MI week 4

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Tuesday (4a)

Islam as Musical Catalyst (Islamicate Music) and Islam as Sonic Ritual (Islamic Language Performance)

Due today

Two page report on the following three works (2 readings and 1 film excerpt); submit on eClass 4a

Also: review Shiloah reading from Week 2


What I've been up to? Overview of talks in Sheffield, Limerick; project in Geneva...

Research proposal due 5b (a week from Thursday): AIM and SIGNIFICANCE. What issue or topic do you wish to investigate, and why do you think it's important? One page only. Optionally: include a few secondary sources, links to online media, etc.

This week is very special. Today is 8 Dhu al-Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic calendar), the beginning of the annual Hajj rituals at Mecca. We'll talk more about that on Thursday, Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice).

Note that the Islamic calendar is based on a purely lunar system of 12 month years. The crescent moon (hilal) marks the start of a new month. Most Islamic holidays are set according to this calendar. Exceptions often mark syncretisms with pre-Islamic systems, e.g. the mawlid (saint day) of Ahmed al-Badawi in Egypt (always in October - a harvest festival), or spring festivals like Nawruz and Shamm al-Naseem.

Islamic ritual: language performance, and its impact on Islamicate music


We already examined the adhan (call to prayer). Let us examine some musical examples - and try it!


  • Revelation (wahy): 610 - 632 CE. Mecca, Medina. (Hijrah in 622), starting in the cave HIra near Mecca, on Laylat al-Qadr, in Ramadan 610.
  • Word of God - passed via Angel Gabriel (Jabra'il), thus essentially sounded (but "unsounded sound"), then orally transmitted, then written.
  • Restates many themes from earlier revelations to previous prophets (Tawrah = Torah of Moses; Zabur = Psalms of David; Injil = Gospels of Jesus), which had been corrupted.
  • Recitation and sound are central.
  • Qur'an = "recitation", and first verse was "Recite!" (iqra' bi rabbika alladhi khalaq, khalaq al-insana fi `alaq), Surat al-`Alaq, and the revelation of Qur'an in Ramadan is the topic of the very next sura, Surat al-Qadr.
  • Seven ahruf (letters) - 10 qira'at (readings)
  • Recensions: Abu Bakr, Uthman.
  • The structure of the Qur'an, 114 chapters. The word - written (mushaf), recited (tilawa)
  • Ordering in time (beginning with Surat al-Alaq), in text (beginning with al-Fatiha)
  • Major themes of the Qur'an
  • Tilawa (Qur'anic recitation):
    • as worship
    • as aesthetics
    • as ideological messaging
    • as sonic-ethical pedagogy
  • About Tilawa as sounded representation of God's word
    • Textual regulation: mushaf, ahkam al-tajwid, qira'at. Other factors: "free variables" that can adapt locally to local sociocultural conditions, and perhaps even come covertly to express ideas and ideologies.
    • Recent discovery of world's oldest Quran. Note absence of "points" (marking consonants), vowels, or other diacritical marks (including some instances of the letter alif when written above the line)
    • Qira'atComparison (note the polemics of variation inherent in the desire for a unified Qur'an (architext); compare [1])
    • Ahkam al-Tajwid - manuals, some online
    • Surat Yusuf: multiple versions. How does recitation convey ideology without varying the text? [2]Compare these reciters.
  • Overview of Qur'anic recitation: tilawa. Mujawwad, murattal. Women reciters. Contexts for recitation.
  • Quranic calligraphy: Surat al-Ikhlas[3]
  • Learning and memorizing (tahfiz) Qur'an (kuttab) and its implication for musical training and discovery of talent.
  • The recorded Qur'an. What are the implications of recording?

(remainder for Thursday)

Thursday (4b)

Due today

Today is EID al-ADHA (the Festival of Sacrifice)

There are no new readings for today - I want you to catch up!

But please do the following and write a page about what you've discovered.

Watch the following videos:

  • Search for indicators commending, proscribing, or regulating language performance on the occasion of Eid in Islam's core texts: Qur'an and Hadith. What can you find in Qur'an or Hadith concerning performance of prayers or songs at the time of the Eid? Use the course's Resources page to locate search engines, and note the hadiths or Qur'anic ayas you find. Can you find the hadiths that indicate performance of Talbiya or Takbir, as below? (note: you'll have to try many different search terms in English, due to uncertainty about transliterations)

Optional: You may also like to learn more about the Hajj through other sites, for example:


Hajj and Eid al-Adha

  • The Hajj as a central meeting point for Muslims everywhere, a point of exchange
  • The Hajj, Eid, and their sounds.

LP and its principal Genres

Islamic LP (language performance): the mainstream sounds of Islam in social life and the social implications of sound.

The 5 "pillars" - arkan: at least four are associated with sound (excepting Zakat)

  1. Shahada
  2. Salat (namaz), including special prayers (Salat al-Eid, Tarawih)
  3. Ramadan, including Tarawih, and the Misahharati.
  4. Hajj, now in process in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
  • Adhan: we have already considered adhan, the call to prayer.
  • Salat: a compound ritual:
    • Ibtihalat (sung supplications at dawn)
    • Adhan
    • Qur'an
    • Adhkar al-Salat
    • Ad`iyya (supplications within the prayer)

The theory and practice of LP

LP in Theory (ppt from Paris ICTM forum)

LP in practice

  • Examples at the above link:
    • Dawn in Egypt
    • Friday prayer in Kazakhstan
    • Eid prayer (Salat al-Eid)
  • Rituals and sounds of the Hajj

Islamicate Music

  • Readings: Shiloah, Danielson
  • Mostly what we know is the elite, court music... “art music"
  • Formation through Islam as catalyst (connecting people through empire, language, religion; gathering wealth), legal restrictions (e.g. primacy of the voice), emphases (the word), training (tilawa and Sufi contexts), contexts of cultivation (primarily Sufi).
  • Commonalities across the Islamicate zone
    • Focus on language, combined with sound system: tonal and temporal
    • music: tonality, temporality
      • maqam, microtones
      • iqa (darb, wazn, usul)
    • Shaped by Islamic discourse and practice (tilawa, Sufi hadra)
    • Shaping local Islamic practices
  • Variations:
    • culture, contexts, articulation with pre-Islamic culture
    • ideological differences, e.g. Sunni and Shia presents different soundscapes
    • social and political factors: immigration/borders/state policies; Islamic ideology may trigger/represent political divides, restricting interactions
    • language, dialect, pronunciation: vary from place to place
    • Ramification of sound: localization adaptation, random or accommodating (Suwarian tradition of West Africa)
  • Impact of Islam
    • Discourses of Islam (e.g. attitudes towards music)
    • Practices of Islam (e.g. tilawa, Qur'anic recitation)
    • Islam as civilizational catalyst (e.g. formation of an empire that could absorb and fuse numerous traditions from a broad region)
  • Examples:
    • Egyptian Wasla
    • Turkish Fasil
    • Moroccan Nawba
    • Persian Dastgah

Lecture on Islamicate Music