HAFT ḴOSRAVĀNI, the seven musical systems or modes attributed by Abu Manṣur Ṯaʿālebī (Ḡorar, p. 698) to Bārbad (q.v.), the famous court musician of the Sasanian king Ḵosrow II Parvēz (r. 590-628). They were sung in royal banquets during the lifetime of Ṯaʿālebi. Haft Ḵosravāni seems to be what Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAli Masʿūdī called the royal modes (al-ṭoruq al-molukiya) created by Persians. Masʿudi, writing on the authority of Ebn Ḵordādbeh, described seven of them, although he gave only the name of six (Moruj, ed. Pellat, secs. 3213-14). Ebn Ḵordādbeh (pp. 16-17), who mentioned the melodies and tunes created by Persians, numbered them as eight.
According to Masʿūdī (Moruj, tr. Pellat, sec. 3214), the first mode was sekāf (apparently related to sokāfa “plectrum”; see Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿin, p. 1150); the second mode, whose name is omitted, was distinguished by the elegance of its divisions; the third one, amrsah (most likely the same as abrina, mentioned by Ebn Ḵordādbeh, see below), encompassed the beauties of all the melodies and with its ascending and descending movements could do more than all the others. Then was mādārvāsnān (cf. māḏrovāsbān, in Ebn Ḵordādbeh, connected to Mādro-vāspān, a town near Ḥolwān on the Khorasan road in Persia; see Schartz, Iran, p. 693; Tafażżoli, p. 2230), the most low-pitched, slowest and most liable to proceed from one modulation to another. Next comes sāykāt, the one the heart cherishes. The term sāykāt seems to be a corrupt form of šāyagān, itself derived from šāhīgān (palace, in Pahlavi). The sixth is sisam (apparently šešom, the sixth), a mode whose effects are striking and serious. The seventh is jubaʿrān (or ḥurān), whichgraduates on a single modulation.
Ebn Ḵordādbeh (pp. 16-17) gives these modes the following names: first, bandestān; the second bahār, which is the most pleasant of all; the third abrin (in some sources āfarin, see Tafażżoli, p. 2230), usually played on a high string; the fourth abrina, encompassing the beauties of all melodies and surpassing all others in its ascending and descending movements, which can change from one mode to another. Next is māḏrovāsbān, which has a greater capacity for moving out of one melody into another and then returning to it; the sixth šesom (šešom), played with strong fingers (i.e., strokes); the seventh al-qobba (arabicized form of the Pers. gonbad), which has a scale depending on the tune harmonized with it.
Sadid-al-Din Moḥammad Awfi, Ja-wāmeʿ-al-ḥekāyāt wa lawāmeʿ al-rewāyat, ed. M. Ramazāni, Tehran, 1956, pp. 58-59.
Christensen, Iran sous les Sassanides, pp. 184-85.
Ebn Ḵordādbeh, Ketāb al-lahw wal-malāhi, ed. I. A. Ḵalifa, Beirut, 1964.
Dāryuš Ṣafwat, Ostādān-e mūsīqī-e Irān, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971.
Aḥmad Tafażżoli, “Bārbad yā Pahlbad,” in Nāmvāra-ye Doktor Maḥmūd Afšār IV, Tehran, 1988, pp. 2222-35.
Originally Published: December 15, 2002
Last Updated: March 1, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 5, p. 522