Kamaliddin Bihzad and Music

Issue #1 • 1624

Kamaliddin Bihzad was world known master of book art and true genius of Herat miniature painting school. His heritage and school give knowledge on development of fine arts in the 15th – 16th centuries and allow to reproduce artistic culture of that epoch, its philosophy and world of music as science and art. All that follows from analysis of miniatures of Bukhara and Samarkand schools, works of Bihzad, his teacher Mirak Nakkosh and his following Kasim Ali, Dust-Muhammad and Mahmud Muzahhib.

Feast with musicians. Divan. Herat.
The end of the 15th century.

Our theme “Kamaliddin Bihzad and music” has several aspects giving a full picture of medieval music world. First of all, this is conceptualization of musical instruments in performing art of that period. Today’s organology usually classifies instruments into three groups – string, wind and percussive. In miniatures, string instruments are more often represented by tanbur, ud, rubab, chang-harp and gidjak being a string-bow instrument. Wind instruments are represented by nai, karnai and their variants. Among percussions there are doira (daf), nagora and dovul. Some musical instruments in miniatures can be related to the type of tanbur’and. The most valuable property of miniatures is the opportunity they give us to imagine and reconstruct musical instruments which have been lost in a course of time. So, thanks to miniatures and medieval miniaturists we obtain a lucky chance to get known about ruhafzo, barbat, shammom, arganun and other musical instruments (about thirty) which names have been kept in written sources, treatises on music, verses, poems and historical works.

Examining miniatures, we can learn possible atmosphere of music playing and positions of musical instruments. For example, powerful sounding of karnai, nagora and dovul accompanied military campaigns, battles, festivities and hunting that our ancestors liked so much. Liquid tones of tanbur, rubab, gidjak, ud and chang-harp accompanied quiet dinners and friends’ parties as well as formal receptions – madjlis

Miniatures enrich and differentiate our knowledge on musical genres of that epoch. Now we can differ military music from hunting music, melodies of shepherd from wedding songs or Sufi chanting. Miniatures concretize our ideas on solo and ensemble performing arts. They inform on numerous variants of small ensembles consisted from ud, nai, chang-harp, gidjak and tanbur, which often accompanied performances of solo singer or poetess reading verses. While these ensembles were set in pavilions and palace halls, karnais and banging percussions sounded on open squares for public ceremonies and on fields of battles. All that proves that medieval artists were competent in knowledge of musical ensemble and its arrangement. The majority of ensembles playing indoor included doira that testifies to rhythmic basis of performed music – usul correspondent to professional music (makoms).

Chamber orchestras often had ud, which, however, always varied in sizes of resonator (kosakhona) – small, middle or big. Ancient manuscripts give many facts proving a high rank of ud in hierarchy of medieval musical instruments. It played also important role in music teaching as was widespread and illustrated the system of modes well. Famous Darvish Ali Changhi mentioned an epithet of ud he heard from his teachers-musicians – “sultan of musical instruments” having survived up to the 19th century. Later ud disused. Not long ago ud again revived and came back to musical life. Alas, another destiny awaited chang-harp. “Bride of musical instruments” (according to the same Darvish Ali Changhi) has not returned yet. It still awaits skilful hands of our masters. However, its pictures remain in miniatures.

Kamaliddin Bihzad and his influence on miniature painting of Herat, Bukhara, Samarkand, Baghdad, Shiraz and Tabriz and works of his following have ideological and spiritual value concerning study of musical instruments.

Feast at Sultan Hussain.
“Confusion of the righteous”. Herat. 1491-1492

We know that formation of Kamaliddina Bihzad’s individuality and his world vision was influenced by Alisher Navoi who was a poet and musician, careful teacher of young poets and musicians and a founder of creative atmosphere of that legendary epoch. Obvious is connection of pictures showing musicians and musical instruments and Sufi views of Bihzad and his school. In particular, some pictures show bands on waists of many musicians – belbag. Belbag was an obligatory attribute of costume belonging to a member of Sufi tariqah. Some musical instruments also were Sufi attributes. For example, nai was a symbol of purity, truth and honesty. Djalaliddin Rumi described it:

Listen, what nai is mourning for,
He is complaining about the bitterness
of parting.

Nai was also a symbol of heart suffering the bitterness of parting. The miniature of Bukhara school shows Medjnun playing near the tent of Leili (4, ill. 110). In the upper section there is a picture of shepherd playing nai. It could be interpreted as a composition needed some contrast character. Actually, Medjnun, distractedly in love, and empiric shepherd with nai are under the same sky and on the same land. At the same time, nai’as a symbol of broken heart calls to be empathic towards the poet parted from his lover. Hence, the picture of shepherd becomes deeply philosophic.

Tanbur which is also frequent in miniatures has its own secret (symbolics). Some musicologists of the past interpreted its meaning as “tearing at heart”. Babarahim Mashrab said: “Tanbur, informing on eternal mansion “.

Experts in music specified a mission of tanbur to be intermediate between the Almighty God and humans. Musical scenes often expose a moment when a wine cup is being given to padishah or sultan or when he is taking it. Musicians are present there. Philosophical meaning of these scenes is determined by the symbol.

The hidden sense is not so simple. The padishah takes the divine drink – wine of integration (may/vahdai) from hands of his teacher -peer, who has achieved perfection. Presence of music is symbolical – it could suggest the essence to spectators: love for Allah, enjoyment of approach to the God and delight of integration with Demiurge. Actually, music is able to bring soul to heavens and to bring a person into trance. This property of music is given by the God.

One of the miniatures shows Djalaleddin Rumi dancing dhikr among jewellers’ shops (4, ill. 92). The reason of his dance is in rhythmic sounds of jewellers’ hammers reminding words “Allah, Allah”.

Everything in miniatures is symbolical and essential. Even color of clothes on musicians and singer harmonize with color of clothes on the person taking or drinking wine. Colors played important role in the world of music.

Feast at Badi az-Zaman.
“Leili and Medjnun”. Shahruhiya. 1521 – 1522

For example, the pieces of Rost makom were performed by musicians in yellow clothes and on the yellow background. Buzruk had a red color. Music halls were decorated in seven colors. Taking into consideration all these canons concerning culture of performance and culture of listening, we, examining carefully colors in a miniature, could presume what kind of makom “is being performed” in the miniature. This problem needs more careful analysis and further studying.

In miniatures of Kamaliddin Bihzad and his school, each detail, each color, gesture and character has definite meaning and bears philosophical information on epoch, life and people.

Literature
1. Навоий асарларига ишланган расмлар. Альбомни тузувчилар ва Суз боши муаллифлари Хамид Сулаймон, Фозила Сулаймонова. Тошкент, 1982.
2. Пугаченкова Г., Галеркина 0. Миниатюры Средней Азии. М., 1979.
3. Шарк миниатюра мактаблари. Тузувчилар А. Мадраимов, Н. Норматов, Тошкент, 1989.
4. Полякова Е.А., Рахимова З.И. Миниатюра и литература Востока. Тошкент, 1987.
5. См.например: Чанги Дарвиш Али. Трактат о музыке /Пер.с перс.-тадж. Д. Рашидовой. Рукопись, биб-ка НИИ искусствознания.
6. Миниатюры к Бабурнаме/ Сост. альбома и автор предисловия Хамид Сулейман. Ташкент, 1970.
7. Художественно оформленные рукописи произведений Алишера Навои/ Автор- составитель Хамид Сулейман. Ташкент, 1981.

Okilkhan Ibnaghimov

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