ŠUR

ŠUR, a modal system (dastgāh) in the traditional music in Iran.

Technical description. In the learned musical tradition established around the middle of the 19th century, the study of the radif started with Šur, since it was considered as the most important of the twelve modal systems (dastgāhs and āvāzs). This was due to several factors:

Five āvāzs, namely Abu ʿAṭā, Afšāri, Bayāt-e Kord, Bayāt-e Tork (also called Bayāt-e Zand), and Dašti, are considered appurtenant parts (motaʿalleqāt) of Šur. It contains several great melody units (guša), such as Šahnāz, Ḥosayni, Salmak, Rażawi. Its modal scale is also that of the āvāzs or gušas Delkaš, Šekasta (both also included in Māhur), ʿOššāq, and ʿOzzāl, and its general scale (parda) is shared by the dastgāhs Navā and Segāh. Thus, more than 50 percent of Persian music is based on Šur scale (parda), the rest using three other scales, namely, those of Māhur/Rāst, Homāyun/Eṣfahān, and Čahārgāh. In Iranian folk music, the proportion is even greater. In addition, its intonations are found from Anatolia to east Khorasan (Miller, pp. 237-77) and in all of the Arabic and Berber worlds

Šur modal scale, firmly centered on G, has two different aspects: (1) with a lowered fifth (Dp), and (2) with a perfect fifth (D). (D Ep) F G Ap B C Dp/D E♭ F G (A♭ B♭…). The main degrees are rendered in bold letters, the p equals a half flat. The first form is more typical of the essence (māya, darāmads) of Šur, while the second is more widely spread. In some tunes and gušas, both aspects are combined.

Table 1 shows on which pitches of Šur scale are centered the five related āvāzs. The pitches in small letters are not stressed in the modal structure. Segāh and Navā scales are also included in Šur scale, but these two dastgāhs are not members of the Šur family, as their conclusion, contrary to other āvāzs, does not go back to the māya of Šur. In the radif, Šur begins in the upper octave of Šur (G), yet in practice, the āvāz are most often transposed one fifth below (D).

The scale transcribed here in a relative pitch follows the usual tuning of tār and setār in Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh’s radif (F c G C). On these instruments (Ḥosayn-qoli’s radif), Šur also is often performed on A (tuning D a G C). As a consequence of this transposition, the intervals are slightly different: A-C becomes one comma greater than G-B♭. On the Azerbaijani tār, Šur is played on G, but with the lower string tuned C. Other transpositions are possible on C or D. As a modal system (dastgāh), Šur does not display scale changes or significant modulations, but rather shift of the fundamental keynote (not-e šāhed), on which relies its related gušas and āvāzs.

Šur as a modal system (radif) and its relation to the āvāzs. The instrumental versions of Šur include various number of gušas: from twenty-three (Ḥosayn-qoli’s radif) up to sixty-nine (Musā Maʿrufi’s compilation, 1962). In Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh’s radif (During, 2006, p. 12), they are: six darāmads (including Kerešma, Rohāb/Rahāvi, Mollā Nāzi), two Naḡmas, Zirkeš-e Salmak, Mollā Nāzi, Salmak, Golriz, Majlesafruz, ʿOzzāl, Ṣafā, Bozorg, Kuček, Dobayti, Ḵārā, Qajar, Forud, and Ḥazin. Then begins a second section of Šur in the upper register (pāʾin-e dasta): Šur of pāʾin-e dasta, Guša-ye Rohāb, Čahār Guša, Moqaddama-ye Gereyli, Rażawi, Forud, Šahnāz, Ḥazin, Qarača, and Šahnāz Kot (ʿAšeqkoš). Measured pieces are added to the list: Reng-e Oṣul, Gereyli, Reng-e Šahrāšub featuring sixteen sections. Musā Maʿrufi’s compilation includes a short rendition of Bayāt-e Kord.

In the instrumental version, the second part of this dastgāh (in the upper register) reproduces the modal development of the first one, as if two renditions of Šur have been put together. In the vocal radif, Šur is less extended (14 gušas; Masʿudia, 1996), and, due to the limitation of the voice diapason, it does not split into low and upper register. In Mehdiqoli Hedāyat’s transcription, Šur has only 29 gušas and does not extend on the section on the upper octave (pāʾin-e dasta). Actually, in the first list of guša established in Iran in 1913 by Forṣat-al-Dawla (Forṣat, 1975, p. 37; ed. Ṣāleḥ, p. 26), we find only the following 15 sections: Darāmad, Kerešma, Āvāz, Naḡma (Salmak, Golriz), Ṣafā, Čahār-meżrāb, Bozorg, Dobeyti, Ḵārā, Qajar, Mollā Nāzi, Ḥazin, and Forud

Then Forṣat lists seven āvāzs and their gušas and comments that “though they are not Šur, they are used in this dastgāh” (Forṣat, ed Ṣāleḥ, p. 26): Šahnāz, Qarača, Rażawi, Oqdagošā (ʿĀšeqkoš); Bayāt-e Tork, Dogāh, Mehdi Żarrābi, Ruḥ-al-Arwāḥ, Dašti, Ḥājiāni, Bidgāni, Bayāt-e Širāz, Gilaki, Gavri (Gabri); Dastān-e ʿArab, Sāranj (also called Abu ʿAṭā), Sayaḵi, Ḥejāz, Čahārpāra, Qaṭār, Qarāʾi, Gereyli (Gerāyli), Gereyli (Gerāyli) Šaṣti, Rahāvi (Rohāb), Masiḥi, Taḵt-e Ṭāqdis, Šāh Ḵatāʾi; Bayāt-e Kord; Afšāri, Kuča-bāḡi, Samali, Ḡamangiz, Mehrbāni. 

Rengs: Šahrāšub, Żarb-e Oṣul (Forṣat, ed. Ṣāleḥ, p. 26). Most of these gušas and āvāzs are also classified as molḥaqāt-e Šur by Mehdiqoli Hedāyat (ca. 1918).

A similar description is found in the Isfahan tradition, where each āvāz is much longer than Šur itself and does not always end with a return to the modal scale (māya) of Šur. Ḥasan Kasāʾi has presented and commented on this radif on the National Radio in the 1960s with examples played on the setār. His version of Šur, called by him “the mother of the melodies” (omm al-āvāz), includes very few gušas pertaining to Šur. After a brief introduction, it goes to Bayāt-e Tork with an extensive development, then to Šekasta (two modulations found also in Azerbaijani Šur), then to Afšāri, Abu ʿAṭā, Kord, and Dašti, followed by a brief conclusion in Šur.

Then comes Darāmad-e Rohāb, Čahārpāra or Hadāvandi (several variants sung during the Sufi ḏekrs), Kerešma, starts the mode (āvāz) of Bayāt-e Tork with several modulations: ʿAširān (instrumental), ʿAširān (as a darāmad of Tork), Bayāt-e Zand, Neyriz, Rāk-e ʿAbd-Allāh, back to Rāk, conclusion in Ruḥ-al-Arwāḥ, Żarbi-e Rāk, Gošāyeš (called Rāst in Eṣfahān radif), Ḥeṣār-e Māhur (or Pas Māhur), Feyli (called Panjgāh in Eṣfahān radif), Šekasta, Awj, Qarabāḡi (an allusion to Afšāri), Żarbi-e Majlesafruz, Delkaš (on the upper octave of Šur), forud, allusion to Rāk. Then one goes back to Bayāt-e Tork with Dogāh, Mehdi Żarrābi, Qaṭār, a long Maṯnawi in Rāst (going to Šekasta, Awj, Rāk-e ʿAbd-Allāh, Ruḥ-al-Arwāḥ, and Bayāt-e Zand), and Mehrbāni. Then starts Afšāri and the other āvāzs, which are also much more developed than Šur itself.

This list shows that the radif of the Isfahan school is sometimes very different from that of Tehran, which goes back to tār master ʿAli-Akbar Farahāni (d. ca. 1860). The bulk of the guša is almost the same, but their names change sometimes and their arrangement can be significantly different.

In the radif collection of Isfahan, Šur is reduced to a few original gušas and appears as a general and somehow theoretical structure for putting together a great number of āvāzs and gušas. In practice, the five āvāzs are independent, as their succession hardly constitutes a chain, a radif. In a performance of dastgāh-e Šur, quotations of these āvāzs are always possible, but only Dašti and Kord can be developed. In contrast with Ḥasan Kasāʾi’s radif, which is mainly vocal, in the instrumental radif of the ʿAli-Akbar Farāhāni school, Šur displays more specific gušas that do not pertain to the five related āvāzs, while all the āvāzs are separate units, except for Kord, which is included in Maʿrufi’s version of Šur. 

A valuable radif recorded and taught by the Isfahani vocalist ʿAbbās Kāẓemi displays even more divergences with the radifs of Tehran: Rohāb, Zirkeš, Ṭarz, Sayaḵ, Qarača, Rohāb-e Masiḥ, Kerešma, Dāḡestāni, Taḵt-e Ḵosrow, Awrangi, Amiri, Mollā Nāzi, Šur, Samāʿ-e Sufiān, Naḡma-ye Qomri, Šabdizi (bā guša-ye Amiri), Ḵosrow wa Širin, Māwarāʾ-al-Nahri, Rāvandi, Borāzjāni, Naḵjiri, Zirafkand, Rażawi (Ḵosravāni) Āšurvand, Šahrāšub, Tusi (or Nišāburi), Ḥāji-Ḥasani, Ṣafā, Suz-o Godāz, Malek-Ḥosayni, Rāz-o Niāz, Sarvestāni, Jahromi, Daštestāni, Lorestāni, Salmak, Gereyli (2 forms), Ḥosayn-e Aḏerbāyjāni, Maṯnawi (Matinfar).

The author notes that in Isfahan, the radif starts with Rohāb and Guša-ye Šur. The latter corresponds to the Tehran Salmak, Salmak corresponds to the Tehran Rażawi, and Šahnāz to the Tehran Qarača.

In view of the diversity of content and sequentialization of the different radifs, one may assume that Šur is quite a recent dastgāh, still unstable and not as strictly defined as the others (e.g., Čahārgāh, Māhur, Segāh, Homāyun).

Šur in the Azerbaijani school. In Azerbaijani moqām/maqām, Šur is a great modal system (dastgāh) that is often performed. Its modal scale is similar, with a variable degree D-Dp. In the modern interpretation the second pitch (Ap, higher than in Iran) varies with the melodic attraction, lowered to A♭ on the way back to G. 

The content of the dastgāh and the chain of the parts (šoʿba) and gušas vary from one school to the other. Sanubar Baghirova (I, p. 34) reports six lists of gušas (between 15 and 30) coming from different transmitters. The development of Šur diverges from the Persian one by the stress of the B♭ (Bayāt-e Tork) and the modulation in Šekasta-ye Fārs on F. A current version is that of the master Ahmad Bakikhanov (d. 1973), which was taught for several decades by Kamil Ahmadov (d. 1996) and includes: Bardāšt (starting from the upper octave), Māya, Šur-Šahnāz (with Dp), Bayāt-e Tork (Bayāt-e Qājār and Dogāh), Šekasta-ye Fārs, ʿAširān, Samāʿ-e Šams, Hejāz, Sāranj, Našib-o Farāz, Ayaq. Zaminḵāra is also often included in Šur, as well as Bayāt-e Kord on D. Šur-Šahnāz can be performed as an individual maqām. In the Persian radif of Mirzā ʿAbd-Allāh, transcribed (ca. 1918) by Mehdiqoli Hedāyat (Eslāmi and Katherine St. John, 2013), as well as in Ḥosaynqoli’s radif, Šahnāz is located at the end.

Historical and comparative approach. Ṣafi-al-Din Ormavi (III, p. 391), describes a fundamental genre (jens) identical to the first form of Šur (with Dp), the šoʿba Nowruz, on which is built Ḥosayni, one of the twelve maqāms of the scholastic school. In the Irakian maqām school, Ḥosayni is similar to the Persian Šur, which includes Ḥosayni among its gušas. Persian Ḥosayni could be regarded as the origin of Šur, since it shares structural characteristics with this dastgāh, and, in contrast with the āvāzs, it starts and ends on the same degree and does not point to another modal context than itself. Ḥosayni goes along with Rohāb, Rahāvi, and ‘Ozzāl, which share the same structure. In Azerbaijan, Rohāb is an ancient dastgāh rarely performed because it is said to be very close to Šur. According to an early Qajar source, Rohāb was one of the 12 dastgāhs (Masʿudia, 1996, p. 239).

In spite of its importance and the “universality” of its modal structure (e.g., Ḥosayni, ʿOššāq, and Bayāti in the Near East), Šur, as a maqām, appears only in the Persian and Azerbaijani inventories of the 19th century. Arutin Tanburi (d. ca. 1750), an Armenian musician from Istanbul who followed Nāder Shah Afšār, had established a list of 109 oriental āvāz and melodies, in which a Šori (Šuri?) is referred to among the gušas of Ḥosayni (Jung, pp. 117, 120).

In Ottoman and Arab traditions Šuri is a development of maqām Bayāti. Its beginning on the first register is close to Šur, but its second pentachord (jens) is in Ḥejāz. The Turkish master Necder Yašar played Šuri with an introduction similar to the Darāmad-e Ḵārā (personal communication), sung in Iran as an overture of this dastgāh. Šur does not appear in treatises from the Safavid period or before, but is documented in early Qajar period (Masʿudia, 1996, p. 239) among the 12 dastgāhs under the name Šur-o Šahnāz.

In his Wożuḥ al-arqām (written in 1884), Mir Möhsun Nawwāb does not mention Šur among the six dastgāhs, and considers it as an āvāz. These data suggest that Šur was promoted to provide a theoretical umbrella to a great number of independent šāh-gušas (Rohāb, Šahnāz, Ḥosayni, Rażawi, Bozorg, etc.) and the five āvāzs: Abu ʿAṭā, Bayāt-e Tork, Afšāri, Dašti, and Kord). Although these āvāzs are related (molḥaqāt) to Šur, they are not derived from it, as it is often said in English and French sources (e.g., Masʿudia, 1978, p. 35).

In practice, it was difficult to handle all these āvāzs and their development in one single dastgāh, so they have remained independent. They are typically Iranian, although they bear names that, like Šur, are mentioned only in sources from the Safavid and later periods. They became much popular and up to a point overshadowed Šur itself. In the 20th century, Šur and Segāh were most often played in light urban music (moṭrebi), but in modern times, Šur is relatively more often performed by instrumentists than by singers, although it has provided an inspiration for the production of a good deal of vocal compositions (taṣnif). 

 For music samples, see:Borumand - Daramads of šur
 Bozorg
 Hosaynqoli – Hajiani
 Hosaynqoli - Shur 

Bibliography. 

Sanubar Baghirova, Azärbaycan Mughami, 2 vols., Baku, 2007. 

Jean During, La Musique traditionnelle de l’Azerbāyjān et la Science des muqāms, Baden-Baden, 1988. 

Idem, The Radif of Mirzā ʿAbdollāh: A Canonic Repertoire of Persian Music, Tehran, 2006. Amir-Ḥosayn Eslāmi and Katherine St. John, eds., Radif-e musiqi-e irāni ba rewāyat-e [Mehdiqoli Hedāyat] Mehdi Ṣolḥi (Montaẓem-al-Ḥokamā): Not-nevisi-e Mahdi-qoli Hedāyat (Moḵber-al-Salṭana), Tehran, 2013.

Moḥammad-Naṣir Forṣat Širāzi, Boḥur ol-alḥān dar ʿelm-e musiqi wa nesbat-e ān bā ʿaruż, Tehran, 1975; ed. Moḥammad-Qāsem Ṣāleḥ Rāmsari, Tehran, 1988. Angelika Jung, Quellen der traditionellen Kunstmusik der Usbeken und Tadshiken Mittelasiens, Hamburg, 1989. 

Ḥasan Kasāʾi, Radif-e musiqi-e irāni: bā ejrāʾ-e setār wa āvāz-e Ostād Kasāʾi/Conventional Classification (redeef) of the Iranian Music: Setār playing and vocals by Maestro Hassan Kassai, Tehran, 2008. 

Kh. Khatshi, Der Radif, Regensburg, 1962. 

Moḥammad-Reżā Loṭfi, Musiqi-e āvāzi-e Irān, Tehran, 1976. 

Musā Maʿrufi, Les systèmes de la musique traditionnelle Iranienne (Radif)/Dastgāhhā-ye musiqi-e sonnati-e Irān, Tehran, 1962, 2nd ed., 1973. 

Moḥammad-Taqi Masʿudia Radif-e āvāzi-e musiqi-e Irān: Radif vocal de la musique iranienne, Tehran, 1978. 

Idem, Āvāz-e Šur, Regensburg, 1968. 

Idem, Manuscrits persans concernant la musique, Munich, 1996. 

Mehršād Matinfar, Āšnāʾi bā radif-e Ostād ʿAbbās Kāẓemi, unpub. file with CDs. Lloyd Miller, and Katherine St. John, Afghan Music and Dance: Shared Arts of Persian’s Past Highlights, Salt Lake City, 2012. 

Moḥsen Moḥammadi, “Resāla-ye davāzdah dastgāh: Matn-e arzešmand dar bāra-ye musiqi-e dawra-ye Fatḥ-ʿAli Šāh,” Māhur quarterly, no. 59, 2013, pp. 126-46.

Farāmarz Pāyvar, Radif-e āvāzi wa taṣnifhā-ye qadimi ba rawāyet-e ʿAbd-Allāh Dawāmi, Tehran, 1996.

Ṣafi-al-Din Ormavi, Resālat al-šarafiya, ed. and tr. Rodolph Erlanger, in idem, La musique arabe III, Paris, 1938. 

Zemfira Safarova, Mir Möhsun Nawwāb, Wożuḥ al-arqām, Baku, 1989 (a short presentation, the Azeri text in Cyrillic, and a facsimile of the Azeri text in Arabic script). 

Reżā Vohdāni, Radif-sāzi-e musiqi-e irāni: Radif-e Āqā ʿAli-Akbar Farāhāni, ba rewāyat-e ostād-e bozorg ʿAli-Akbar Šahnāzi, maʿruf ba rewāyat-e Mirzā Ḥosayn-qoli, Tehran, 1997.

(Jean During)

Cite this article:

Jean During, “ŠUR,” Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/shur-music-scale (accessed on 15 December 2015).