What's the origin of this Eastern-sounding melodic style that I often hear in Goa trance?
May 15, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

What's the origin of this Eastern-sounding melodic style that I often hear in Goa trance?

There's a specific kind of melodic phrasing that I hear in some Goa tracks, and really love. It seems pretty clearly cribbed from, or meant to evoke, Eastern musical traditions—but does it come from a specific tradition?

It has a spiralling quality, ascending and descending an exotic-sounding scale, and usually resolving at the end of each bar (and then repeating—this is trance, after all). To my ignorant ears, it sounds like its origins could be Arabic, Persian, Indian, or even Greek or Roma or Turkish. It always suggested Sufi dervishes to me, but after listening to some actual Sufi music, I don't think that's right. In any case, it conveys an air of mystical or spiritual ecstacy, such as one might attain through frenzied dancing.

Some examples (the links go directly to the portion of the track in question, and the first two are probably the best examples):

Shakta—Lepton Head (Deedrah Remix)
Filteria—Navigate (Live Version)
Travma—Resurrecting the Dead
Cosmosis—Dance of the Cosmic Serpent
Filteria—Aqua Society (2005 Waterly Remix)

I doubt that these musicians are consciously imitating a specific traditional form, but presumably this "sounds Eastern" to my ears because I've heard actual Eastern music that resembles this, at least superficially. What might that have been?

(Sorry for crude terms such as "exotic" and "Eastern-sounding", and yes I know that most of the OMG SPIRITUAL INDIAN STUFF!!1 in the trance scene is silly and superficial. I just enjoy the sound, and would like to learn more about it.)
posted by ixohoxi to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Another example:

Shiva Shidapu—Equilibrium

Obviously, a lot of the visual imagery connected with this stuff is Indian/Hindu, so maybe that's it, but the only Indian music I'm remotely familiar with is classical raga—which doesn't have this melodic quality.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:24 PM on May 15, 2010

Sounds to me like riffing on the Persian scale.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:32 PM on May 15, 2010

This piece of traditional Turkish music sounds somewhat similar to me. (But I'm no expert.)
posted by The Mouthchew at 1:47 PM on May 15, 2010

These clips sound like they're meant to evoke the pungi, a.k.a. snake-charmer's flute, or zurna.
posted by limeonaire at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2010

Best answer: Sounds to me like riffing on the Persian scale.

I don't think so; none of the examples feature a flatted fifth, for instance. In fact the second example features the perfect fifth very prominently.

It's definitely a scale thing, though. In this instance I think we're mostly dealing with the phrygian dominant scale, but the double harmonic scale is a closely related scale that sounds similarly "exotic" to western ears.

So why do they sound "exotic" to us? I guess it's a subjective thing, but for me the most "exotic" part is the first three notes of the scale, especially the large gap (an augmented second) between the second and third notes. This gap is pretty common in many types of eastern music, but is comparatively rare in western music, especially at that position in the scale. I listened to some youtube clips of guitarists improvising over the phrygian dominant, and I found it interesting that although the instrumentation and style is very different from the trance examples, the clips still sound exotic in a very similar way.
posted by av123 at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

"...Misty Shades marks the debut of Magic & Witchcraft, a Finnish psytrance producer seeking to recreate the mystical and otherworldly qualities of mid-nineties Goa trance."
posted by solipse at 8:31 PM on May 17, 2010

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