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Palestinian Arab Music

A Maqam Tradition in Practice

This long-awaited project presents the results of a major research effort to determine the parameters of the stylistic variability of Arab folk music in Israel. Central to this old and highly improvised musical tradition is a unique modal framework that combines the concept of maqam—the foundation of Arab music theory—with other characteristics, including those of the text. Palestinian Arab Music is a comprehensive analysis of this music as actually practiced, examining both musical and nonmusical factors, their connection with the traits of individual performers, and their interaction with sociocultural phenomena.

Working initially with their own 1957 invention, the Cohen-Katz Melograph, and later with computers, Dalia Cohen and Ruth Katz recorded and digitized several hundred Palestinian music performances. The authors analyzed the musical tradition in light of its main variables. These include musical parameters, modal frameworks, the form and structure of the music, its poetic texts, and aspects of the social functions of the tradition. As a result of their study, the vexed aspect of intonation in practice is revealed to exist in a special relationship with the scale systems or maqamat, which are in turn of great importance to organizing the music and determining its modal systems.

416 pages | 1 map, 107 figures, 10 tables, 1 compact disc, 60 musical examples | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Middle Eastern Studies

Music: Ethnomusicology


"Palestinian Arab Music is a milestone in scholarship.  With great sophistication Dalia Cohen and Ruth Katz apply modern technological tools to decipher, measure, and describe musical Palestinian performances, and thereby address issues of aesthetics, of individual creativity and traditional conventions, regional differentiation, and contextual factors in the production of music. Their quantification of qualitative musical values avoids the mechanic analysis and insightfully describes Arab singing as a multi-dimensional cultural performance. The application of their method to musical performances in other cultures and other regions will open up new horizons in the study of folklore and traditional music."

Dan Ben-Amos | Dan Ben-Amos

"It is delightful to see the results of the authors’ decades-long study of Palestinian Arab music. Working on their systematic collection of songs recorded in the 1960s and using a variety of analytic tools, Dalia Cohen and Ruth Katz here provide a remarkable example of methodological and analytic sophistication that will delight those interested in the analysis of sounds and in ethnomusicological methodology."

Anthony Seeger | Anthony Seeger

Table of Contents

1. The Research Topic, Problems, Objectives, and the Tradition Studied
1.1. On Studying the Practice of an Oral Tradition
1.2. The Group and Its Tradition
2. The Performing Group
2.1. Theoretical Considerations
2.2. Variables That Affect Performance
2.3. A Brief Biographical Sketch of a Creative Performer
3. Pitch and the Maqamat
3.1. Intonation
3.2. Collections of Notes
3.3. The Functions of Important Notes
3.4. Melodic Intervals
3.5. Range
3.6. Motives
3.7. The Phrase Unit
3.8. Summary: A Comparison of the Maqamat by Pitch Factors
4. Rhythm and Structure
4.1. Duration
4.2. Density Tempo
4.3. Beat and Tempo
4.4. Meter
4.5. Form
4.6. Summary
5. Melisma and Style
5.1. On the Nature of Melismata
5.2. Studying Melismata: Methods, Examples, and Findings
5.3. Summary
6. The Text
6.1. General Characteristics of the Texts Examined
6.2. The Main Structural Components of the Text: Poetic Meter and Rhyme
6.3. Summary
7. Musicpoetic Frames
7.1. Theoretical Background
7.2. Findings
7.3. Summary
8. The Performer’s Role in Shaping the Performance
8.1. The Effect of Types of Performers on Some Significant Musical Components
8.2. The Boundaries of Creativity in Folk Tradition: The Individual Performer
The Musical Components
The Framework of the Maqamat
The Connection with Extramusical Factors
The Methodological Model
Appendix 1. A Selection of Twenty-Eight Songs Representing the Repertoire
The Selection of Songs and Manner of Presentation
On the Transcription of the Music and Texts
Songs on the Compact Disc
Melographic Output for Songs 1, 4, and 10
Analysis of the Texts of Songs 2 and 13
Appendix 2. The Structure of the Traditional Village Wedding
Appendix 3. Research Questionnaires
Appendix 4. Poetic Structure as a Kind of Musical Regularity: A Comparison of Arabic Poetic Traditions, the Oral Palestinian, and the Written Medieval Spanish

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