The Music Class

D species

Click to see
"bars" music written out, larger size

A familiar dance tune found at Armenian, Arabic, Turkish, Assyrian and other near eastern dance parties, this song is called variously Naz Bar, Karsi Bar, Sepastia Bar, etc. depending on what area it came from. The word “bar” means dance, and the rest of the name usually refers to a town or region.
To the left is some sheet music from the internet that gives a few of these versions of this song. The site was referred to me by musician Daniel Eshoo, of Assyrian descent, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

See " Hal Libba Marya" page for more information on the Assyrians and their well-known story of the conversion of King Apgar.

For more variations of this dance tune see http://www.swiss.ai.mit.edu/~jaffer/Music/Bars.pdf

Use permission note is written on the sheet music.

Silk road dancers

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A different approach was used in working with "The Music Class." The plan was to reconstruct a melody from small segments, as if it were a piece of broken pottery dug up from the past. As more fragments are added, the shape of the design begins to appear more clearly, until a whole form presents itself.

Slowly at first, then up to speed, the pieces are joined to reveal the dance tune as a living piece of music.

image from http://www.silkroaddance.com/index.asp

Medieval dancers

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In "The Music Class", the lyre, playing the part of the maestro, teaches the piece to a student in a class, slowly, one bit at a time. Not surprisingly, once the members of the class hear the tune beginning to come together, they want to join in. This way of bringing a piece of music to life is a large part of the approach used to create melodies on “Seven Modes for an Ancient Lyre.”

The image to left and the one below are of lively medieval dances, from the German site http://www.uni-mainz.de/~hoppk000/bau.html

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The teacher manages to elbow his way back into the foreground just long enough to present the second theme, but after that, the class takes over completely, embellishing as they go, adding a new bass line idea at one point. Even the teacher tries out the new bass line generated by the class.

At the end, the class politely lets the teacher take a final solo, revealing that he has learned a few new ideas from his pupils. All ends well, with a final flourish on the bell.

For information on ancient Armenian music and dance visit this site:

... Armenian music is ancient in origin and continuous in development as seen from pre-Christian mural paintings, archaeological finds, the earliest historical chronicles, medieval miniatures, and the songs themselves, some of which have transmitted elements from pagan civilization.

The lovely Armenian dancers image to the left came up on the internet on www.ceai.org/ projectarmenia.html

Click image to see
the earliest chant music manuscript, from San Gall
900 A.D.



Here is a quotation and an example from the Xeremia site that explains the state of our information about ancient music notation in Europe before the near eastern texts revealed some older sources from the first and second millennia B.C. in the near east.

Few traces remain of the music played before the 10th century. The art of singing is the only one that can be traced back because of long religious traditions and the influence of the mediterranean culture. In St Gall, in Switzerland, in the year 900, appeared the very first manuscript that contains a musical piece written in neume. It was the heyday of Gregorian plainsong.

To the left is an example of very early neumes in monastic chant in Europe--the little marks drawn in above the words that indicate rises and falls and embellishments in the chant melody. The "no-" of 'nobis' is a long mellismatic syllable, while three identical symbols above "a-do-ra-" mean these syllables are all on the same pitch. The following
"-te" (adorate) is embellished in a manner designated by the symbols above it.

The above example is the beginning of western vocal or chant notation, which developed into staff music after horizontal lines were added.
It took centuries for these little marks to evolve into precise pitches indicated with horizontal lines, and more centuries before they began to indicate rhythms well enough to convey the playing or singing of simultaneous parts.

Is it possible that instrumental tablatures and tuning instructions evolved first, before western vocal music symbols? Perhaps tablatures, with their references to strings and tunings, formed an older, unique kind of music notation that was useful to instrumentalists, but not to singers.

Three medieval musicians image comes from http://perso.wanadoo.fr/xeremia/Acceuil/musicmeduk.htm

1. Berber Wedding Song
2. The Music Class
3. Twilight on the Water
4. Hurrian Moonrise
5. Ninkasi’s Dance
6. Lament for Linus
7. Solitary Theme
8. Long Ago Lullaby
9. Fortune-Telling Song
10. Hurrian Moonset
11. Ea, the Creator
12. The Queen of Sheba
13. Hal Libba Marya


©Bella Roma Music 2002