Persian classical music: Melody/Gushesh


Developing a mode is like climbing a staircase. The artist works from step to step, concentrating on the main note of each degree by passages meant to emphasize it until he comes to the top note. From there he quickly retraces his steps back to the starting point. If the dastgah is the whole staircase, it is constructed in the steps of several flights. These flights, the small, melodic, rhythmic or free-rhythm sections, are called gusheh. Their names, Pahlavi, Zabol, Khataj, Qajar. Etc. reveal their ancient origin and the extensive contacts between Indo-Iranian, Chinese, Turkish and Mongolian cultures through the centuries. A gusheh can last from about seven seconds up to seven minutes, but, whatever the duration, it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end according to a specific musical formula. Within that formula, the rendition of a gusheh depends on the musician’s art of improvisation. It is this art that is the life blood of Persian music and the most difficult to master. There are about four hundred gushehs distributed among the twelve modes, each gusheh having a personality, mood and tonal color. A musician displays his artistry in the particular number and combination of the gushehs he chooses to play in a performance.