School of Music


Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology (MA)


Jeffrey Meyer


melodic modes, ma'lūf, ṭab', maqam systems, Andalusian music, Tunisia




While the eastern Arab modal system of maqāmāt has been amply explored by a variety of scholars and practitioners, the systems of melodic modes which underlie North African- Andalusian music traditions colloquially called the ṭubū‘ (s. ṭab‘) are relatively unknown outside their native regions (even within the Arabic-speaking world), and their features have not yet been explored in Western ethnomusicological literature. This thesis attempts to represent the modal theory of the ṭubū‘ found in one style of North African-Andalusian music, Tunisian ma’lūf. It offers a summary of pedagogical approaches used for teaching the ṭubū‘ in a typical conservatory and describes the melodic features associated with each of the modes that comprise a standard conservatory curriculum. It will be shown that the Tunisian ṭubū‘, which are categorized melodically, are conceptually distinct from the eastern Arab maqāmāt, which are categorized tonally. Approximately half of the ṭubū‘ covered in this study have tonics and scales which are shared with at least one other ṭab‘. The melodic signatures of a given mode are therefore as theoretically essential to its nature and classification as is its set of pitches. This study shows how these melodic signatures or properties (khāṣiyāt) are theorized, how they are demonstrated pedagogically through a mode’s masār laḥnī (melodic path), how they are used in the context of melodies in songs from the ma’lūf repertoire, and how they are used to differentiate one ṭab‘ from another when two or more ṭubū‘ share the same scale. Finally, this thesis offers different models that can be used for ṭab‘ analysis as it relates to melody, rhythm, and form.

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