Fall 2019

Music in the Modern Middle East

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-107

Moodle site: Course


Bradford J. Garvey (Section 01)


Middle Eastern music forms stretch from Morocco to Xinjiang, China and boast a bewildering variety and yet retain distinct continuities in musical structure and performance practice. Music, however, is a contentious issue, or so we are told. Images of Muslims smashing instruments, destroying cassette tapes and radios, and looting music shops circulate continuously on social and news media, purporting to be evidence of the intractability of music and Islam. How should we approach such an apparent paradox? This course approaches questions like this from an ethnomusicological perspective, blending methods and insights from the social sciences and the humanities. We will take a broad view of the modern Middle East, investigating a variety of genres ranging from the most elite court traditions of Persia to bawdy electronic dance music thundering in the open streets of Cairo. Throughout the semester, students will learn to hear and analyze various melodic, organizational, and rhythmic structures, such as maqām and usül, that are unique to the region’s musics. We will explore these features within actual performance practice and place them in historical and social context. Our meetings will include a mixture of lecture, discussion, music performance, and demonstration, while course work will range from listening exercises to short research papers. Two meetings per week.

Fall Semester. Visiting Valentine Professor Garvey.


Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2019-20: Offered in Fall 2019