As a young guitarist invited to join a Moroccan band, I discovered there are notes between the notes which weren’t playable on my instrument. That's how I developed an interest in North Africa and the Middle East. This also led me to Codarts 20 years later to study taqsim performances, which are considered the highest form of modal melodic improvisational art in the Arab culture.
The research allowed me to explore the beauty and richness of this music, and look beyond the equally tempered Western tonal system into the world of Maqam playing.
I transcribed and analysed taqsim recordings of the masters, studied maqam literature and scores of traditional compositions based on maqam repertoire. I used the Arabic 24-tone system and the Turkish comma system (Pythagorean tuning) as theoretical references. By taking ud classes I practiced intonation, phrasing and ornaments that I applied on fretless guitar and quarter tone guitar.
Outcome: In addition to my educational background in classical and jazz music where improvisation is often more vertically related to harmonic progressions, the maqam system provides a tool for horizontal modal melodic developments. A way to shape coherent storylines (sayr) with the use of authentic microtonal tetra-chords such as rast, bayat and hijaz, tonicization of scale degrees, sequences and movable pitches that build tension and change modal gravity. The musical embodiment hereof is found in taqsim solo improvisation performances.