Author Topic: Welcome aboard lionheart  (Read 795 times)

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Welcome aboard lionheart
« on: July 27, 2015, 03:20:31 PM »
Welcome lionheart
Please tell us more about yourself in this post.

Enjoy our forum... ;)

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Re: Welcome aboard lionheart
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2015, 02:07:37 AM »
Thank you, and greetings!

I come to this discussion forum entirely ignorant of Arabic music. In my field - which is primarily concerned with Western composers and their compositions - it is not unusual from time to time to find composers of the last two centuries who have approximated (or, in one distinct case, even invented entirely) a version of Arabic music. Probably the earliest of these was the French composer Felicien David, whose "ode-symphonie" "Le Desert" was premiered in Paris in 1844. He had spent a few years in the previous decade in Egypt, and he might just represent the first serious attempt by a European composer to actually capture Arabic music - it is in the brief section of the piece called "Chant du Muezzin".

After this came a lull; my old teacher insisted that Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" (1888), in the section called "The Festival of Baghdad", had truly captured the flavor or even the essence of regional music of the "East". But today i don't think there are any experts who would agree. A third composer, working in the first decades of the 20th century, was the Polish master Karol Szymanowski, who like David had spent some time in North Africa. While his music is fascinating, kaleidoscopic, and utterly unique, musicologists consider his version of North African music to be a complete invention: the prayer that opens "Songs of an Infatuated Muezzin" (1918) cannot truly be said to represent the call of a muezzin, yet sophisticated audiences in the West continue to accept it without question as reflective of true music of the region in North Africa Szymanowski travelled to earlier in the century. He had some vague memories of the music of the region, and after a few years, he fused together those recollections with French impressionism; the result was the lush tapestry of sound we call second-period Szymanowski, but no musicologist would ever call truly Arabic (it is beautiful enough that I will provide a link to it, below, however!).

There are other sparse samples of so-called "Arabic" music as well sprinkled throughout European music of the 19th and early 20th century, such as the very young Richard Strauss's "Arabisches Tanz" for piano, violin, and cello. It's difficult to say for sure, as again i have zero knowledge and cannot assess accurately, but i suspect this to be a hackneyed counterfeit of actual Arabic music as well.

I mention these examples because these masters, and their respective "takes" on Arabic music, were the only examples of "Arabic" music I had to go on, for many years - from my childhood until my early adulthood, I accepted without question these works as works resulting from true investigation by the composers in question. Now of course I recognize that this is generally not so. They were not exactly caricaturing - after all, the whole world loves "Scheherazade", for instance! - but they were not informed about their sources - if in fact they even had any at all. As a composer myself, I am particularly anxious to avoid their errors, of course, but far above this, I have an inexhaustible drive to get to know music - any music - that is of high quality and stems from a long tradition.

The major lack in Western tradition - this absolute lack of true reflection (with the possible exception of Felicien David back in 1844) on such a rich fabric as Arabic music - has without a doubt been to the detriment of Western music. Coming as i do from this perspective - that is, a perspective of immersion in the West's traditions only, with a painful awareness of my lack of knowledge - I have found myself very curious on two immediate fronts: perhaps someone here can steer me in the right direction.

I have some questions concerning instrumentation and notation: those I intend to ask later. It seems to me that those questions, particularly those concerning the more technical aspect of notation, may be in part answered by an prior awareness of historicity.

So - and thanks in advance for answering this, if you do - first I wonder, which composers, or even styles or types, are there, in earlier centuries of development, that I might do well to familiarize myself with, and is there any sort of generally-acknowledged timeline of development, such as we find in musical development of the West?

Secondly, of course, which composers in our modern day and age represent Arabic music most thoroughly and with the most mastery? I do not mean composers who use electronic means to "sample" or "filter" a source of material, but composers who are by and large working with traditional instruments.

In other words - here I stand at the gate, with multiple paths leading every which way. Where should I start?

I hope this post has been neither too long nor too much of an imposition!

Best regards -
Oh, and Szymanowski's music can be heard here:

..while the young, young Richard Strauss's "Arabisches Tanz", composed in 1884 when he was twenty, can be heard here.


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Re: Welcome aboard lionheart
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2015, 08:20:51 AM »
You're welcome! :)