Ḥāwī l-Funūn wa-Salwat al-Maḥzūn, Encompasser of the Arts and Consoler of the Grief-Stricken by Ibn al-Ṭaḥḥān

Annotated Translation and Commentary


Ḥāwī l-Funūn (Encompasser of the Arts) of Ibn al-Ṭaḥḥān (d. ca. 1057) is a medieval Arabic music dictionary that complements other sources because of the practical knowledge of the author who was an accomplished singer, lutenist and composer.

The first part in 80 chapters deals with compositions; voice production and characteristics, unison and duet singing, taking care of the voice; preludes, ornaments, ṭarab; the importance of tonality; approaches to teaching; musical and extra-musical behavior at the court; names of Syrian Fatimid and Ishshīdid singers.

The second part in 22 chapters includes lute manufacturing, frets placement, stringing and tuning; 47 rhythmic ornaments, names and definitions of rhythmic and melodic modes; types of dances; descriptions of 12 instruments.

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George Dimitri Sawa, Ph.D. (1983, University of Toronto) is an independent researcher concentrating on medieval Arabic music theory and literature. He was trained in Egypt in qanun and classical Arabic music, and in Toronto in Arabic historical musicology. He taught medieval, modern and sacred music at the University of Toronto and York University. He has published over 50 articles in encyclopaedias and academic journals, and is the author of six books: Music Performance Practice in the Early ʿAbbāsid Era and Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 950 CE (Institute of Medieval Music, 2009, 2020); Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers (Toronto, 2010); Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia (McFarland, 2016); An Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of Kitāb al-Aghānī and Musical and Socio-Cultural Anecdotes from Kitāb al-Aghānī l-Kabīr (Brill, 2015, 2019).

Part 1: The Theoretical Arts
Chapter 1: The Preference of Speech over Muteness
Chapter 2: The Gems of Philosophers’ Aphorisms
Chapter 3: On the Sophistication of Melodies
Chapter 4: The Meanings of Melodies
Chapter 5: Composing Melodies That Suit the Poems
Chapter 6: The Definition of Singing and Its Components
Chapter 7: The Definition of the Voice and Its Production
Chapter 8: Poetic and Musical Divisions
Chapter 9: The Origin of Arabic Singing
Chapter 10: Favoring Older Poetry over the Modern
Chapter 11: Favoring Older Singing over the Modern
Chapter 12: The Character, Effects, and Types of Melodies
Chapter 13: The Names of the First Male Singers in the Jāhiliyya
Chapter 14: The Names of the First Songstresses in the Jāhiliyya
Chapter 15: The Names of the First Male Singers in Early Islam
Chapter 16: The Names of the First Songstresses in Early Islam in addition to the Ones I Have Already Mentioned
Chapter 17: The Names of the Effeminates in Early Islam
Chapter 18: The First to Notate Songs
Chapter 19: The Grand, Medium, and Smaller Compositions
Chapter 20: Ṭarab and Its Causes
Chapter 21: The Tonalities in Singing, Their Arrangements and Types
Chapter 22: Vowels and Consonants
Chapter 23: Testing the Essences of the Voices
Chapter 24: Tricks Used to Bring Throats in Tune with the Strings
Chapter 25: The Names of Voices (ḥalq), Their Good and Bad Qualities
Chapter 26: Beautiful (mulaḥ) Vocal Music, Techniques, and Qualities
Chapter 27: Tricks Used in Stealing Songs and Precautions to Prevent This
Chapter 28: Food and Drinks That Are Beneficial to the Throats and Those That Are Not
Chapter 29: Locations That Are Beneficial for Voices and Improve Them, and Those That Diminish and Spoil Them
Chapter 30: The Ranks of Boon Companions and Singers
Chapter 31: Instruments That Overwhelm the Voices and Other Factors
Chapter 32: The Care of Throats in General, and before and after Puberty
Chapter 33: On Knowing the Reasons Musicians Get Off Rhythm
Chapter 34: Approaches to Teaching and How to Apply Them
Chapter 35: The Reasons for Poor Intonation and Its Characteristics
Chapter 36: Planning and Determining Where and How Much to Breathe
Chapter 37: Murāsala, mubāyana, and mumāthala
Chapter 38: Syncopation and Guidance to It
Chapter 39: Twittering and Its Derivation
Chapter 40: The Definition of tarkhīm
Chapter 41: Tarjīʿ and Its Characteristics
Chapter 42: Nashīds and Their Types
Chapter 43: What Stimulates the Singer To Be Active and What Makes Him Sluggish
Chapter 44: Opening Songs in the Company of Kings
Chapter 45: How to Arrange and Order the Songs in the majālis
Chapter 46: Good Qualities [to Have] While Singing
Chapter 47: Good and Bad Song Themes
Chapter 48: Who Are Better: The Singers of Persia, India, or Byzantium
Chapter 49: Mention of the Male Singers in the Umayyad Era
Chapter 50: Mention of the Songstresses in the Umayyad Era
Chapter 51: Mention of the Male Singers in the ʿAbbāsid Era
Chapter 52: Mention of the Songstresses in the ʿAbbāsid Era
Chapter 53: Mention of the Slave Singers and Songstresses in the ʿAbbāsid Era
Chapter 54: Mention of the Male Singers and Songstresses in the Ikhshīdid Era in Egypt
Chapter 55: Mention of the Male Singers in the ʿAlawid Era in Egypt
Chapter 56: Mention of the Songstresses in the ʿAlawid Era in Egypt
Chapter 57: Mention of the Male Slave Singers in the ʿAlawid Era in Egypt
Chapter 58: Mention of the Male Syrian Singers
Chapter 59: Mention of the Syrian Songstresses
Chapter 60: Mention of the Umayyad Caliphs Who Sang
Chapter 61: Mention of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphs Who Sang
Chapter 62: Mention of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphs’ Sons Who Sang
Chapter 63: Mention of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphs’ Daughters Who Sang
Chapter 64: Mention of the Viziers, Princes, and Their Sons Who Sang
Chapter 65: Mention of the Male and Female ṭunbūr Players
Chapter 66: On the Proper Behavior to Praise Men and Women When They Reach a State of ṭArab
Chapter 67: Mention of the One Hundred Chosen Songs
Chapter 68: The Permissibility of Singing
Chapter 69: The Qualities of a Skilled Singer
Chapter 70: Tools to Use to Test the Person Who Pretends to Know the Science of Music
Chapter 71: Bad Intonation among Men and Women
Chapter 72: Higher and Lower Octaves
Chapter 73: How to Choose Would-Be Singers [Girls and Boys] in Order to Teach Them Singing
Chapter 74: Behavior before Kings and Their Subjects
Chapter 75: Sayings and Poems of Praise about Male Singers and Songstresses in the Past
Chapter 76: Satirical Poems about Male Singers and Songstresses in Earlier Times
Chapter 77: Poems of Praise about Male Singers in Our Era
Chapter 78: Satirical Poems about Male Singers [and Songstresses] in Our Era
Chapter 79: The Compositional Output of Male Singers in Earlier Times
Chapter 80: Stories about Male Singers in Earlier Times and Their Pedigree

Part 2: The Practical Arts
Chapter 1: The Meaning of the Word Music
Chapter 2: The Inventor of the Lute and Differing Views about It
Chapter 3: The Dimensions of the Lute, Its Material, Construction, and Names of Its Various Parts
Chapter 4: The Frets, Their Names, Placements, Tying Them on the Finger Board, and Their Functions
Chapter 5: The Strings, Their Characters, Names, Choosing Them, and Stringing Them on the Lute
Chapter 6: The Names of Rhythmic Modes (ṭarīqa), Their Types (jins), Their Cycles, and Number of Attacks
Chapter 7: The State of the Notes, Their Qualities, Quantities, Numbers, and Placements on the Strings of the Lute
Chapter 8: The Genuses of Notes Used at the Beginning of a Piece, and Types of Movements through the Frets
Chapter 9: The Rhythmic Modes in Use, [and the Player’s] Motions and Required Matters
Chapter 10: The Best Person to Have Played the Persian Lute, and the Number of Persian Modes
Chapter 11: The Best Person to Have Played the Arabic Lute and to Have Sung Arabic Songs Accompanying Himself
Chapter 12: The Description of the Lute, Its Praise, Preferring It to All Other Instruments That Accompany Singing, What It Resembles, and Poems Composed about It
Chapter 13: The Reason for Setting the zīr String at the Bottom, and the bamm at the Top
Chapter 14: Tuning and Detuning the Strings
Chapter 15: The Beautiful Techniques (mulaḥ) That Affect the Rhythms and Rhythmic Modes, Their Numbers and Types
Chapter 16: On Dance, Its Types and Names [Ibn al-Ṭaḥḥān’s Passage Quoted by al-Tīfāshī]
Chapter 17: [On the] Disagreement between [Isḥāq b.] Ibrāhīm al-Mawṣilī and Ibrāhīm b. al-Mahdī about the Rhythmic Modes
Chapter 18: The Definitions of al-surayjī, al-mākhūrī, al-mujannab, and al-mukhālif
Chapter 19: The Definitions of al-khusruwānī, al-ṭarkhānī, al-ḥumayrī, and khafīf hazaj
Chapter 20: On Choosing the Proper Instrument to Fit Various Throats
Chapter 21: Mention of the ṭunbūr, miʿzafa, rabāb, mizmār, ṭabl, urghun, qīthāra, sulyāq, duff, ṣalīkh, and kankala
Chapter 22: On Which Particular Genuses of Modes Should be Used in Which Types of Melodies; Modes Used Plainly (sādhij) without Mixing (tamzīj) and without Moving [from One to Another] are Unpleasant and Do Not Cause ṭarab
Appendix: Ibn Khurdādhbih’s Passage Quoted by al-Tīfāshī. The Number of Types of Dances, Nations, and Regions That Created Them

Arabic-English Glossary
Index of People and Places
Index of Terms and Subjects
All interested in medieval Arabic music theory and practice, literature, compositions, musical forms, music education, vocal music, instruments, modal system, dance, lexicography, (institutes, academic libraries, students, graduate and post-graduate students).
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