Robert Lachmann’s letters to Henry George Farmer, from the years 1923-38, provide insightful glimpses into his life and his progressive research projects. From an historical perspective, they offer critical data concerning the development of comparative musicology as it evolved in Germany during the early decades of the twentieth century. The fact that Lachmann sought contact with Farmer can be explained from their mutual, yet diverse interests in Arab music, particularly as they were then considered to be the foremost European scholars in the field. During the 1932 Cairo International Congress on Arab Music, they were selected as presidents of their respective committees.
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’s Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural Glossary of
Kitāb al-Aghānī is the first comprehensive lexicographical study of Umayyad and early Abbāsid-era music theory and practices. It defines melodic and rhythmic modes, musical forms, instruments, technical terms and metaphors used in evaluating compositions and performances, and the emotional effects of ṭarab. It explains the processes of composition and learning, performance practice, musical change and aesthetics, and addresses the behavior of court musicians to help understand societal views of music. Medieval dictionaries, reference works on Arabic literature, theoretical treatises as well as full quotations from the
Aghānī are used. This glossary will be of interest to scholars and students of the music and socio-cultural history of the early Islamic era.
Henry George Farmer (1882-1965) was a pioneering musicologist who specialized in Arab music. In 1932, he participated in the First International Congress of Arab Music in Cairo, during which he maintained a journal recording his daily activities, interactions with fellow delegates and dignitaries, and varied perambulations throughout the city. This journal, and the detailed minutes he kept for his chaired Commission on History and Manuscripts, were never published. They reveal aspects and inner-workings of the Congress that have hitherto remained unknown. The illustrations and photos contained therein, as well as additional photos that were never seen, provide visual documentation of the Congress’s participants and musical ensembles.