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Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the Musical Life of Medieval Iberia

When Nov 01, 2016
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies, Room 8-9
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Medieval Muslim Spain (al-Andalus in Arabic) bequeathed to the world remarkable achievements in architecture, agriculture, gardening, literature, philosophy, poetry, and the sciences.  Arguably the most enduring aspect of this period of intellectual activity, however, lies in its musical heritage.  New song forms appeared in Arabic (the muwashshah and the zajal) that had a direct influence on the entire Arabic-speaking world as well as on the Hebrew literary tradition, and while the exact extent of its impact in the north of Iberia and beyond to Europe is still being debated, these musical traditions clearly helped reshape the medieval musical world.  More remarkable is that the descendents of these medieval musical innovations are still performed today in Arabic-speaking Jewish and Muslim communities in the Middle East and beyond. 

What roles did musicians of the three religious communities of medieval Iberia play in the formation of what has come to be called “Andalusian Music”?  What types of musical and cultural exchanges took place as singers and performers moved back and forth across the Mediterranean, north and south in the Iberian Peninsula, and came into direct and indirect contact with musicians from all over Europe?  This lecture examines these questions by drawing on sources in Arabic, Latin, Castilian, and Old Catalan, a number of which have yet to be edited and published, in order to create a more detailed and accurate portrait of musical life in medieval Iberia. 


Dwight F. Reynolds is professor of Arabic language & literature in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He is the author of Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition (1995) and Arab Folklore: A Handbook (2007); co-author and editor of Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001) and The Cambridge Companion to Modern Arab Culture (2015);  co-editor of The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 6: The Middle East (2002), as well as the author of nearly two dozen articles on various aspect of Andalusian music based on fieldwork conducted in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, France, and Spain over the past twenty years.