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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.


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.