Amine Beyhom

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Directeur du CERMAA (Centre de Recherche sur les Musiques Arabes et Apparentées), Rédacteur en Chef de NEMO-Online

Thèmes de recherche

Théories de l'échelle et pratiques mélodiques, acoustique et organologie


Moyen-Orient – Bretagne






Published book / Livres publiés :

  1. Théories de l’échelle et pratiques mélodiques chez les Arabes – Volume 1, L’échelle générale et les genres – Tome 1, Théories gréco-arabes de Kindi (IXe siècle) à Tusi (XIIIe siècle), Paul Geuthner (Paris), 2010 (cover).
  2. Théories byzantines de l’échelle et pratique du chant byzantin arabe Une approche comparative et analytique proposant une solution inédite pour le système théorique de Chrysanthos le Madyte (2015 – ISBN: 978-9953-0-3048-7).

Manuel / Praat / Manual :

Manuel Praat Pour débutants – Avec Jeanne Miramon-Bonhoure”.


Published / articles / publiés :

[Originally entitled  “A New Hypothesis for the Elaboration of Heptatonic Scales and their Origins” and published (2010) in the proceedings of ICONEA 2008, this paper has been emendated, updated and enriched, and is reissued for NEMO-Online Vol. 4 No. 6. New research since its first publication presented complementary and sometimes clarifying facts which, with the evolution of terminology (see Beyhom’s “Lexicon” in NEMO-Online Vol. 2 No. 2 – in French, with Appendix L – entitled “Core Glossary” – in this article complementing it), makes it indispensable to publish this new edition. Most of the tables and figures have been reintegrated in the body text, and a dedicated appendix (Appendix G) has been added concerning Octavial scales with limited transposition]

[Le titre original de cet article, publié en 2010 après le colloque ICONEA 2008, était “A New Hypothesis for the Elaboration of Heptatonic Scales and their Origins”. Cette version publiée par NEMO-Online porte le titre, plus concis, “A Hypothesis for the Elaboration of Heptatonic Scales”, l’hypothèse présentée n’étant pas nouvelle (établie en 2003) et toujours non remise en cause dans la littérature musicologique. L’article est corrigé, mis à jour pour la terminologie (voir le “Lexique” de l’auteur dans NEMO-Online Vol. 2 No. 2, avec l’Appendice L – le “Core Glossary” – dans cet article comme complément), et augmenté.  La plupart des tables et figures a été réintégrée dans le texte principal, et l’Appendice G (concernant les échelles à transposition limitée) ajouté, avec son complément Power Point]

[Excerpt from the Editorial: “Toward the end of the 1970s, Orientalism by Edward Said shook-up the Academic Establishment as it reconsidered the narrative conducted by scholars studying the “Orient”. Orientalists, according to him, have created a phantasmagorical Orient, almost illusory and able to answer ostracic needs of colonializing states towards colonized or dominated populations. Tumult and polemic raised by Said’s book have not settled and are still going today to the extent that Post-Colonial researches flourished, mainly in the United States, during the last decades of the twentieth century, with a constant anti-, counter- and para- and re-Orientalism as a contradictory analytical standard of Occidental-Oriental relations.Strangely enough, and while almost all human sciences have been influenced or contested because of the bouncing-back of Said’s turmoil, the musicological science continued, unaffected, on its course until today as if the particular, and very volatile, even arbitrary status of the art studied by this field was shielded from any questioning of its seminality. One must not forget that the very essence of Orientalism taken as complex relationships of power and counter-powers in constant mutation allows it to self-perpetuate almost indefinitely, in a close circuit; the sometimes impalpable nature of music has strongly contributed to support this closed circuit, thus reconducting such well-anchored aberrations in the field that they are no longer identifiable by most of its own actors, and thus become easier to dissimulate for those aware of it. The advantage of Beyhom’s approach is that it is both inside and outside the field and allows him to identify what he calls errors in the very musicological axioms and consequently describe them with minutia. The author is probably the first to bridge Orientalist musicology with arbitrarily reduced Ancient Greek inheritance by Occidental theoreticians, since at least the 18th century, to its ditonic substrate”]

[Extrait de l’éditorial: “À la fin des années 1970, un livre d’Edward Said avait secoué l’establishment académique, remettant en cause le discours orientaliste véhiculé par les chercheurs occidentaux qui, selon lui, ont créé un Orient fantasmatique et quasi-imaginaire, à même de répondre aux besoins d’ostracisation par les nations colonisatrices du xixe et xxe siècles des populations colonisées ou dominées. Les remous et polémiques causés par le livre de Said, loin de s’être calmés, sont toujours d’actualité de nos jours, au point que des recherches « postcoloniales » ont pris leur essor – notamment aux États-Unis – dans les deux dernières décennies du xxe siècle, dans un processus constant d’anti-orientalisme/contre-orientalisme/para-orientalisme/ré-orientalisme devenu une norme de l’analyse contradictoire, de nos jours, des relations Occident-Orient. Très étrangement, et alors que toutes les disciplines des sciences humaines (ou presque) ont été affectées ou remises en cause par les retombées du séisme saidien, la « science » musicologique a continué, imperturbable, sur sa lancée jusqu’à nos jours, comme si le statut particulier, et particulièrement volatile – ou même arbitraire – de l’art étudié par cette discipline la mettait à l’abri de tout questionnement, de toute remise en cause de ses fondements. S’il ne faut pas oublier que la nature même de l’Orientalisme en tant que relations complexes de pouvoirs et de contre-pouvoirs en constante mutation permet à celui-ci de se perpétuer quasiment indéfiniment, en cercle fermé, et que l’essence parfois insaisissable de la musique a fortement contribué à maintenir ce cercle clos pour l’orientalisme musicologique, reconduisant par là des aberrations tellement ancrées dans la discipline qu’elles ne sont plus identifiées par les acteurs mêmes du domaine – et deviennent ainsi d’autant plus faciles à dissimuler pour ceux qui en sont pleinement conscients. L’avantage de l’approche de Beyhom est qu’elle se situe à la fois à l’intérieur et à l’extérieur de la discipline, lui permettant d’identifier ce qu’il appelle des « erreurs » dans les axiomes même de la musicologie et d’essayer de les décrire minutieusement. L’auteur est d’ailleurs probablement, et également, le premier à faire la jonction de l’orientalisme musicologique avec l’héritage de la Grèce antique arbitrairement réduit, par les théoriciens occidentaux et depuis au moins le xviiie siècle, à son substrat ditonique”]

[European 19th-century influence on the notation and praxis of chromatism in Arabian and other maqām musics: This is a voluminous dossier about the influence of 19th century Europeanized theories of notation on praxis of Arabian musical modes, especially with the semi-tonal blunder of the ḥijāz, in all Arabian music institutions. The paper concludes with a comprehensive revision of scales and modes as devised by Kāmil al-Khulaʿī, in the early twentieth century. It also includes various theoretical and pitch analyses. 2) Most information presented in this dossier is unique and original, while expounding theoretical issues between Turkish and Arabian (and partly Byzantine) theories of the scale, in a historical perspective. It is the first known study on such subject based on praxis and (Field) recordings as well as on written material, and the widest concerning music in the maqām realm. 3) The article complements studies such as in Feldman’s Music of the Ottoman Court, and Olley’s article “Modal diversity in early Ottoman music : the case of makâm Sabâ”, Near Eastern Musicology Online 1 1 |2012-11| [url:] p. 39–54. There is no such study, to my knowledge, for Arabian maqām music except for the PhD thesis of Zouari, Mohamed Zied : Évolution du langage musical de l’istikhbâr en Tunisie au XXe siècle : une approche analytique musico-empirique, Sorbonne – Paris 4 |Paris, 2014| [url:], which examines such transformations in the music of Tunisia].

[A Lexicon for modality :1) What is a mode? The concept of mode (and modality) in itself is in need of a wider introspection, while essential definitions of music and of its theoretical components need reassessment. In this article, the author addresses the terminological ambiguity with his “Modality Lexicon” while adding to the definition of a rough scale build, to the mode itself, while redefining the interval (qualitative or quantitative, structural, measurement, containing, elementary, etc.), and segregating polychords from geni, and scales from modes. In his conclusion, the author proposes an incremental definition of the mode based on a distinction between the characteristics of the latter’s intervals and of its melodic characteristics, both series intertwining and complementing the description. 2) Most of the concepts expounded in the article represent significant advances for understanding the structure and imbrication of intervals and understandings of “mode” and “modality”. The differentiation between qualitative or quantitative, structural, measurement, containing, elementary intervals sets the stage for a comprehensive approach of mode and modality, while the radical differentiation between polychords and geni, scales and modes give a supplementary tool for modal analysis. The need for a common language for such analysis and description is dire and, while the author does not pretend that his definitions are the only ones applying to modality, he proposes at least an unambiguous terminology to describe it. 3) This article complements the description of Modal Systematics undertaken in the English article “A Hypothesis for the Elaboration of Heptatonic Scales,” Near Eastern Musicology Online 4 6 |2017-05| p. 5–90 (see above)].

  • Kashf al-Asrār ʿan Karakarat al-Aḥbār fī Taʾwīl al-Adwār كشف الأسرار عن كركرةِ الأحبار في تأويل الأدوار“, NEMO-Online 1 1, 2012, p. 67-88 [in English – Unveiling two riddles of Eastern musicology: Shihāb-a-d-Dīn’s scale in 28 “quarters” and the 22-śruti scale of Bharata-muni].
  • Two persistent misapprehensions about the ʿūd, edited by Richard Dumbrill and Irving Finkel, Proceedings of the International Conference of Near Easten Archaeomusicology ICONEA 2011 Held at the British Museum December 1-3, 2011, p. 151-209.
  • Table ronde n°3 : Instruments et Tempéraments – Fretté ou ‘fretless’ – Les critères du choix”,“Round Table No.3 : Instruments and Temperaments – Fretted or fretless – Criteria for a Choice”, La modalité : un pont entre Orient et Occident : 17-18 novembre 2011 – Le Quartz – Scène Nationale de Brest |Brest (France) – Le Quartz, 2011b-11-18| p. 83-84, 133-134.

  • [In English and French. Excerpt: “Amine Beyhom asserts that focusing too much on temperaments leads to a corruption of modality. He goes on to quote Ananda Coomaraswamy (1917), an aesthete and specialist on Indian music: ‘the theory of scale comes from a generalization resulting from the act of singing. The scale of European music has been reduced by blending the notes and the intervals, and it has also been tempered in order to ease the modulation and the change of pitch […]. A priori, the piano sounds out of tune‘ “]
    [Extrait: “Amine Beyhom affirme que trop rentrer dans les tempéraments entraîne un détournement de la modalité. Il cite ensuite Ananda Coomaraswamy (1917), un esthète et spécialiste de la musique indienne : ‘la théorie de l’échelle est partie d’une généralisation issue de l’acte de chanter. L’échelle de la musique européenne a été réduite en confondant des notes, puis des intervalles, et tempérées aussi pour faciliter la modulation et le changement de clé. […] Le piano sonne faux par hypothèse‘ “]

  • Explorer la notion de mode/Exploring the concept of mode”, “Exploring the Concept of Mode“, La modalité : un pont entre Orient et Occident : 17-18 novembre 2011 – Le Quartz – Scène Nationale de Brest |Brest (France) – Le Quartz, 2011-11-17| p. 49-51, 101-103.

[In English and French. Excerpt: “Amine Beyhom reminds us that the concept of mode essentially comes from the West, and is full of preconceptions that need to be rectified by asking questions. He first suggests that we should focus on some historical definitions: to begin with, a Western and implicit definition of the mode, quite restrictive and already considered inadequate by Jacques Chailley in 1960. This implicit definition is composed of the following concepts: (1) choice of a standard octave as a fundamental unit, (2) a tonic that would be the first sound of the standard octave, (3) a categorisation of other degrees on the harmonic level, (4) identity of all the sounds that reproduce one of the sounds of the standard octave in any register (the sounds of the octaves above and below have the same functions), (5) indifference to absolute pitch, ambitus, and to the octave and melodic form being used. Amine Beyhom questions each of these points “]

[Extrait: “Amine Beyhom rappelle que le concept de mode est avant tout éminemment occidental, accablé d’idées reçues qu’il convient de rectifier à l’aide de questions. Il propose d’abord de revenir sur quelques définitions historiques, en commençant par une définition occidentale implicite du mode, assez restrictive et déjà considérée comme inadéquate par Jacques Chailley en 1960.  Cette définition implicite comporte les notions suivantes : (1) le choix d’une octave type qui serait une unité fondamentale, (2) une tonique qui serait le premier son de l’octave type, (3) une hiérarchisation des autres degrés sur le plan harmonique, (4) l’identité de tous les sons reproduisant à une octave quelconque un des sons de l’octave type (les sons de l’octave supérieure ou inférieure ont la même fonction), (5) une indifférence à la hauteur absolue, à l’ambitus, à l’octave employée et aux tournures mélodiques utilisées. Amine Beyhom remet en cause chacun des points énumérés …”]

[The dilemma of composers today can be summarized through the variety of the widespread offer in Ethnic music and, paradoxically, through a general phenomenon of structurally poor compositions due, mainly, to the use of “clichés” which considerably reduce the effective integration of ethnic music in the creative process ; this applies equally to the attempts to introduce tonal music schemes in non Occidental Art music. The question remains : can musical “authenticity” be defined, especially for intermixed music, or even World music? The author tries to answer this question on the basis of his own experience as a producer and musician, as well as on results from research on “harmony” techniques in Arabian music – pdf format, 0.6 MB]

[Un appel à une musicologie généralisée intégrant musicologies historique et analytique ainsi que les différentes approches des musicologies (et ethnomusicologies) contemporaines]

[A historical review of the relations between Occidental musicology and music of the Orient, stressing on the recent developments in diachronical systematics and their repercussions on research in the domain of maqām music – pdf format, 0.4 MB]

[une revue des différentes méthodes de transcription de hauteurs utilisées actuellement, avec développement d’une méthodologie destinée à minimiser les erreurs dans les mesures d’intervalles avec des logiciels dédiés (sur l’exemple du logiciel Praat), sur des exemples et des analyses diverses]

[Interval measuring: Methodology and practice: 1) This article is a synthesis of the author’s research on pitch and interval measuring methods, in particular concerning maqām and European traditional music, meant to minimize measurement errors in the process of the musicological analysis. It describes various methods, using the program Praat for pitch analysis. It proposes a frame for detailed, non-statistical study of melodic lines in non-tempered music. It may be complemented with the “Manuel Praat Pour débutants” (see above) – a manual for scale analysis published in 2010. (2&3) While pitch analysis is becoming more and more indispensable for World music analysis today, most approaches rely on statistical treatments of data. Whenever the latter approaches could help determine common traits in a particular repertoire, they generally do not give clues about each performer’s “style” and peculiarities in performance. At the same time, the original sources (the analyzed music) are practically never accessible to the reader, who can not, in such case, verify the presented methodology. The methodology proposed in this article imposes providing the reader (and listener) with the complete set of data, which makes the analysis much more reliable. It sets a general frame for interval measuring which can be used for various repertoires – pdf, 2.5MB]


[“A systematic approach to Arabian music : System genera and scale” : 1) This is an extensive article expanding the study on the Contemporary use of geni in modern Arabic music theories to the research of the General scale of Arabian music. The base idea is the fact that the ʿūd is generally and historically tuned in fourths, while being the Master instrument for maqām music theories, and (traditional) music practice in the Arabian countries. The aim is to find the relation between theory and practice of this music through the analysis of the geni descriptions and their relation with the instrument, or how practice on the instrument may have influenced theory towards the very peculiar system observed today. Consequences of this close relation are also the omnipresence of open-tuning “rest notes” for the description of geni, with even the trichordal or intermingled geni reinstated in a system of generic geni based on this tuning. Another consequence is the imposition of a symmetry of the resulting, particularly adapted to this music, General scale which allows formulating the hypothesis of a systematic prioritization of the notes and intervals within this particular modal musical expression. 2) The study allows understanding how one instrument helped shaping a music which became the lingua franca of a vast part of the world, and gives a general frame which would allow for a better analysis and comparisons of regional differences. 3) The trend today is to differentiate regional musics of the maqām realm, notably between Iranian, Turkic and Arabian practices. While these differences arose with the rising nationalism in the 19th century, analyzing the music (trying to describe it) is still based, in those three cultures which once shared the maqām lingua franca, on the segmentation in geni which remains common. The study furthers this relation by explaining where the basis of the system came from, and establishing a theoretical frame which allows for further comparisons, and a better understanding of today’s differences mainly based on the use of different major instruments in practice – the ṭunbūr for Turkic music and the setār for Iranian music (50 pages,pdf format, 50 pages, 4.3 MB)].

Ph.D Thesis in French language – Modal Systematics / Thèse – Systématique modale 2003 V. 2.1 (1.4)

Société française d'ethnomusicologie