2.10.4 Persian classical music

This section highlights issues that are relevant to notating Persian classical music.

Persian music notation

The notation for Persian classical music commonly uses two accidentals for microtones, sori and koron. Invented by Ali-Naqi Vaziri around 1935, they indicate raising and lowering a pitch by (approximately) a quarter tone, respectively.

[image of music]

The file ‘persian.ly1 provides support for koron and sori; they can be obtained by appending ‘k’ (koron) and ‘o’ (sori) to the English note symbols.

LilyPond supports tunings for all major Persian modes in all keys, sufficient to notate the gushehs (central nuclear melodies) of all dastgahs (musical modal systems).

The note immediately following a koron is sometimes2 lowered by about 20 cents. This is not notated but considered part of the tuning. However, for getting better MIDI support you can make a sound flat by appending ‘v’ to the note name (‘vlat’). This note should actually also get a strong vibrato, and the vibrato and low tuning are perceptually integrated (serialism). This is just for MIDI and has no effect on the notation itself.

There are no further tuning issues in Persian music. Since the music is monophonic, the difference between just intonation (for example) and equal temperament is merely academic – there are no chords where out-of-tune intervals would be noticeable.

The following suffixes to English note names are provided.

kkoron (about quarter flat, -3/10 of whole tone, 60 cents)
osori (about quarter sharp, 2/10 of whole tone, 40 cents)
v20 cent flat-tuned note (“vlat”, not notated)
fvflat, tuned 20 cents down (notated as a normal flat)
svsharp, tuned 20 cents down (notated as a normal sharp; does never occur in traditional Persian music)

Persian tunings

Dastgahs can have many tunings; it has become common to name tunings after representative dastgahs featuring them. The following Persian tunings are provided to be used as the second argument of the \key command. Note that in practice not all tunings are used in all keys.

\shur‘Shur’ gushehs with natural 5th degree
\shurk‘Shur’ gushehs with koron 5th degree
\mahurthe same as \major but used in a completely different context

In dastgah ‘Shur’, the 5th degree can either be natural or koron, so two tunings are provided (\shur, \shurk). Secondary dastgahs ‘Dashti’, ‘Abuata’, and ‘Bayat-e-tork’ use \shur, the derived dastgah ‘Afshari’ uses \shurk. ‘Nava’ on G is like ‘Shur’ on D (a 4th apart). The tuning of ‘Segah’ is \shurk. Other tunings are \esfahan (‘Homayoun’ on C is like ‘Esfahan’ on G, a 5th apart), \chahargah, and \mokhalefsegah. For dastgahs ‘Mahur’ and ‘Rast-panjgah’ the same tuning \mahur can be used.

All the various modulatory gushehs in all dastgahs can be notated with these tunings, with the exception of ‘Delkash’ in ‘Mahur’, but traditionally the peculiar accidentals there are notated explicitly (however, ‘persian.ly’ also defines a tuning \delkashMahur).

As an example, Chahargah in D can be input with the following.

\include "persian.ly"

\relative c' {
  \key d \chahargah
  bk'8 a gs fo r g ak g |
  fs ek d c d ef16 d c4 |

[image of music]

Persian key signatures

By default, the order of accidentals in Persian key signatures is flats followed by korons, then sharps followed by soris (then double flats, then double sharps).

An alternative key order, similar to the one used in ‘turkish-makam.ly’, can be selected. Here, the order is flats or korons (or double flats), then sharps or soris (or double sharps). In other words, korons and soris are handled equal to flats and sharps, respectively.

\include "persian.ly"

  \key b \chahargah b'1 |
  \set Staff.keyAlterationOrder = \persianAltKeyAlterationOrder
  \key b \chahargah b'1 |

[image of music]

Further reading on Persian music


[1] There exists another, older support file for Persian classical music also called ‘persian.ly’ (written by Kees van den Doel) that no longer works with the current LilyPond version; while note names are compatible, the selection of key signatures is not.

[2] If the interval defined by the note before the koron and after the koron is a minor third. The same is true for the note below the finalis in the ‘Esfahan’ dastgah according to some (but not all) Persian musicians.

LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.23.82 (development-branch).