DASTĀN, a term used in two different contexts in Persian music.

Melody. Bārbad, the minstrel of the Sasanian king Ḵosrow II Parvēz (591-628), was said to have composed 360 dastāns in order to be able to play a new melody each day of the year (Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 485). In contrast to the thirty laḥns (pieces) also composed by Bārbad, the names of these dastāns have not been preserved, but among the approximately 170 names of pre-Islamic melodies that have been gathered from various sources (Ṣafwat, pp. 116-18) there are probably several names of dastāns. A note by Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Ḵᵛārazmī (p. 238) suggests that the dastāns of Bārbad were still fashionable in the 10th century, and some modern scholars believe that they were the sources of the dastgāhs that constitute the present modal system (e.g., Joneydī, p. 137). Although there is no doubt some relationship between dastāns and dastgāhs, the two terms do not share the same meaning: dastān came to mean a fingering and, by extension, a scale (see below), whereas dastgāh refers to a collection of pieces grouped in relation to a dominant mode. Furthermore, considering their number, it is probable that Bārbad’s dastāns corresponded to melodies (gūšas), rather than to specific modes. Āvāz-e dastān-e ʿArab is a gūša by which the āvāz (song) of Abū ʿAṭā used to be known.

Fingering system. In early Arabic and Persian musical theory dastān designated either the fingering of the lute or the ligatures and thus also the modal scale corresponding to the positions of the fingers on the frets (see DASĀTĪN).



J. Baily, Music of Afghanistan. Professional Musicians in the City of Herat, Cambridge, 1988.

F. Joneydī, Zamīna-ye šenāḵt-e mūsīqī-e īrānī, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982.

Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Ḵᵛārazmī, Mafātīḥ al-ʿolūm, ed., G. van Vloten, Leiden, 1895.

M. Maʿrūfī, Radīf-e haft dastgāh-e mūsīqī-e īrānī/Les systèmes de la musique traditionnelle de l’Iran (radif), Tehran, 1352 Š./1973.

Y. Öztuna, Türk musikisi ansiklopedisi, Istanbul, 1969.

D. Safwat, Ostādān-e mūsīqī-e Īrān wa alḥān-e mūsīqī-e īrānī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971.



Archived version from the EIr. printed edition



(Jean During)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: January 6, 2016

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 1, p. 102

Cite this entry:

Jean During, “Dastān,” Encyclopædia Iranica VII/1, p. 102; available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/dastan-1.