The present volume consists of translated anecdotes, on musicological and socio-cultural topics, from al-Iṣbahānī’s Kitāb al-Aghānī al-Kabīr (The Grand Book of Songs) with annotations and commentaries. It deals with musical rhythmic and melodic modes, technical terms and treatises; music instruments; composition techniques and processes; education and oral/written transmissions; vocal and instrumental performances and their aesthetics; solo and ensemble music; change and its inevitability; musical and textual improvisations; ṭarab and the acute emotions of joy or grief; medieval dances; social status. Though extracts from The Grand Book of Songs have been translated in European languages since 1816, this work presents a much larger and more comprehensive scope that will benefit musicologists, medievalist and Middle Eastern scholars as well as the general reader.
George Dimitri Sawa is an independent scholar with a PhD in Music and Middle East Studies, from the University of Toronto. He taught Middle Eastern Music History: medieval, modern and sacred music,
at the University of Toronto (1987-1995) and York University (1982-1986, 1994, 2006-2007).
“Unquestionably, this is a volume covering a vast area: literature, history, biography, social comment, and of course information about music and its development. Sawa’s volume is a splendid work for the completion of which a combination of patience and erudition was obviously among its prerequisites, - the result being one of those tomes indispensable for students of Music, Ethnomusicology, and Sociology of Art.”
Stavros Nikolaidis in:Journal of Oriental and African Studies, Volume 29 (2020).
PrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbbreviationsEditorial Notes Introduction: Abū l-Faraj al-Iṣfahānī and His Book of Songs
1 TheoryThe Modes A The Eight Rhythmic Modes B The Eight Melodic Modes C The Three Passages on Rhythmic and Melodic Modes in the Book of Songs D Jins and Ṭarīqa E Rare Songs Containing Eight or Ten Notes F Early Singing: Ḥudāʾ, Naṣb, and Rukbān G Technical Terms H Theoretical Treatises, Anecdotes, Biographies, Song Collections, Authorship, Modes
2 Instruments A Aerophones: Mizmār, Nāy, and Surnāy B Idiophones: ʿAṣāt, Dawāt, Jaras, Juljul, Khashaba, Miqraʿa, Nāqūs, Qaḍīb, Qarbūs, Raḥl, Ṣaffāqa, Ṣanj C Membranophones: ʿArṭaba, Duff, Murabbaʿ, Ṭabl D Chordophones: Barbaṭ, Kankala, Miʿzafa, Mizhar, Ṣanj, Ṭunbūr, ʿūd E Storage and Workshop for Instrument Making F Improvised Instruments
3 Composition A The Use of Music to Embellish and Spread Poetry B The Origins of Arabic Music C Technique and Process of Composition D Dreams and Jinns as Sources for Compositions E Contrafacta F Style and the Imitation of Style G Composition: Talent Versus Intellect, Head Versus Heart H Specialization I Analysis J Authorship K Poems, Composers, and Modes L The Number of Lines of Poems Set to Music M Choosing and Altering the Order of the Verses and Mixing Poems N Names of Melodies O Output P Quality Versus Quantity Q Poems Conducive to Be Set to Music R The Best Composers and Compositions S Comparisons T Weak Compositions U Women’s Compositions and Softness V Folklore Songs: Sailors, Masons, and Water Carriers W Monopolies on Poems
4 Education and Transmission A General Education B Pedigree C Music Education D The Important Role of Women as Teachers, Transmitters, and Memorizers E Memory Loss F Learning and Repetitions, Slow Learners and Fast Learners G Problems of Difficulty and Transmission H Prevention of Transmission and Stinginess I Good and Bad Transmitters J Unconventional Transmissions K Miscellaneous
5 Performance A Singers and Songstresses B To Sing: Qāla, Qaraʾa, Ḥaddatha C Voice Production D Beautiful Voice E Powerful Voice F Poor Voices G Stratagem for Poor Voices H Excellence in Performance I Poor Performance and Weaknesses J Postures K Difficult Songs L Comparisons M The Limitations of Descriptions O Size of Repertoire P Lute Playing in the Persian Style Q Lute Virtuosity R Inheriting a Family Business S Performance Order T The Composition of the Majlis and Its Effect on Performance U Songs without Words
6 Solos, Accompaniment, and Ensemble Music A Murtajil: A Cappella B Instrumental Solos C Unaccompanied Duet Singing D Unison Ensemble Singing E Unison Ensemble Singing with Lute Accompaniment F A Soloist and Her Chorus G Hand Clapping, Castanets, and Dancing H Tambourines I Ṭabl J Lute K Ṭunbūr L Voice and Nāy M Murtajil and Irtijāl
7 Musical Stability and Change A On the Inevitability of Change B Change Is Permissible C Change Is Frowned Upon D Wine and Its Positive and Negative Effects on Singing E The Truth about the Singer Mālik Not Composing but Altering and Beautifying the Songs of Others F Change as a Tool to Embarrass an Enemy
8 Musical and Textual Improvisations
9 Ṭarab and the Effects of Singing on People and Animals A Preliminary Definitions B Physical Effects on People and Animals C Emotional Effects D Effects on the Imagination E Therapeutic Effects F Ṭarab and Effects of Music: Miscellaneous Topics
10 Dance A Zafn and Raqṣ B Early Arabic Music and Dance According to Ibn Khaldūn C Dastband and Īlāʾ D Kurraj E Raqṣ and the Completion of Musical Arts F The Required Qualities of Dancers According to the Oration of an Anonymous Singer/Boon Companion of the Caliph Al-Muʿtamid, as Reported in the Meadows of Gold of Al-Masʿūdī
11 Physiognomy, Attire, Character, Social Status, and Permissibility of Music A The Importance of a Beautiful Face, Body, and Attire B Character and Knowledge C Slaves, Freed Slaves, Mawlās, and Freeman D Is It a Sin to Sing? E It Is Not a Sin to Sing If the Singer Is Pious and Endowed with Good Character, or If the Songs Are Not Erotic F The Contradictory and Ambiguous Roles of Noblemen, Theologians, and Administrators Toward Music and Musicians G The Shame of Being an Instrumentalist H Words of Wisdom in Support of Music Arabic English GlossaryBibliographyIndex of People and PlacesIndex of Terms and SubjectsCharts
Scholars, students and general readers of medieval music and socio-cultural history of the early Islamic, Umayyad and Abbasid era.