MofA Week 1: What is “music of the Arab world”?

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Course introduction

  • Welcome!
  • Course participants: introductions. What brings you here? Musical and other skills.
  • Let's listen...what do you hear?
  • Area Studies in Ethnomusicology: The Arab World = Ethnomusicology of the Arab world?
    • What is "ethnomusicology of the Arab world"? = "contextual study of music of the Arab world"?
    • What is "music of the Arab world"?
    • What is "the Arab world"?
    • What is "Arab"?
    • What can ethnomusicology contribute (and for what?)
  • Course approach
    • Understanding: discursively, experientially
      • discursive, linguistic, descriptive, propositional, declarative knowledge (cognizing)
      • Non-discursive, pre-linguistic, experiential, bodily, musical knowledge (feeling)
    • Doing: procedural (implicit) knowledge
      • Performing (improvising)
      • Creating, composing (editing)
      • Critiquing
      • Community Service Learning (CSL): "doing" - students in action, relevant academia, collaborative applied or PAR research, progressive volunteer pedagogy/research towards the broader social good through giving and learning, community commitment and advocacy, engaged knowledge, global citizenship. Entails "commitments to learning, discovery, and citizenship, and to connecting communities..." (View Dean Cormack's speech)
  • Ethnomusicology
    • studying music in culture, society, history
      • semantic networks of symbols: representations, concepts, beliefs (culture, religion, language)
      • social networks of people: relationships, communications, exchanges (society, economy, polity)
      • temporal networks of flow (history)
    • Meta-musicology as 3 senses:
      • "beyond" the usual domain of music (western art music) to include all music
      • beyond the usual definition of music ("art of tones") to include social/semantic/historical context
      • "beyond" the usual methods (written word and score to fieldwork)
      • "beyond" the usual disciplinary frame (historical, analytical, theoretical) towards culture, society, history (interdisciplinarity)
    • Theoretical, conceptual
    • Empirical, grounded
  • World music, worlds of music
  • Area studies
    • in general
    • in ethnomusicology
    • and "Arab"
  • Problematizing, critiquing
    • "only that which has no history can be defined" (Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900), Genealogy of Morals)
    • etic and emic
    • source and reference
    • problematization: turning a concept into a problem (from the implicit to the descriptive/definitional to the undefinable!)
    • writing a critique: summary/scope + boundaries/limits/relationships
  • CSL component: El Mastaba
  • Careful review of Course outline
    • Resources
    • Requirements

Problematizing concepts: "Music of the Arab world"

What is music of the Arab world? What is the Arab world? Problematizing concepts

Defining concepts.

Unity in Music of the Arab world?

Listen, watch, and develop some theories...

Category of "Music of the Arab World" (or "Arab music") - is it coherent? Note that this question can be answered by recourse to discourse (do people use such a category? (Is it "emic"?) If so, what does it mean for them?) or by recourse to sound (can we list a set of attributes which define such a category?)

Let's take the latter approach, considering objective audio-visual data presented in class. What features recur? Try to fill in the following list by editing the following pages, before reviewing my own list below. (Emotional and behavioral features require that you watch the music - via video.)

Ethnomusicology of the Arab world: analysis

  • Ethnomusicology uses broad ETIC terms of analysis to describe multiple dimensions or aspects of music, in an attempt to come to grips with an entire world of music using a consistent terminology... One can thus divide all music into "aspects": textual, timbral, temporal, tonal, melodic, textural, formal, emotional/experiential, behavioral/social... Ideally the analytical framework should be objective (etic) [is it possible???].
  • Let MA = "Arab music" as shorthand for "Music of the Arab World" ( but perhaps not equivalent to Arabic: "al-musiqa al-`arabiyya")
  • Question for investigation: Does MA exist as a coherent category? Does it display any consistent features for one or more aspects?
  • Method: empirical study and analysis - What does the sonic empirical evidence suggest?
  • Based on your listening (using the foregoing links, or other materials at your disposal), to what extent can you characterize Arab music according to the following musical-social aspects? Please edit each wiki page adding your signed comments for next Tuesday...

Analyze "Music of the Arab World" through systematic consideration of its various Aspects:

MA Textual (aspects of text, poetry, linguistic meaning)

MA Timbral (aspects of sound color, instrumentation)

MA Temporal (aspects of rhythm, meter, tempo...)

MA Tonal (aspects of intonation, scale, tonality)

MA Melodic (aspects of modality, melodic patterning, improvisation)

MA Textural (aspects of layering and relationships of multiple parts)

MA Formal (aspects of large-scale structure)

MA Emotional (the feeling and experience of music, as inferred from behavior)

MA Behavioral (the social aspects of the performance - including audience and performer actions and interactions)

Thought questions:

  • To what degree do these features gather musics of the Arab world?
  • To what degree do these features exclude musics of other worlds?

Is "music of the Arab world" an objectively coherent category? What about "Arab music" - can a satisfactory definition be established, independent of discursive use?

in sum...