Winter 1997 (5.4)
Legacy of Music
by Betty Blair
The Mozart Effect - that's what medical researchers are calling the profound impact that listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) has on human health. According to scientific experiments, Mozart's music calmed listeners, improved their spatial perception and allowed them to express themselves more clearly whether they lived in Tokyo, Cape Town or Amazonia. Students even ranked higher on IQ tests.
Scientists suggest that vibrating sounds create energy fields of resonance and movement in space which are absorbed into our cells, tissues and organs. These, in turn, affect our breathing, pulse, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin temperature and other internal rhythms.
Music - Exactly What the Doctor Ordered!
Obviously, Mozart doesn't have a monopoly on the world's therapeutic music, although in these studies he ranked higher than his counterparts Bach and Beethoven. Although we haven't carried out scientific studies in Azerbaijan, it seems obvious that music has had a profound effect on the health of the entire nation. We would suggest that music has enabled Azerbaijanis to bear the yoke of the 70 years of Soviet rule and that music has been the psychological shock absorber of the '90s, cushioning the population from incredible political upheavals starting with Black January and including the war with Armenians over Karabakh and the dilemma of a million refugees forced to flee their homes and communities.
Paolo Lembo, who served in Azerbaijan as the UN Representative (1993-1997), often marveled at the "soft and gentle-natured Azerbaijani people." Unlike other places he had worked, he found that Azerbaijanis do not carry destructive baggage from the past. "Very rarely," he observed, "do you hear anyone speaking aggressively against the Armenians with whom they've been in conflict since 1988. In some countries, you sense an immense hatred that has penetrated so deep into the psyche that it seems like an instinctual part of human nature. It's like their animosity has penetrated to the level of their genes and become an integral part of the mental behavior. But in Azerbaijan, you don't feel this. You sense only that people are astonished and deeply pained that this war could ever have happened and that so many have suffered from it. This war just doesn't make sense to them."
We would suggest that music - that marvelous vast ocean of improvisational sound which Azerbaijanis are so fond of listening to and performing - deserves a great deal of the credit. Traditional Azerbaijani music is based on a modal system of seven major mugams or interval patterns which, they say, have specific effects on listeners. For example, the mugam named "shur" is believed to suggest love. "Rast" is festive, and "chahargah" exudes heroism.
Music Honored in the Society
One would be hard pressed to find an Azerbaijani who didn't love music. To be considered well-educated, one must be able to perform music. In Baku alone, there are nearly 50 schools of music. Azerbaijanis brag that nearly 90 percent of their homes have pianos. They even celebrate national music day on September 18 - the birthday of Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948), founder of classical composed music. Until recently, a bride's dowry always included a piano. An amazing number of families can boast of two, three and four generations of professional musicians.
Major streets in Baku are named after musicians - Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Bul-bul, Rashid Bahbudov, Fikrat Amirov, Asaf Zeynalli and others. If you doubt that musicians are the real heroes of society, take a stroll through the cemetery, "Avenue of the Honored Ones" (Fakhri Khiyaban). You'll be amazed at how many beloved composers and performers are there. You'll see that musicians far outnumber the politicians.
A strange irony exists in regard to music of the Soviet period. On the one hand, music blossomed and flourished. It was entirely funded by a government which rewarded and compensated musicians more than most other professionals. The system also cultivated highly literate and appreciative audiences.
Nevertheless, despite how extraordinarily talented many Azerbaijani musicians became, few were allowed to travel abroad and perform or compete in the international arena. Russian musicians usually basked in the limelight.
Azerbaijani Music - Not Well Known Outside of Country
Consequently, few Azerbaijanis are known outside the former Soviet Union. For Azerbaijan, the Iron Curtain was like a music conservatory whose doors and windows were perfectly sealed, in an absolutely sound-proof, insulated chamber. For example, the eighth edition (1994) of the Concise Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, an authoritative guide which includes 1155 pages of summaries of works by more than 5,000 great musicians, only mentions three Azerbaijanis - Fikrat Amirov, Sultan Hajibeyov and Uzeyir Hajibeyov (spelled via Russian as Gadzhibekov). Conspicuously missing are giants such as Gara Garayev, Niyazi, Vagif Mustafazade and many others. Simply, even Western music scholars don't know about these extraordinary music makers.
Our spring 1995 issue was entitled, "Crisis in the Arts." Music was in trouble at that time. Nearly 80 to 90 of Azerbaijan's best musicians had already left the country. They had little choice if they wanted to continue in music. Many worried that the great tradition of music would disappear in Azerbaijan. These days, evidence would suggest that the tide is beginning to turn. Some musicians are even coming back home. Music is, once again, beginning to regain its vibrancy. The future looks hopeful.
As in the past, oil is beginning to play a significant role in perpetrating and shaping music. The great theaters in Baku were built by the oil barons at the turn of the last century. Even during the Soviet period, some of the world's greatest international performers were attracted to Baku because Azerbaijan paid in hard currency from oil revenues. International oil is once again starting to get involved with sponsorships of concerts, CD reproductions, equipment and opportunities for musicians to travel abroad.
Music is the Art of arts in Azerbaijan. One would have to compile an encyclopedia to cover the subject adequately. Obviously, a single magazine issue can barely scratch the surface. For example, we haven't written about folk music - including mugam and ashug. And we didn't have enough pages to even begin to cover the major composers and performers. We hope to do more in future issues.
This issue is primarily historical. It salutes the great men and women who have dedicated themselves tirelessly to create a legacy of life and health - both physical and mental. Azerbaijan's music is a vast world yet to be discovered in the West. It's a world of passion! A world that embraces life! A world of happy, healthful listening!
Many people deserve credit for helping us with this issuenot just the authors named in the articles. They include the Minister of Culture Polad Bulbuloghlu, Rector of the Music Academy Farhad Badalbeyli and Vice Rector Elhan Babayev, Professor and former Rector of the Music Academy Elmira Abbasova, Professor at the Asaf Zeynalli School of Music Farman Azimov, Scientific Director of the Center for Advanced Technology in Oil and Gas and great music lover Azad Mirzajanzade, Director of the Ensemble of Ancient Traditional Musical Instruments Majnun Karimov, Director of the State Museum of Music Culture Alla Bayramova, world-class tar performer Ramiz Guliyev and National Photo and Film Archivist Nina Fischeva.
From Azerbaijan International (5.4) Winter 1997
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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