Musical notation and Omani traditional music

Omani traditional music, as previously mentioned, was never linked to musical notation, either in its creation, or in its performance. Therefore, unlike notation-based musical works, the relationship between music and notation was established later. Nor is it part of the performance of such arts which have indeed survived for centuries without the help of musical notation. Whether a researcher is involved in classifying Omani arts or in an effort to learn about their musical structure by placing them under the academic microscope, it is advisable to transcribe the music, which would necessarily be subsequent to the musical event itself. Through such notation, the academic researcher can investigate, compare, and analyse the music which is visible in front of him.

However, one should not overrate this notational approach, as, due to its completion after the musical event, it involves a certain degree of abstraction from the musical reality. Therefore, one should not forget that live performance cannot, under any circumstances, be superseded by notation. Besides, the scholar engaged in such notational activity, the 'transcription', usually has one goal in sight, which he highlights at the outset of his notational effort. Consequently, transcriptional notation is usually regarded as a reflection of the transcriber's personality, thoughts and goals. Whenever Omani arts are written in notation, it should be remembered that such arts are the origin or the source, and notation is the outcome, rather than the other way round.

Concerning transcriptions, it is advisable to employ several notational approaches. As the aim of any transcription is to recreate a musical event, which is not originally based on musical notation, not only familiar and unfamiliar forms of notation are required, but even the invention of new forms may be necessary to serve both educational and research purpose needs. Since notation is a medium of musical thought transmission from a solely audible condition to a visual one, one's imagination can then run free, without constraints, to highlight or analyse any musical component in which a student is particularly interested.

As the transcription always consists of a post-script notation and is associated with the transcriber's individual goals, it should not be confused with the more familiar notational approach, where, as in European music, the written notation always forms the basis for performance.

The transcription of Omani arts, however, does not represent the musical reality, but only a limited excerpt of the musical event.

Therefore, if a performer, who is quite unfamiliar with Oman's musical traditions, is given a musical notation, he is unlikely to be able to play it in a way which exactly resembles the original, because the notation contains only some musical elements, rather than the entire musical work.

In conclusion, musical notation in Oman must be viewed as an application to serve instructional and/or research purposes. As for the practical objectives, caution should be observed in using notation and it should not be depended upon wholly to perform instrumental music or songs.

The best results for a non-native performing Omani arts can be achieved by listening to an original performance as well as using the notation, as this is most likely to produce a result close to the original - i.e. to the live performance. Retaining this recommended approach should help keep up this heritage throughout successive generations without distortions or shortcomings. Notation, if used as specified, can contribute to knowledge and provide perspective on such indigenous arts.

The ideal option is indisputably a combination of the theoretical/academic aspect and the practical, live performance aspect through analysis and musical classification as well as the use of notation for its well-defined objectives.

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