Maqam Machine

Maqam Machine

When I started my attempts at making music around new year's I had a question on my mind: what makes certain music sound like that kind of music? Or, to be more specific, what makes Middle-eastern music sound Middle-eastern? Is it the instruments? Is it something else?

I googled, and googled, and found that there was something called a maqam[a]. It's an Arabic extension to the older Persian dastgah[b] system, which, in turn, is best described as a set of musical scales and connections between them. (Similar to the Indian ragas[c].) Could I make music sound Arabic or Persian by restricting the melody to these scales? I tried a little, but then got sidetracked into making a little application where I could explore these scales.

The result of that exploration is Maqam Machine. A step sequencer where you are restricted to the scales of the various maqam.

Maqam Machine

If you want to hear the Maqam Machine playing something, here's a heart-rending performance of Popcorn[d]. Or maybe soul-rending. Or ear-rending. I'm sure it rends something.

For more information (and to find out all the ways I'm hopelessly wrong), see:

  • Maqam Lessons[e] - shows the jins that make up the maqam and how they fit together.

  • Maqam World[f] - a website dedicated to teaching the maqam modal system.