The following selection introduces some of the most representative instruments in a Near East music
ensemble; cellos and double basses are also often used. Included are short taqâsîm
(improvisations). During a taqsîm (singular of taqâsîm), the instrumentalist
improvises according to a complex set of preestablished rules and conventions. Individual
taqâsîm commonly last from three to five minutes but their length may vary depending on
the amount of time alotted to the performer, as well as on the performer's mood.
A taqsîm is multi-sectional, with phrases separated by moments
of silence. The entire taqsîm is a gradual unfolding of the unique characteristics of a
specific mode. Generally, such unfolding follows an ascending progression, with the
musician often beginning at the bottom of a modal scale and slowly working up to the
higher notes. Modulating to other maqâmât (modes) in a single taqsîm is very common as
is the eventual and obligatory return to the maqâm with which the taqsîm began.
The various sections of a taqsîm generally end with stylized
cadential phrases called qaflât, a source of particular enjoyment for the audience. The
taqâsîm genre gives instrumentalists the opportunity to show their abilities and
sensitivities both as performers and composers. Listeners appreciate and judge the overall
structure of a taqsîm, the performers' ability to bring the improvisations to effective
resolutions, their use of silence and modulation, their knowledge of the various
maqâmât, and their technical mastery of their instrument. Inspired performances may
evoke a profound feeling of ecstasy within the listeners.
(The term taqâsîm is not used to describe improvised rhythmic variations performed
on percussion instruments)