Mugham also known as Mugam (Azerbaijani: Muğam; مقام) is one of the many folk musical compositions from Azerbaijan, contrast with Tasnif, Ashugs. Mugam draws on Iranian-Arabic-Turkish Maqam.
It is a highly complex art form that weds classical poetry and musical improvisation in specific local modes. "Mugham" is a modal system. Unlike Western modes, "mugham" modes are associated not only with scales but with an orally transmitted collection of melodies and melodic fragments that performers use in the course of improvisation. "Mugham" is a compound composition of many parts. The choice of a particular mugham and a style of performance fits a specific event. The dramatic unfolding in performance is typically associated with increasing intensity and rising pitches, and a form of poetic-musical communication between performers and initiated listeners.
Three major schools of mugham performance existed from the late 19th and early 20th centuries - the region of Garabagh, Shirvan, and Baku. The town of Shusha (Garabagh) was particularly renowned for this art.
The short selection of Azerbaijani mugham played in balaban, national wind instrument was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing world music, included among many cultural achievements of humanity.
In 2003, UNESCO recognized mugam as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Azerbaijan also has a great tradition of composers and musicians of western classical music. Uzeyir Hajibeyov with his Leili and Majnun created the genre of mugham-opera. Fikret Amirov (1922-1984) was the first Azeri composer symphonic mughams -- Shur, Kurd Ovshari, and Gulistan Bayati Shiraz. Azerbaijani composers created a plethora of compositions that fused mugham and traditional European genres. Among those, for example, Vasif Adigozal's mugham oratorio Shikestesi. Such works are obviously very different from traditional mugham formations but in fact incorporate many mugham idioms. On the level of musicians, there remains a strict separation between classical and "traditional" music in terms of training. Even if the musicians are educated at the same conservatorium they stick to one camp.