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

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  • Arab musical warm up! Melody and rhythm with nay and riqq accompaniment. (We'll try to do this daily - feel free to bring instruments!)

Concepts/practices of maqam[1] and darb

  • Notes:
    • Please don't sign out all the reserve readings at once!
    • You don't need to complete readings by Tuesday
    • New readings finalized by Saturday.
    • Beware of Firefox.
    • Adjust jstor links when off campus

Some concepts...critiques

Critical concepts

  • emic (insider perspective) vs. etic ("objective" perspective) distinction (e.g.: "what is music?")
  • source vs. reference
  • ethnocentrism: viewing the world from a limited perspective of your own culture - and not recognizing that fact!
  • Orientalism: closure and self-replication in discursive networks

Learning and hearing music

  • oral continuity vs written continuity; secondary orality & notation and mnemonic
  • Hornbostel-Sachs system for classifying musical instruments (try to find: nay, riqq, oud, lyre).
  • concept of frequency ratios and musical intervals (e.g. an octave is 2:1). We'll take this up next week, in the context of theoretical discourses about music.
  • 'Microtones', 'quartertones' (see, equal temperament vs. frequency ratios

Studying music

  • As you may observe in your readings, there are multiple disciplinary approaches to our area of study: ethnomusicology (anthropology of music), comparative musicology (e.g. comparative music theory), non-western music history (e.g. Farmer and Sawa on Arab music history), music performance.

Continue critical introduction

"What is ethnomusicology of the Arab world?" (what is the Arab world? who is an Arab? what is Arab music?...)

  • Critique of "Music of the Arab World" (for Ethnomusicology of the Arab World).
  • Definitions?
  • Question: we can always define "etic" musical categories - but to what extent do they cohere musically as "Arab music" or even "Music of the Arab world"?
  • Your turn: empirical investigations. Let's listen to some examples from the "Arab world". You write down the salient features and think about how these examples cohere (or don't). (audio and video recordings)

History of the word "Arab"

  • First documented use of the word is around 853 BC, by Akkadian speaking outsiders in reference to people of the Arabian peninsula to their south, perhaps referring to the grassland "steppe" (Arabah) where these nomads dwelled.
  • Originally the more urban and sedentary south Arabians did not regard themselves as "Arabs", though later Muslim genealogy turned them into the "true" Arabs (Arab Ariba) originating with Qahtan, vs. the northerners, originating from Adnan (Arab Musta`riba). Ironically it is the latter who are the ancestors of Muhammad (via Abraham's son Ismail).
  • First use of the term "Arab" in Arabic: not until 328 AD.
  • Earliest Arabic texts date from the 6th century, immediately before Islam (Jahiliyya poetry).
  • In Arabia, a plethora of tribes speaking related dialects were united by Islam; the concept of "being Arab" became more explicit, and dialectical differences probably lessened; Arabic of the Quraysh became most important.
  • Arab armies (especially under Caliph Umar) conquered surrounding areas as "Arabs" (in contrast to others) ruling an "Arab empire" (Umayyad), often living separately in camps ("amsar"). But gradually they assimilated other cultures at the center (Medina, Damascus) and periphery, especially with Islamicization.
  • The shift to Abbasid caliphate (and to Baghdad as capital) responded to second-class status of non-Arabs (mawali) and the shu`ubiyya (anti-Arab privilege) movement, and corresponded to an ethnic widening. Arabic remained crucial lingua franca, but many scholars, musicians, administrators didn't identify as "Arab", and Persian was also used. With influx of Turkic peoples, the empire was thereafter better characterized as "Islamicate".
  • Eventually Arabic declined in the secular sphere, in favor of other languages (Turkish, Persian, Urdu), though it was always retained as the essential language of Islam, both for scholarship and for ritual practice.
  • Revivals of "Arab" (the nahda), concepts of "Arab nationalism" ((al-qawmiyya al-`arabiyya) and "Arab world" began in the 19th century, as a response to colonialism.

Concepts of nation and region are applied to music - but which are most musically real? e.g. "Arab music" (vs. "Middle Eastern music", "Egyptian music", "Islamic music", etc.)

History of Arab music

Histories are always constructed. The construction is often as interesting as the history itself.

  • Nomenclature and relation to political forces - the development of "al-musiqa al-arabiyya"
    • Pre-Islamic music of Arabia: Beduin Huda and Nasb; urban music of the qayna (Sinad and Hazaj). Many qiyan became very famous.
    • Khulafa Rashidun and Ummayad periods 632-750 (before Greek influence during the Abbasid period): development of Ghina', inshad with influx of culture, people, and wealth from expanding empire.
    • Abbasid period: 750 - 1258 Formation of Arab Music of the east (mashriq), with Greek influence - introduction of terms Musiqa or Musiqi (term and theoretical perspectives, esp. Pythagoras, Aristoxenus). Great musicians such as Ibrahim and Ishaq al-Mawsili, and Prince Ibrahim al-Mahdi.
    • Flowering of Andalus 711-1492: Formation of Arab Music of the west (maghrib), interaction with Europe. Ziryab.
    • Decline of "Arab" concept subsequently
    • Modern colonial period: influence: al-Musiqa al-Sharqiyya (e.g. early 20th c: al-Ma`had al-Maliki lil-Musiqa Sharqiyya); reaction as "Arab nationalism"
    • Ottoman influence: "Arab" also as ethnic designation in opposition to "Turkish" (attempts to "purge" Turkish influence); al-Ma`had al-Maliki lil-Musiqa Sharqiyy sponsored the 1932 conference "Mu'tamar al-Musiqa al-`Arabiyya)
  • Historical overview...
  • Typology of Music of the Arab World today.

Films relating to the "Golden Ages" of Arab music

  • Abbasid Baghdad: Umm Kulthum in Dananeer. Songs from the film: [2][3][4][5]

Three ways of reading "Dananeer":

  1. as an (explicit) representation of 9th c Abbasid culture
  2. as an (implicit) representation of Egyptian perceptions of "Arab history" in 1940 (Arabism vs. Persians and other outsiders, Arab nationalism in the song while marching to Iraq)
  3. as an (implicit) representation of Egyptian film music and music culture in 1940 (including Umm Kulthum's own journey from village to Cairo)

El Mastaba and CSL


Which band most interests you and why?