Musical and Socio-Cultural anecdotes from kitab al-aghani l-kabir. Annotated Translations and commentaries.

Translated and Edited By George Dimitri Sawa

It consists of translated anecdotes on musicological and socio-cultural topics from al-Isfahani’s Kitab al-Aghani l-Kabir (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; tarab 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, medievalists and Middle Eastern scholars as well as the general reader.

Arabic Musical and Socio-Cultural
Glossary of Kitab al-Aghani

By George Dimitri Sawa

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.

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Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia

Translated and Edited By George Dimitri Sawa

The Book of Songs of al-Isfahani (CE 897-971) is the most extensive collection of anecdotes from pre-Islamic Mecca, Medina, Damascus and Baghdad to the beginning of the tenth century. Entertaining and informative, these gems have remained largely inaccessible to Western readers. This translation presents a collection of love stories and poems, biting satires, daring erotic encounters, descriptions of feminine beauty, bathroom humor and hilariously detailed descriptions of genitalia, sex toys and sex positions, along with stories praising and criticizing both homosexuality and heterosexuality -- topics that set the tone for the Arabian Nights centuries later


Rhythmic Theories and Practices in Arabic Writings to 339 AH/950CE

It is an annotated English translation of, and commentaries on, Arabic writings on rhythms from the early Islamic era to the middle of the tenth century. These writings, which reflect rhythmic practices in Mecca, Medina, and the Umayyad and Abbasid courts, exist in many forms: fragments from the eighth and ninth centuries quoted in later sources; anecdotes or speeches about rhythms in works of belles-lettres and music literature; chapters on rhythms in music theory treatises; and treatises specifically devoted to the study of rhythmic theories. The medieval authors are: Ishaq al-Mawsili; al-Isfahani; Mansur ibn Talha; Ibn Khurdadhba; al-Bataliawsi; al-Kindi’s Epistle on the Knowledge Concerning the Composition of Melodies, Epistle on Informative Sections on Music, Book of Stringed Instruments’ al-Farabi’s Grand Book of Music, Book of Rhythms, Book for the Basic Comprehension of Rhythms. Because the study of Arabic rhythms is indebted to ancient Greek treatises, the works of Aristotle and Aristoxenus will also be used. The book also has a Greek-Arabic-English glossaries.

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Music Performance Practice in the Early 'Abbasid Era 132-320 AH / 750-932 AD

A historical study in ethnomusicology based on primary sources, it deals with the musicological and anthropological aspects of the music performed by court musicians in the palaces of Baghdad around the time of Harun al-Rashid and his successors. The primary sources are al-Farabi’s Grand Book of Music, Book of Rhythms, and Book for the Basic Comprehension of Rhythms; al-Isfahani’s Book of Songs. The musicological aspects include rhythms in their basic and ornamented forms, and melodic modes and melodic ornaments, nature of preludes, interludes, postludes, instruments and instrumental accompaniments. The anthropological aspects include performance events, context, textual, musical and extra-musical criteria for performance excellence, and effect of tarab on people.

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