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MUSIC. Music of the Islamic world can be studied from a wide variety of perspectives, as a historical legacy extending back to the middle ages and antiquity, as a performing art, as a branch of science, and as a medium of spiritual devotion. In the Middle East, its domain spreads throughout North Africa and eastward to include the Arabian Peninsula, Arab countries east of the Mediterranean, Turkey, and Iran. Furthermore, certain patterns of musical culture can be found in various parts of the Islamic world, including countries of the African Sudanic regions, Central Asia, Pakistan, and North India. For more than a millennium, Islamic ways of life have provided a framework for the creative contributions of individuals from diverse ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds.
Musical outlooks have been influenced by Islamic beliefs and institutions. Although the Qur’an contains no strictures against music, the hadith, which consists of sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad and his companions, presents numerous statements that caution against music and musical instruments. In Islamic history, however, music has played an extensive role and emerged as an art form of extraordinary popularity and significance. To begin with, the formal strictures appear to have addressed music primarily as a secular profession, thus exempting the various folk and ritualistic expressions, including religious genres, generally considered outside the domain of “music” proper. Furthermore, music acquired special recognition and prestige through medieval court patronage. Following the Muslims’ exposure to ancient Greek philosophy, science, and cosmology, music also developed as a speculative branch of knowledge, `ilm al-musiqa, literally “science of music.” Meanwhile, music gained distinct prominence and spiritual meaning through the practices of the various Sufi, or mystical Islamic, orders.
In Middle Eastern life, folk music appears in a wide variety of regional contexts. Throughout history, music has been incorporated into religious festivals and used in conjunction with manual labor and events associated with the human life cycle, including birth, circumcision, and marriage. Today, folk musical expressions, although often connected with social and religious events and with dance, differ in terms of performance style, instrumentation, and textual subject matter. Examples are: the group-performed fjiri, or pearl-diving songs of the Arabian Gulf; the heroic and love-related songs of the sha’ir, or bedouin nomadic poet-singer, who accompanies himself on the rababah, a single-string upright fiddle; and the Anatolian asik, or bard, who performs songs of moral and devotional themes while accompanying himself on the saz, a long-necked plucked lute. A further example is the music played on a large doublesided drum and an oboe type of wind instrument, together known in Turkey as davul and zurna and in some Arab countries as tabl and zamr. In many Middle Eastern communities, this combination accompanies folk dance, particularly at village weddings. Also songs, as well as dramatic representations, appear in the ta’ziyah, or passion play, held during the Islamic month of
Muharram in Shi`i communities, for example in Iran, Iraq, and India, to commemorate the martyrdom of early religious saints.
Islamic liturgical and devotional forms with musical components are numerous. As a rule, Qur’anic chanting, or the reciting of the divine text of the Qur’an, is soloistic, unmetered, governed by established rules of enunciation (`ilm al-tajwid), and melodically improvised, usually in accordance with the tradition of melodic modes, known as maqdmdt (sg., magdm) in certain parts of the Arab world. In the adhdn, or “call-toprayer,” traditionally performed from minarets to announce the daily times of prayer, the text is usually delivered in a stylized, semi-improvised, melodic format.
Islamic mysticism, which became prevalent throughout the Islamic world since the thirteenth century CE, has generally treated music and dance as vehicles for spiritual transcendence. Expounded by early Sufi scholars such as Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111), the notion of spiritual music as a mode of attaining divine ecstasy was expressed through the concept and practice of sama`, literally “listening,” or “auditioning.” Today, music and dance constitute essential components within the rituals of various Sufi sects. In many cases, the liturgies incorporate sections of dhikr, literally “remembrance” or “reiteration,” in which religious phrases repeated by the chorus form an ostinato, or repeated pattern, that accompanies vocal improvisations and precomposed hymns, as well as rhythmic body movement. Meanwhile, the Mevlevi order, established by Jaldl alDin Rum! in Konya, Turkey in the early thirteenth century, is particularly known for its elaborate musical performances, the use of musical instruments such as the ney, or reed flute, and a type of religious dance consisting of circular motion, or “whirling.” In India and Pakistan, Sufi-related musical expressions include the Urdu ghazal, and the qawwali. These and other comparable genres are often performed by highly skilled and widely admired vocalists. In addition to these religious expressions, there are numerous liturgical and semiliturgical traditions belonging to various non-Islamic communities, for example, Christian groups such as the Copts of Egypt, Maronites of Lebanon, and Assyrians of Iraq, and Jews from different parts of the Middle East.
In the realm of secular music, certain traits appear widely prevalent, although tend to vary in detail and application from one context to another. Generally speaking, the melodic component is highly intricate and embraces distinct embellishments, such as the tahrir, commonly used by Iranian classical singers. The textures include solo, unison, octave-doubling, the occasional use of a drone or ostinato for accompaniment, and heterophony (when subtle differences in detail are created within two or more coexisting, essentially similar, parts). Specific melodic intervals are recognized and applied, including certain types of whole-tones, halftones, and “neutral-tones,” or microtonal steps created when notes are partially flattened or sharpened. Intervals are measured in various ways. In Turkey, for example, the comma (roughly one-ninth of a Pythagorean whole-step) is used as a unit for determining the size of scalar intervals. Melodic modes, namely schemes encompassing individual scales, notes of emphasis, and usually general modalities of execution, serve as foundations for precomposition and improvisation in many traditions in the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. In the case of the Arab maqdm and Turkish makam modal systems, a musician, for example when performing an instrumental improvisation (taqsim in Arab music and taksim in Turkish music) may shift between modes in the middle of a performance. In the case of the Iranian dastgah, the performance (for example, an improvisatory dvdz) may pass through gushes, namely inner, or subsidiary, modes that are intrinsic to each of the twelve dastgahs and are part of the entire radif, or recognized modal repertoire. With some exceptions, modal improvisations in various Islamic traditions are nonmetric, in other words, not bound by regular-beat structures.
The rhythmic component is usually organized in terms of patterns, or modes. A rhythmic mode, or meter, incorporates a specific number of beats and rests. As illustrated by regional variants, such as the mizdn in the Andalusian, or Moorish derived, music of Morroco, the Arab iqa`, and the Turkish usul, rhythmic patterns are traditionally played on percussion instruments and serve as building frameworks for metric compositions, such as the Ottoman classical instrumental pesrev and the vocal beste. Meanwhile, compound, or “suitelike,” forms are very common. As illustrated by the North African Andalusian nawbah, the Turkish fasil, and the Iraqi maqam, such forms traditionally consist of individual sections that share the same melodic mode but differ in such areas as rhythm and structure.
Musical instruments similarly reflect patterns of consistency and variety. Numerous types of reed flutes, double reeds (oboes), fiddles, plucked lutes, cylindrical and frame drums can be found throughout the Islamic world. At the same time, the `ud (lute), qanun (zither), and ndy (flute) are typical of urban centers, particularly in Arab countries and Turkey. In Ottoman classical music, we encounter such instruments as the tanbur (longnecked fretted lute) and kemence (upright fiddle). Typical of the Iranian classical ensemble, however, are the santur (hammer-dulcimer), the tdr and the setar (both long-necked lutes), the kamanchah (upright spikefiddle), the ney (reed flute), and the dumbak (hand drum). Further variety is represented by such instruments as the Afghani rubab, a plucked lute which, like the North Indian sarod, has sympathetic, or unplucked resonating, strings and a face partially covered with skin. Meanwhile, a relatively recent acquisition, namely the Western violin, is fully adapted to local idioms and is prevalent throughout the urban Islamic world.
During the last two centuries increased contact with the West generated new interest in music as a “fine art” and led to the gradual assimilation of Western musical concepts and techniques. In Egypt, following the Napoleonic conquest (1798-1801), Muhammad `Ali (r. 18051848), founder of the Khedive dynasty, established military schools in which Europeans taught military-band instruments according to Western methods of instruction. Later on, Khedive Isma’il (r. 1863-1879), who sponsored Egyptian local celebrities such as `Abduh alHamuli (1843-1901), built the Cairo Opera House and invited foreign ensembles to Cairo, where Verdi’s Rigoletto was presented in 1869, followed by Aida in 1871. In Turkey, Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808-1839) abolished the Janissary army, and by extension the mehter, or the indigenous military-band tradition, and brought in Western composers to teach Western military-band instruments in Turkish military schools. Such efforts to assimilate European cultural and artistic models continued throughout the nineteenth century. Comparable importations of Western culture occurred in Persia, where the French Alfred J. B. Lemaire (1842-1902) established a musical institution for teaching Western military-band instruments. By the turn of the century, a number of influential Middle Eastern composers, theorists, and music educators were already well versed in European music theory, notation, and conservatorybased pedagogical methods.
The twentieth century witnessed further and more extensive musical developments. Governments in various parts of the Islamic world continued the process of modernization and europeanization, an example being the systematic efforts of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), the first president of the Turkish republic, to outlaw Sufi orders, to ban Ottoman classical music, and to encourage folk and Western-derived musical forms. Meanwhile, the modern mass media made a tremendous impact upon the various musical traditions. In the first decade of the century, sound recording led to a growing mass audience in Cairo, Istanbul, and other Middle Eastern cities, and to the rise of new popular musical forms. Also the popularity of the musical theater in early twentieth-century Egypt and the musical film, first appearing in Cairo in 1932, led to the development of new musical expressions, for example the short eclectic film-songs of Muhammad `Abd al-Wahhab (c. 1901-1991). Later, the expanding domain of radio in the mid1930s, the rise of L.P., and, even later, cassette recording, enhanced the broad dissemination of music, for example, recordings of live concerts by Egypt’s recording celebrities such as Umm Kulthum (c. 19041975). In later decades studio recording contributed further to the creation of new styles, sonorities, and orchestral blends. Moreover, in large cities such as Istanbul, Damascus, and Cairo, older compositions are sometimes performed by large modern ensembles with mixed choruses and large accompanying orchestras. Also, Western-trained composers have created symphonic works in which indigenous folk themes are incorporated. Meanwhile, the last few decades have witnessed a significant degree of musical interaction among the various cultures of the Islamic world. For example, Cairo’s urban musical model, with its lush orchestration, multilayered unison and octave texture, and characteristic intonation, has been emulated in various urban traditions in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the East Mediterranean world. Furthermore, Cairo’s influence is distinctly apparent in the arabesk, Turkey’s newly developed and extremely popular urban genre. Other categories, however, use Western, particularly electronic, instruments and musical techniques somewhat prominently, for example the Algerian rat, whose appeal has extended to musical audiences in Europe and North America.
[See also Devotional Music.]
Farhat, Hormoz. The Dastgah Concept in Persian Music. Cambridge, 1990. Thorough and systematic explanation of the twelve Iranian melodic modes on the basis of current theory and performance practice.
Farmer, Henry George. A History of Arabian Music to the XIIIth Century. London, 1929; reprint, 1973. Classic historical work on the music of medieval Islam by a major and highly prolific writer on the subject.
Farmer, Henry George. “The Music of Islam.” In The New Oxford History of Music, edited by Egon Wellesz, vol. I, pp. 421-477. London, 1957. Detailed coverage of both music theory and practice in medieval Islam.
Nelson, Kristina. The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. Austin, 1985. Picneering and well-documented study of Qur’anic chanting based on fieldwork in Egypt.
Nettl, Bruno. The Radif of Persian Music: Studies of Structure and Cultural Context. Champaign, Ill., 1987. The most detailed and encompassing work on Persian music and musical culture by a wellknown ethnomusicologist and expert in the area.
Racy, Ali Jihad. “Music in Contemporary Cairo: A Comparative Overview.” Asian Music 13 (1981): 4-26. Penetrating analysis of music and musical attitudes in modern Cairo, with special reference to other Middle Eastern cities.
Racy, Ali Jihad. “Creativity and Ambience: an Ecstatic Feedback Model from Arab Music.” The World of Music 33 (1991): 7-28. First-hand study of how traditional Arab musicians perform, with specific reference to improvisation, creativity, and the ecstatic state experienced by performers and initiated listeners.
Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York, 198o. Authoritative and extensive multivolume reference work. Includes entries, often several pages long, on the music of various Middle Eastern countries, ethnic groups, instruments, and genres written by different musical experts.
Signell, Karl. Makam: Modal Practice in Turkish Art Music. Seattle, 1977. Rare, in-depth discussion in English of the modal music theory of Turkey.

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/music/

  • writerPosted On: September 29, 2014
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