Makam and Usul (MTH4150.01)

Joseph Alpar

This music theory course will introduce students to the art of makam, the melodic system of Ottoman Turkish music, and usul, its rhythmic counterpart. The course is designed to assist students in understanding makam (a melodic mode) and usul (a rhythmic cycle) in multiple ways. We will primarily learn through the meshk system, an Ottoman music educational method based on careful listening, observation, imitation, and memorization. By singing and playing a range of vocal and instrumental pieces, we will study a number of makams and usuls. We will pay special attention to phrasing. Through the more experiential approach of singing and playing short musical phrases, the character, sound, and atmosphere of each makam will gradually become familiar to us. We will also explore different compositional forms, improvisation, vocal and instrumental ornamentation and performance practice, microtonality, notation, Ottoman composers, and the relationship of melody and lyrics. The course will culminate with a concert of pieces that we have learned during the term.

Learning Outcomes:
In this course students will:

Learn to sing/play a number of makams (modes) both in the context of compositions and in shorter musical phrases. Clap and beat different usuls (rhythmic cycles) while chanting rhythmic syllables
Familiarize themselves with a range of Ottoman instrumental and vocal repertoire
Acquire musical technique and knowledge by using the Ottoman music educational method of meşk.
Develop and hone intonation skills, particularly the ability to hear and sing/play microtones.
Explore Ottoman Turkish approaches to improvisation through the characteristic phrases of makam

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Students should be comfortable matching pitch and have a working knowledge of music notation. This course is for any voice type and most instruments (fretted instruments will be a challenge because frets do not accommodate all the pitches of makam music). Students wanting to play instruments should be relatively comfortable on their instruments. You need not be familiar with Ottoman music or makam prior to this class. Students should email the instructor expressing their interest in the course.
Corequisites: Attendance to at least two Music Workshops on Tuesdays at 6:30 PM. Attendance at relevant music concert/lecture events
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 2
Tu 4:10PM - 6:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: All courses , Ethnomusicology , Fully In-Person , History , Music , Theory
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