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The Middle East in Music History: An Ethnomusicological Perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Music Road: Coherence and Diversity in Music from the Mediterranean to India
PublisherOxford Univerity Press; Oxford
Chapter2
Pages21-38
VolumeProceedings of the British Academy 223
ISBN (Print)9780197266564
DOIs
Published29 Aug 2019

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Abstract

A glance at the ethnomusicology of the Muslim-majority Middle East might suggest it is peculiarly exposed to historiographical problems now familiar thanks to decades of orientalism critique. Namely, that music is understood in this part of the world via a peculiarly objectivising colonial ethnography, that it is understood in ways that deny its historical circumstances, and that it is subject to a relentless aestheticisation, which is to say, treated in analogous way to the Islamic art objects and miniatures ripped out of context and put on display in the museums of the western metropolis. The history of ethnomusicology suggests a long line of exceptions to this ‘rule’. The chapter explores the work of Villoteau, Lachmann and more recent work in and around sound archives asking to what extent we might see this work prefiguring recognisably modern and critical dispositions towards ethnography.

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