Area Studies in Ethnomusicology: Music of the Arab World (2018)

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short link to this page: (Music of the Arab World 2018)
short link to eClass site:
short link to AMP project:

2014 version

ASWAN MUSIC PROJECT: Performing together, Gharb Aswan, Aswan, Egypt (May 2017).
ASWAN MUSIC PROJECT: Salam Yousry leading a children's group in Silwa al-Bahari, Aswan, Egypt (May 2017).


Music 468 / 568: Area Studies in Ethnomusicology: The Arab World
Meetings: Winter 2018, Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00 - 3:20 pm, Old Arts 4-03


Professor Michael Frishkopf
Office: 334D Old Arts Building
Office hours: by appointment
Tel: 780-492-0225, email:

Course scope and goals

This course will survey music cultures and trends in the Arab world (broadly defined), from the 7th century to the present. We will develop a critical perspective, by contextualizing music designated as "Arab" within Arab nationalism from the 19th century onwards. Likewise, the concept of "Arab world" will be problematized, nuanced, and extended to the diasporic community. Historical and music theoretical approaches will be adopted, but the course will focus on the sociology and anthropology of music. We will examine localized musical dialects--urban and rural—characterizing societies and cultures from Morocco to the Gulf, as well as broader mediated forms, and music media themselves, from phonodiscs to satellite TV. Aesthetics of music, spiritual, religious, and metaphysical dimensions, gender and sexuality, politics, coloniality, and globalization are all topics to be taken up. A significant component of the course is sensory immersive, including listening and viewing, including a number of music-related films, both documentary and feature. The objective is for you to learn about these multifacted music cultures, and, through them (and by means of their critical analysis) to begin to understand the Arab world (so frequently misunderstood) in a new way.

This course also features a required Community Service Learning component, centered on folk music in Egypt, and its social implications, allowing you to participate in music of the Arab world directly, by joining an extended program of musical research, performance, preservation, dissemination, and revitalization. This component entails 20 hours of service for the Aswan Music Project, deploying music as a means of fostering civil society and cultural continuity in southern Egypt.

Thus course goals include:

  • To learn about the diversity of "Arab music" and critique the concept (along with parallel concepts of "Arab world" and "Arab")
  • To learn about the multiple dimensions--historical, political, social, religious--of the Arab world and its diaspora as expressed, maintained, and contested through music.
  • To understand how music can serve to support civil society and engagement in the public sphere, through applied research

Course Schedule

Note: The eClass site includes course readings, listenings, and assignments, and links to certain protected resources. Please be sure to submit all assignments via the appropriate eClass link.

Topics and assignments, by week:

Week 1: Intro. What is the "Arab world"? What is “music of the Arab world”?. Introduction to course and especially CSL component.

Week 2: The history of Arab music & the construction of “Arab music” ("al-musiqa al-`arabiyya") in light of modern Arab nationalism

Week 3: Music in theory, theory in practice: historical and contemporary perspectives

Week 4: The "Authentic" (asil) Arab Musical "Heritage" (turath): values, aesthetics, forms, performance practices in the contemporary era.

Weeks 5, 6: Music, Media, and the evolution of "popular music" styles and economies, from the old turath through the 20th century.

Week 7 - Reading Week (catch up, research CSL project/papers, folk music project...)

Week 8 - Musical films (see eClass)

Week 9: Folk music, and musical folkloricization

Weeks 10, 11: Music and the metaphysical

Week 12: Music and Politics

Weeks 13 & 14: Music, dance, gender & sexuality, plus CSL & research projects and wrap-up...

The above schedule is tentative and may be revised depending on our progress, to accommodate student interests, and the CSL component.

Course Format

Preparation for class

Readings, listenings, viewings will be finalized on eClass (see below) by the end of Saturday prior to the week in which they'll be taken up. For each reading, you should prepare a reading report: one or two paragraphs of summary and critique, for your own reference. (These need not be handed in, but are useful for discussions and writing SC papers.)

In class

Each class will combine several kinds of activities (to keep things interesting):

  1. lectures with AV examples
  2. student presentations
  3. class discussions
  4. sensory immersion, via extended listening or viewing (e.g. films, concerts)
  5. musical practica (ear training, composition, improvisation, experiments), sometimes followed by discussion.


We'll use eClass for course management, in conjunction with this wiki. Use for quick access to eClass. You'll find weekly assignments posted on the eClass site, as well as protected resources. All assignments must be uploaded via eClass. The above schedule contains weekly lecture notes and links (periodically revised).

NB: This course can be taken at either of two levels: 468 (regular) or 568 (advanced). If you are an undergraduate, you should be enrolled in 468. Graduate students should be enrolled in 568. Expectations for 568 are slightly higher throughout the course.

Course Requirements

  • Regular attendance and participation. Complete preparatory readings, listenings, and viewings before each class. Come prepared with written notes, comments, questions, and critiques. Be able to state each reading’s main points in one or two sentences, and develop a critical perspective: what’s missing? What are the author’s assumptions (perhaps unstated)? Participate in class activities, including discussions.
  • Presentation. During the term, everyone will present one reading in class, briefly introducing the selection, asking probing questions and stirring discussion. NOTE: This has been scheduled for Week 6 (Folk music and musical folklorization), which offers the greatest diversity of topics.
  • Map quiz. Identify 22 countries of the Arab League, their capitals, and approximate country populations. There are practice tests (under Resources).
  • Two synthetic-critical (SC) papers. Each paper draws together five weeks’ worth of readings, listenings, and viewings, by comparing, contrasting, and critiquing them. These are relatively short assignments (minimum of 4 pages for students enrolled in 468; minimum of 6 pages for those enrolled in 568); no additional research is required. Do, however, cite the readings as you discuss them, using any standard for scholarly references, and list all references cited in any standard bibliographic format at the end of the paper. I recommend use of Zotero ( You must reference every assigned reading (optionally, for extra credit, listenings and viewings as well) at least once in one of the two papers. Submit SC papers via eClass. (I’m evaluating these assignments with two criteria in mind: (a) did you actually do the readings? (b) did you think about them, their limits and biases, and how they interrelate?) DUE DATES: SC#1 (suggested focus: "What is Arab music?": March 25. SC#2: April 19. Please upload via eClass.
  • Event ethnography: an ethnographic report on an Arab music or dance performance in Edmonton, including concerts, nightclub performances, rehearsals, or workshops (3 pages for students enrolled in 468; 5 pages for those enrolled in 568). Here's where you really get to do ethnomusicology! We can all use the eClass' News Forum to alert each other to upcoming events. Attend, participate, observe. In your report, discuss the venue, people, behavior, discourse, music, sequence of events. Keep your eyes and ears wide open for the broadest possible perspective. Relate the event to its socio-cultural location (Edmonton in 2014), economically, politically, historically. Try to make connections to what we’ve learned in the course, citing readings as needed. Graduate students should include additional research beyond the above - using either primary (fieldwork) or secondary (library) sources (extra credit for undergraduates). Submit via eClass. Extra credit: transcription and analysis of the music (you’ll need permission to record), with special attention to maqam.
  • CSL component. This is the major course component, combining a project output with a written paper (10 pages undergrad; 15 pages grad). You will draft two short project proposals before proceeding with your project. An accompanying research paper will contextualize the project and document the process, perhaps evaluate the results (if possible) estimating impact, including comparisons to similar initiatives elsewhere, and propose future work in this direction. The paper will comprise the following sections, linking both to the AMP project and to the general theoretical framework of M4GHD: (1) aim and significance; (2) background ; (3) research questions and objectives; (4) methods; (5) results; (6) reflections; (7) references cited (throughout), in addition to any other outputs (e.g. video, program notes, etc.) depending on project selected. Due: last class (via eClass). NB: Please upload links to media. You will also present your projects in class during the last week.
  • Extra credit: Maintain an eClass (or other) blog, documenting your experiences learning about music of the Arab world, and submit the link by email. Contribute to the course glossary (eClass) and wikipedia index (on this wiki). Compose a dulab and perform it for the class (more on this later). Join MENAME.

Note: all page counts refer to double-spaced, 12 pt, 1” margin, Times New Roman text pages, not including bibliography. (Page counts are minima - if you need more space to express yourself, please go ahead!)

Course Resources

  • This wiki page. A wiki is a website that facilitates rapid collective editing and linking of pages (Wikipedia is an instance.) This page is our course wiki (quick link:, and official course outline. Lecture notes are also linked here.
  • Special resource page for this course, on Arab history, music, research, writing, with bibliographies, pointers to useful library databases for text, audio, and video, and more.
  • eClass, an open source virtual learning environment based on Moodle technology. Quick link: . Treat eClass as the primary course website. Weekly assignments are posted here, with links to online fulltext whenever available. There is also a useful calendar, forums (for course events, to discuss your favorite music and readings), a database, and a blog for each user, additional resources, and a link to the course wiki. Upload all assignments to eClass - please do not submit them in hardcopy or by email unless directed otherwise.
  • The MENAME webpage,, for the UofA's Middle Eastern and North African Music Ensemble (which you are welcome to join).
  • Library resources, via
  • Community service learning site at the UofA.
  • Hardcopy. Not everything is online! Hence the following:
  1. SUB bookstore: many course-related books available for purchase. You don't have to buy them - all should be on reserve.
  2. Rutherford Library reserve: course-related books/CDs/films for short-term borrowing (Rutherford North)

CSL component

Community Service Learning component

This course is registered with the Community Service Learning (CSL) program at the University of Alberta, and CSL participation is mandatory.

See: Community Service Learning program guidebook and CSL at the UofA

Your volunteer hours will contribute towards the Aswan Music Project, a joint initiative of the University of Alberta with branches of the Aga Khan Development Network, who run a diverse assortment of development projects in Egypt

Our community partner organizations are: (1) Om Habibeh Foundation (OHF), based in Aswan in southern Egypt, a dynamic center for social and cultural development, operating under the auspices of the Aga Khan Foundation - Egypt, together with (2) the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) based in Geneva. I have been working with both OHF/AKF and AKMI for several years, developing a strategy of social development in Aswan, via the Aswan Music Project - through the "musicification" of Aswan villages. You will join in this project!

While OHF operates as a local Egyptian-registered NGO, AKF, and AKMI form part of the global Aga Khan Development Network, with a far-flung organizational structure in three main sectors: Economic, Cultural, and Social Development. See the AKDN organization map here.

I view CSL with OHF and AKMI as a form of Participatory Action Research: applied research that is formulated and carried out collaboratively, erasing lines between insiders and outsiders, academics and non-academics, students and communities, part of the larger sphere of Music for Global Human Development, a primary initiative of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology.

CSL projects

"From each according to her or his ability..." - Karl Marx

While students will not be able to visit Aswan during the course, they will be able to contribute in a number of ways, especially through writing or editing in English or French, researching using our Library's extensive collection of online resources, editing audio or video materials, or offering technical skills in design or programming. You will define your own CSL project, according to your own skills and preferences. Team projects are also possible - please consult with the instructor if you wish to undertake a group contribution.

Here are some possibilities to get you thinking:

  • contribute to preservation, editing, metadata annotation, and documentation of the AMP's archival materials (if available during the timeframe of this course)
  • contribute possible front or back end designs (technical or aesthetic) for searching, browsing, and displaying these materials, using the UofA's ERA as a basis
  • design and build a relevant and useful phone app
  • design and build a relevant and useful website, such as a virtual museum or exhibit
  • develop teaching materials for children (in English)
  • design publicity and dissemination for AMP, making materials more widely known both within Egypt and beyond
  • prepare program notes or event publicity materials in English, or French
  • research possible sources of funding and develop proposals and strategies for generating project funds
  • develop a business plan to make the project self-sustaining
  • research strategies to make possible connections to related organizations in Egypt and beyond
  • develop associated social media and public awareness campaigns, implement, and test effectiveness
  • edit videos either for educational or publicity purposes, reflecting on strategies and assessing effectiveness

We will periodically discuss project ideas with Ashraf Kenawy, AMP project manager in Egypt.

Evaluation and grading

The evaluation of each requirement is on a scale from 0-4 points. These scores are combined according to the percentages indicated in order to produce a final numeric grade. This grade is rounded to the nearest numeric value in the table below, in order to determine the final letter grade. In exceptional cases the grade A+ may also be assigned. Expectations for 568 are higher than for 468. Extra credit assignments (mentioned throughout this outline) can help push you upwards over a letter grade boundary. They will never detract from your grade.

  • attendance and participation: 10%
  • map quiz: 5%
  • folk music presentation: 5%
  • each SC paper: 15% (30% total)
  • event ethnography: 10%
  • CSL project: 40%
    • CSL project itself: 20%
    • research paper: 10%
    • annotated bibliography (in addition to the paper): 10%

Each assignment is to be uploaded to eClass before class on its due date. Thereafter, an eighth point will be deducted, and an additional eighth point for each subsequent day of lateness (e.g. 8 days' lateness lowers an A to a B).

All course components are evaluated using letter grades, or numbers on a scale from 0-4. Letter grades are converted to their numerical equivalents, then combined in a weighted average (as given above), rounded to the nearest numeric value and converted to a letter grade. Number-grade conversions are performed according to the following table:
A: 4.0
A-: 3.7
B+: 3.3
B: 3.0
B-: 2.7
C+: 2.3
C: 2.0
C-: 1.7
D+: 1.3
D: 1.0
F: 0.0

Official statements

Course prerequisites: none
Course-based ethics approval, Community service learning: NA
Past or representative evaluative course material: NA
Additional mandatory instruction fees: No

Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar. (GFC 29 SEP 2003).

Academic Integrity
“The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behavior that could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Learning and working environment
The Faculty of Arts is committed to ensuring that all students, faculty and staff are able to work and study in an environment that is safe and free from discrimination and harassment. It does not tolerate behaviour that undermines that environment. The department urges anyone who feels that this policy is being violated to: • Discuss the matter with the person whose behaviour is causing concern; or • If that discussion is unsatisfactory, or there is concern that direct discussion is inappropriate or threatening, discuss it with the Chair of the Department. For additional advice or assistance regarding this policy you may contact the student ombudservice: ( ). Information about the University of Alberta Discrimination and Harassment Policy and Procedures is described in UAPPOL at

Academic Honesty:
All students should consult the information provided by the Office of Judicial Affairs regarding avoiding cheating and plagiarism in particular and academic dishonesty in general (see the Academic Integrity Undergraduate Handbook and Information for Students). If in doubt about what is permitted in this class, ask the instructor. Students involved in language courses and translation courses should be aware that on-line “translation engines” produce very dubious and unreliable “translations.” Students in language courses should be aware that, while seeking the advice of native or expert speakers is often helpful, excessive editorial and creative help in assignments is considered a form of “cheating” that violates the code of student conduct with dire consequences. An instructor or coordinator who is convinced that a student has handed in work that he or she could not possibly reproduce without outside assistance is obliged, out of consideration of fairness to other students, to report the case to the Associate Dean of the Faculty. See the Academic Discipline Process.

Recording of Lectures:
Audio or video recording of lectures, labs, seminars or any other teaching environment by students is allowed only with the prior written consent of the instructor or as a part of an approved accommodation plan. Recorded material is to be used solely for personal study, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without prior written consent from the instructor.

Attendance, Absences, and Missed Grade Components:
Regular attendance is essential for optimal performance in any course. In cases of potentially excusable absences due to illness or domestic affliction, notify your instructor by e-mail within two days. Regarding absences that may be excusable and procedures for addressing course components missed as a result, consult the Calendar regarding Attendance and Examinations sections of the University Calendar. Be aware that unexcused absences will result in partial or total loss of the grade for the “attendance and participation” component(s) of a course, as well as for any assignments that are not handed-in or completed as a result. In this course, 25% of your grade depends on regular attendance and energetic participation.

Policy for Late Assignments:
See section on Evaluation, above.

Student Accessibility Services:
If you have special needs that could affect your performance in this class, please let me know during the first week of the term so that appropriate arrangements can be made. If you are not already registered with Student Accessibility Services, contact their office immediately (1-80 SUB; Email; Email; phone 780-492-3381).

Media Archives and Departmental Broadcasting of Audio-visual Material
Audio or video recording of performances, lectures, seminars, or any other academic or research environment activities are carried out by the Department of Music for archival purposes. These archives may be collected and housed in the Music Library. Recorded material is to be used solely for non-profit, educational, research, and community outreach purposes, and is not to be used or distributed for any other purpose without obtaining the express permission from all parties involved. Please be advised that your solo or group performance may be featured on the University of Alberta's Department of Music website and/or social media platform(s). If you object to this use of audio and/or video material in which you will be included, please advise your instructor or the Department of Music in writing prior to participating in any performance, lecture, seminar or public event held by the Department of Music.