ABSTRACT

The voice of the soloist dives into low-pitched soft speech, a love whisper. Gradually his voice rises to a dramatic recitation followed by a melodic arabesque, in which every tone becomes a center of syllabic melisma. A breathtaking ascent is interrupted when the soloist strikes the tambourinelike gaval (daf), signaling the beginning of a fiery dance-like interlude. (Sound track three: Alim Gasimov's trio)

This trio is performing mugham. To unaccustomed ears it may sound like Persian, Arabic, or Turkish music. But one who knows it unmistakably recognizes the classical music of Azerbaijan, music that brings to listeners the sweet and dense aroma of early spring in the Azerbaijanian capital Baku, the rolling undertones of the Caspian Sea, the whistle of a salty wind and the image of the Caucasus mountains covered with fiery poppies.