DASĀTĪN (Ar. pl. of Pers. dastān), the term for modes in early musical theory, translated into Arabic as aṣābeʿ (fingers) and sometimes also as mawājeb “obligations, laws.” It originally referred to the eight fundamental octave scales attributed to the Sasanian musician Bārbad; as each note is played on a specific lute string by a specific finger, the notes are thus designated, for example, “the free string in the range of the middle finger,” “the touch of the index finger on the annular,” and so on (Marāḡī, 1356 Š./1977, p. 96-99; cf. d’Erlanger, p. 598). These modes are mentioned in general terms in the Ketāb al-aḡānī (10th century) of Abu’l-Faraj Eṣfahānī, but there is not enough precision to permit individual identification. According to Ṣafī-al-Dīn Ormavī, they consisted of the six maqāms (ʿOššāq, Navā, Rāst, Būsalīk, ʿErāq, Nowrūz, and Eṣfahān; d’Erlanger, pp. 466-68). The term dasātīn was supplanted by terms like bardawāt (Ar. plural of Pers. parda “fret”), maqām, šodūd, āvāz, and adwār and continued to occur in the scholastic treatises only as a memory of the system of the ancients. In Marāḡī’s writing dasātīn meant only a note, implicitly a note on the “neck” (dasta) of an instrument, that is, the fret (1366 Š./1987, pp. 29-30). The image of fingering is also preserved in the use of the term bardawāt to refer to the mode or maqām.



R. d’Erlanger, La musique arabe II, Paris, 1935.

ʿAbd-al-Qader b. Ḡaybī Ḥāfeẓ Marāḡī, Maqāṣed al-alḥān, ed. T. Bīneš, Tehran, 1356 Š./1977.

Idem, Jāmeʿ al-alḥān, ed. T. Bīneš, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.

M.-T. Masʿūdīya, Mūsīqī-e Torbat-e Jām, Tehran, 1359 Š./1980.

ʿAbd-al-Moʾmen Ṣafī-al-Dīn Ormavī, Resāla al-šarafīya fi’l-nesab al-taʾlīfīya, tr. R. d’Erlanger as La musique arabe III, Paris, 1938.



(Jean During)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 1, pp. 84-85