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Kanun (Instrument)

Kanun (Instrument)

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The Qanun is a string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

 found in the 10th century in Farab
Farab, Ardabil
-References:*...

 in Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

. The name derives from the Arabic word "kanun," which means rule, principle, and also "mode." Its traditional music is based on Maqamat. It is essentially a zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

 with a narrow trapezoidal soundboard. Nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

 or PVC
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

 strings are stretched over a single bridge poised on fish-skins on one end, attached to tuning pegs at the other end.
The kanun, especially in ancient Greek times
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 was known as the psaltery
Psaltery
A psaltery is a stringed musical instrument of the harp or the zither family. The psaltery of Ancient Greece dates from at least 2800 BC, when it was a harp-like instrument...

.
Kanuns used in Turkey have 26 courses
Course (music)
A course is a pair or more of adjacent strings tuned to unison or an octave and usually played together as if a single string. It may also refer to a single string normally played on its own on an instrument with other multi-string courses, for example the bass string on a nine string baroque...

 of strings, with three strings per course. It is played on the lap by plucking the strings with two tortoise
Tortoise
Tortoises are a family of land-dwelling reptiles of the order of turtles . Like their marine cousins, the sea turtles, tortoises are shielded from predators by a shell. The top part of the shell is the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The tortoise...

-shell picks, one in each hand, or by the fingernails, and has a range of three and a half octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s, from A2 to E6. The dimensions of Turkish kanuns are typically 95 to 100 cm (37-39") long, 38 to 40 cm (15-16") wide and 4 to 6 cm (1.5-2.3") high.
The instrument also has special latches for each course, called mandals. These small levers, which can be raised or lowered quickly by the performer while the instrument is being played, serve to change the pitch of a particular course slightly by altering the string lengths.

While Armenian kanuns employ half-tones
Semitone
A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically....

 and Arabic kanuns quarter-tones, typical Turkish kanuns divide the equal-tempered semitone of 100 cents into 6 equal parts, yielding 72 equal divisions (or commas
Comma (music)
In music theory, a comma is a minute interval, the difference resulting from tuning one note two different ways. The word "comma" used without qualification refers to the syntonic comma, which can be defined, for instance, as the difference between an F tuned using the D-based Pythagorean tuning...

) of the octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

. Not all pitches of 72-tone equal temperament
72 equal temperament
In music, 72 equal temperament, called twelfth-tone, 72-tet, 72-edo, or 72-et, is the tempered scale derived by dividing the octave into twelfth-tones, or in other words 72 equal steps...

 are available on the Turkish kanun, however, since kanun makers only affix mandals for intervals that are demanded by performers. Some kanun makers choose to divide the semitone of the lower registers into 7 parts instead for microtonal subtlety at the expense of octave equivalences. Hundreds of mandal configurations are at the player's disposal when performing on an ordinary Turkish kanun.

The kanun is a descendant of the old Egyptian harp, and is related to the ancient Greek psaltery
Psaltery
A psaltery is a stringed musical instrument of the harp or the zither family. The psaltery of Ancient Greece dates from at least 2800 BC, when it was a harp-like instrument...

, dulcimer
Hammered dulcimer
The hammered dulcimer is a stringed musical instrument with the strings stretched over a trapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand, at an angle, before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings...

 and zither
Zither
The zither is a musical string instrument, most commonly found in Slovenia, Austria, Hungary citera, northwestern Croatia, the southern regions of Germany, alpine Europe and East Asian cultures, including China...

. Among others, Ruhi Ayangil (*1953), Erol Deran (*1937), Halil Karaduman (*1959), Göksel Baktagir (*1966), Tahir Aydoğdu (*1959), Julien Jalâl Ed-Dine Weiss (*1953), and Begoña Olavide are present-day exponents of this instrument.

A 79-tone tuning
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

 for the kanun was recently proposed and applied to a Turkish kanun by Ozan Yarman and has been acclaimed by Turkish masters of the instrument.

Mandals were invented during the first half of the 20th century. The kanun, prior to that time, remained rather inflexible in the case of modulations. However, the 24- or 72-note tuning
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

 of common Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 and Turkish
Music of Turkey
The music of Turkey includes diverse elements ranging from Central Asian folk music and has many copies and references of Byzantine music, Greek music, Ottoman music, Persian music, Balkan music, as well as more modern European and American popular music influences...

 models does not exactly reproduce the traditional interval ratios of maqam
Arabic maqam
Arabic maqām is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is mainly melodic. The word maqam in Arabic means place, location or rank. The Arabic maqam is a melody type...

 scales. Common kanun models may differ to an audible extent from a justly tuned tanbur
Tanbur
The term tanbūr can refer to various long-necked, fretted lutes originating in the Middle East or Central Asia. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "terminology presents a complicated situation. Nowadays the term tanbur is applied to a variety of distinct and related...

 or an exactly intonating oud
Oud
The oud is a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern music. The modern oud and the European lute both descend from a common ancestor via diverging paths...

, ney
Ney
The ney is an end-blown flute that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. It is a very ancient instrument, with depictions of ney players appearing in wall paintings in the Egyptian pyramids and actual neys being found...

, or kemenche. Temperament
Temperament
In psychology, temperament refers to those aspects of an individual's personality, such as introversion or extroversion, that are often regarded as innate rather than learned...

 has little in common with the theoretical tradition of the Middle East for which it can only offer approximated intervals. In Turkey and the Arab world it most probably originates in westernizing tendencies. The French qānūn virtuoso Julien Jalâl Ed-Dine Weiss (* 1953), critical of this deficiency, conceived a number of prototypes that, for the first time, are entirely based on pure Pythagorean
Pythagorean tuning
Pythagorean tuning is a system of musical tuning in which the frequency relationships of all intervals are based on the ratio 3:2. This interval is chosen because it is one of the most consonant...

 and harmonic intervals. Since 1990, nine of such instruments have been built. Their string courses are tuned upon a strict Pythagorean heptatonic scale
Heptatonic scale
A heptatonic scale is a musical scale with seven pitches per octave. Among the most famous of these are the major scale, C D E F G A B C; the melodic minor scale, C D E F G A B C ascending, C B A G F E D C descending; the harmonic minor scale, C D E F G A B C; and a scale variously known as the...

, whose steps are composed exclusively of justly tuned limmas 256/243 and major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 whole-tones 9/8. Fifteen different mandal positions (0-14) are contained in twice the Pythagorean apotome 2187/2048 (113.69 cents) on every course. The strictly ordered complexity of this rational tuning system also forms the basis for the intonation practice of Weiss
Weiss
Weiss may refer to:* Weiss , including Weiß* Mount Weiss, a mountain located in the Sunwapta River valley of Jasper National Park* USS Weiss , a cancelled John C...

’ Al-Kindi Ensemble. The two most recent instruments contain an additional octave in the bass register, extending their range to 33 string courses or four octaves and a fifth. In combining theoretical and acoustical motivations with his practical experience, Weiss was, thus, enabled to perform together with musicians in many different local contexts throughout the Middle-East.

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