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All ready for the takht

The Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, a forum for exploration and performance, is an extension of the ethnomusicology curriculum in the Department of Music. Established 14 years ago by Anne K. Rasmussen, the ensemble, when performing at full strength, consists of 15-25 musicians, primarily undergraduate students.

Photo key“The ideal aesthetic,” Rasmussen said, “is one person per part, so you can hear complementary timbres, or colors, of the instruments. You want to get the experience to as many people as possible. Plus, you might not know who the best players will be; it is difficult to audition people, because they are learning—so you might sacrifice quality to accommodate quantity.”

Musicians in the ensemble play music from a variety of regions and repertoires. Their instruments include the ’ud, an 11-stringed, pear-shaped lute ( 1); qanun, a 72-string zither (2); nay, a reed flute (3); kamanjah, or violin (4); ’cello; and bass (5). The ensemble also uses various percussion, including the tablah or darbukah, a vase-shaped, ceramic drum (6); the riqq, a tambourine with fish-skin head and heavy brass cymbals (7); and daff, the frame drum (8).

A takht, or small ensemble, consists of just the core instruments: ’ud, qanun, kamanjah, nay, percussion and a singer.