Many musicians and scholars have analyzed Radif using various terminologies most of which become problematic because of historical and cultural weights that these terms carry. Tonal vs. modal Gushehs, primary vs. secondary Gushehs, or melodic vs. rhythmic Gushehs are among the terms that have been used to explain the relationship between the components of Radif. During the late 19th and in early 20th century, the gravitation of moving towards Western culture, and the idea of academization of different musical cultures, as well as creating a universal musical language to explain music from different cultures, made the Western music terminology the primary language for musical conversations. This approach in one hand results in avoiding or demolishing some qualities that already exists in one musical culture and in another hand it decreases the quality of educational process. Moreover, since there are ambiguity between the primary meaning of a term and its application in another culture, several questions will remain unanswered. This is why a comprehensive analysis of Radif should be done using transformative terminology. In this process even umbrella terms such as “improvisation” or “micro tonal” that are used to describe a massive range of music from different parts of the world should be defined within the each culture, or we should come up with original terminology.

In order to give a comprehensive analysis of Radif, Hossein Omoumi has uses the General Systems Theory (GST) that he was introduced to while he was working on his doctorate degree in architecture in Italy. General Systems Theory was initially founded by an Austrian biologist, Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy to explain the structure of a system and the relationship of its components. This theory has been applied to various fields of studies and it can help organizing components of a system based on their relationship.

Based on the General Systems Theory, classical Persian music is an improvisatory music occurring within a systematic frameworkThis structure is called Radif and contains twelve modal systems (seven Dastgâhs and five Âvâzes), which include a large number of Gushehs. In order to expand this brief definition and explain the relation between each components of Radif, first we need to define systems.

A system is a set or group of connected components which follow a specific goal. This means any system is made up of smaller systems which can be called subsystems. For example, human body is a system and contains several subsystems such as circulatory system, digestive system, nervous systems, skeletal system, and many more. As stated each subsystem is a system itself and may have several subsystems as well. In our bodies, circulatory system includes heart, arteries, veins, etc. All of these subsystems are also a system themselves and include other components that can be seen as subsystems of that system. In another example we can look into the world and from a reversed prospective, we can start with the smallest subsystem of the human society, which is one person. Although that person is a complex system itself, it is also a subsystem of a larger system which is family. The family is a subsystem of a community, and that community is a subsystem of a larger community such as a city, the people of several cities create a nation in a country. We can expand this until we get to the whole world and that would be our largest system.

Not all of the subsystems have the same functions and capabilities within a system. For example in a driving vehicle the engine is way more complex than the tires as in the human body the brain is more complex than the bones. In other words, one can look into the function of subsystems within a system in relation to their outputs compare to their inputs. This is why in a comparative analysis of systems one can refer to various subsystems as open systems in relation to another subsystem. For example we can state that in car the engine is a more open subsystem in relation to the tires or one can claim that the engine is an open system, while the tires are a closed system. Open and closed systems are important terms that can define the functions of subsystems of a system in relation to its components.

Considering the definition of systems, the repertoire of classical Persian music, Radif contains several number of Gushehs, which are the subsystems of seven Dastgâhs and five Âvâzes. On the other hand, not all of the Gushehs have the same function and not all of the twelve Dastgâhs and Âvâzes are equally complex. This is not only evident in their musical structures but it is a fact that is embedded in their terminologies. In Persian, system is also called Dastgâh, which means when one refers to a system in Persian they can either use the term system or Dastgâh. Considering the importance of poetry in Persian culture and its influence on music, Âvâz or singing is a crucial element in the music. So one can claim that organizing classical Persian music began with grouping Gushehs to form several Âvâzes. In this setting Âvâz gain a new meaning and stands for a collection or we can say a system that includes a number of subsystems (Gusheh). However, gradually the increase in the number of Âvâzes encouraged the musicians to combine these Âvâzes and resulted in forming Dastgâhs. As Ruhollah Khaleqi says, “Today, the style of categorizing Âvâzes is very different from the past and the large Âvâzes are now called Dastgâh” (A Look at Music, Ruhollah Khaleqi). Therefore, Dastgâhs are more complex systems than Âvâzes and this is why the term Dastgâh is applied to these modal systems.

It is also important to mention that the numbers 5 and 7, and their sum 12 are among mythical numbers in Persian culture, mainly inspired by religious beliefs. For examples the five books of Nezami Ganjavi (12th century poet) is known as Khamsa (Quintet or Quinary), the seven books of Rumi (13th century poet) called Masnavi, or the metaphoric use of seven seas, and the seven firmaments in poetry, as well as the 12 Shiite Imams, the five holy figures of Islam, and even the 12 months of the year, the seven continents of the world and the five oceans, 12 hours of the day and night each.