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MA in Cultural Anthropology, Associate Researcher, Department of Anthropology, European University at St. Petersburg
The tar is a long-necked, stringed, plucked musical instrument that plays an essential role in both the traditional and classical music of Azerbaijan. In accordance with official cultural policy, the instrument is at the center of discussions about the nature of national music. This article describes the historical and political circumstances of the invention and popularization of the tar in the Caucasus, as well as the instrument’s main performance styles. The reconstruction of the instrument and the introduction of new techniques for playing it in the 19th
century by the musician Sadigjan contributed to the popularization of the tar in Azerbaijan. During this process, in the first decades of the 20th century the tar became the basis of the national school of music, and other folk instruments included in professional musical groups were tuned to its sound. However, the adaptation of the Azerbaijani modal musical system to the European 12-tone scale required a further reconstruction of the tar, which, in turn, limited the creation of micro-tonal sounds on the instrument. Today there are three main schools of performance on the tar, which depend upon the degree that traditional performance techniques are preserved. These techniques are enriched by new projects for reconstructing the instrument that are aimed at popularizing the pre-Soviet method of playing.
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