me ? It's a pleasure to exchanges ideas with you, if you are intressted ? I don't know if I can give much ideas to you, because as I mentioned I have worked very little with part writing arrangements. And I have no such compositions right now...
If you don't mind I wonder a lot of things about you, you can answer if you want to. I wonder for example how many instruments you can play, which one is your main instrument. Are you good on score reading / writing ?
I hope i hear from you soon.
I replied on 06-Jun-1999
First of all, let me clarify a misunderstanding: I never thought, for one single moment, that you were trying to "ruin my masterpiece"! I knew you had to experiment; when I sent you that little piece, I was hoping you could play with it for a while so you can get to know what I did and why, by yourself and for your own good. So, when I later told you that your arrangement was simpler than mine, I didn't mean to simply compare the two versions as to their artistic value. So, I never had any sort of hard feelings, and please chase away any feelings of guilt from your mind.
At any rate, to find someone as polite and sensitive as you is as good as finding a hidden treasure. Just don't be too hard on yourself. All right?
Now, let's get down to music. Any modern Roland module would be an excellent choice; I tend to personally prefer the SoundCanvas series. Try to listen to the sounds before you buy anything. Compare the SC-88 Pro and later models to the Korg and the Yamaha offers. But, if you're going to use SysEx messages to get our cheirshed three-quarter tones, the Roland GS and the Yamaha XG are second to none. (Although my little utility can only work with Roland GS modules, I'm sorry.) If you end up getting a Yamaha XG module, just send me the necessary details so I can adjust my utility for it, in addition to the Roland GS.
As for myself, I play the Nai and the Recorder. These are not only my favourite instruments, but they are simply the ones I could have the time to learn. I have a lute and a violin, but I never could make a substantial progress in learning them. I took a few piano lessons, many years ago, but that was it. Anyway, I only need a keyboard to experiment with my chords, then I plan my music on paper (music sheets), and lastly I put all the details in my AMIGA sequencer, Bars&Pipes programme. When I need to provide written music, I use Encore on my PC. Sometimes, I use Cakewalk in those rare cases where I have to do my sequencing on the PC.
You don't need to excel in part-writing. Simple harmony can be quite beautiful. And the musical principles are the same; your progressions would follow the same guidelines. The same I-V-I scheme; a chord root would generally better go down a third rather than in the opposite direction, especially from a weak (up) beat to a strong (down) beat; etc. So, as I had told you before, my opinion is that you can use whatever you already mastered to make music with quarter-tones, and you'll get used to it; it's all a matter of time.
Anyway, I'd like to hear from you as often as you can. On my part, I promise I'll try to find you some works of mine, but I believe I should wait until you can listen to them the way they were intended to sound. Right?
Carl Chrisopher wrote on 09-Aug-1999
I was quite thrilled when I read about the musical work you are doing. I am an independent researcher in Ancient Egyptian Culture. I have been trying for many years to find someone who is familiar with the music of the pharoahs. Can you help guide me in this endeavor?
Carl Ka Ra Christopher
I replied on 16-Aug-1999
The only thing I could say after reading your message was "Oh my God!" ... You see, ... Well, this can be a truly long story, but I'll try to sum it up.
First, there are no written music going back to that era. Our ancient priests, guardians of the glorious music of the temples, boasted never allowing it to go beyond the temples' confines. They believed it could somehow be profaned.
Second, the only music that could be related, at least chronologically, is the Coptic Church music. Everybody seems to go for this, but it can hardly be verified. Church music IS particular, but not uniquely so. I mean, while some maintain it's totally distinguishable from other old, traditional music, like old songs and instrumental pieces, my ear can only see this as a stylistic difference, rather than a linguistic one (I'm talking about the language of the music, here).
So, as you can see, it's very difficult even to try and answer your question!!
Nevertheless, I truly wish I could be of help.
SemaYoga wrote on 13-Aug-1999
I wanted to know if you have uncovered any evidence of notation in ancient Egypt and perhaps if you have linked it to Coptic Music.
Also, were the Coptic vowels used in Ancient Egypt?
I replied on 16-Aug-1999
Dear Sema (I'm not sure if this IS your name),
(here went some repeated material)
Just what do you mean by "Coptic Vowels"?! Linguistically speaking, it was basically the same laguage, only in a different developmental phase. But musically, how are vowels related to the similarity or the difference between "Ancient Egyptian" and "Coptic"?!
SemaYoga wrote on 17-Aug-1999
Thank you for your reply. I asked the question about the vowels because my research uncovered the following quotations from my research into the Greek Music archives.
>From the book: Life in Ancient Egypt in Ancient Times
The Greek writer, Athenaeus , informs us that the Greeks and barbarians from other countries learned music from the Ancient Egyptians.
From: BURDEN OF ISIS by James Teackle Dennis 1910
The Egyptians based their music on seven diatonics, which Demetrius of Phalerus attributes to the "seven vowels"; others say seven senses, or seven planets. Dion Cassius corroborates him...
Ancient Greek music accepted the use of seven vowels and even recorded these in Greek. Given the close relation between ancient Greek music and Ancient Egyptian and given the close relation between Coptic language and Greek language, the following may be deduced. Therefore, if seven vowels were used and if Coptic is the descendent of Ancient Egyptian, then it is logical to suppose that these (Coptic) were or may be close to the seven vowels used by the Ancient Egyptian musicians. So you see, my approach to research into ancient Egyptian music is two pronged, to study ancient Greek musical history and forms on one side and to study Coptic on the other.
Also, have you done any research with the three stringed lute?
Adam Lesnick wrote on 26-Aug-1999
I will be doing a music research project in Egypt that involves notation of quarter tones for Western classical instruments. I am currently searching for microtonal (quarter tone) fingering charts for standard orchestral woodwind and brass instruments. Do you know of any source that has a listing with all of these fingerings in the same publication?
Thank you very much for any assistance,
Fulbright Scholar in Music to Egypt
I replied on 28-Aug-1999
I'm afraid I can't help you very much on my own there. I never studied with our Conservatory. So, I really don't know anything about other woodwind or brass (except my recorder, for which I had developed the appropriate fingerings myself about 15 years ago). I'll try to see what I can do, all the same. But please be patient. I know very few people with connections to what you need.
On the other hand, I doubt the existence of such fingerings. I've heard one famous (Egyptian) Opera singer, Ratiba El-Hefny, mention more than once that her father invented special makes of woodwind that can play quarter-tones. Also, I once heard an American flutist play a piece by Gamal Abdel-Rehim that contained quarter-tones on a regular flute traversière (she did it by controlling her breath, it seems).
This makes me think that you could be searching in the wrong direction. But then, I certainly don't know everything in the world!
I'll try to check with someone. And I'll be grateful if you could share your findings with me.