Language Issue
Symmetry and Closeness of Arab and Western Musical Practices
Symmetry and Closeness of Arab and Western Musical Practices
Issue 49

Aziz Al Wartani - Tunisia

We cannot arrive at conclusions when discussing the relationship between Arab and Western music without referring to historical evidence and resources. The basic principle of this relationship originated the duality of the East and the West. 

Nature imposes this duality with the orientation towards the sunrise and sunset and with the use of the right and left hands to define two directions that are perpendicular to the axis between East and West. Many researchers look at this duality from the point of geographical affiliation that determines cultural identity.

When examining the relationship of Arabs with the West in the music field, the most important step to start with is to look at the first signs of cultural exchange between the two sides.

Perhaps the most prominent meeting point recorded by the history of art between the East and West is Andalusia, the centre of the transmission of Arab-Islamic civilization to Europe, including Arab music; where Arab civilization flourished for eight centuries and Arab art found its fertile ground for openness and creativity.

The cultural communication in the musical discourse across the various historical eras was not unilaterally from Arabs towards adopting Western models or adjusting the Western models into the Arab musical practice.

If we refer to the era of the Arab-Islamic conquests, we find that the most prominent phenomenon of interaction in history (perhaps to this day) is the musical renaissance carried by Ziryab from Abbasid Baghdad to Andalusia, and spread in Europe. That renaissance turned into a historical base from which serious Western research was launched in the beginnings of the European renaissance of classical music, through which the art of composing music and singing developed.