The Middle East: Another Way of Thinking
Andrew Killick [+]
University of Sheffield
The root of the “music tree” that extends from America to Europe does not end there, for the European tradition itself was to a great extent a product of influences from elsewhere. This is demonstrated initially through the history of musical instruments, many of which can be traced to origins in the Islamic cultures of the Middle East. Even the instruments of the drum kit are traced back, via American and European marching bands and the exoticist “Turkish marches” of European classical composers, to ancestors in the military bands of the Ottoman Empire. Once more, having introduced the region through its contribution to music that is widely known around the world, we try to understand the musical culture on its own terms. The rather uneasy relationship between music and Islamic teachings provides a key to the diversity of musical practices in the region and their varying status and prestige. It also provides an example of a different “way of thinking” from European assumptions about music, including the positive connotations of the word “music” itself (as in “music to my ears”). Middle Eastern music also illustrates a different way of organizing both pitch and rhythm from anything we have encountered so far, and our vocabulary for talking about musical features is expanded by looking at Middle Eastern melodic and rhythmic “modes” and the use of “quarter-tones” that lie between the notes of the piano keyboard.