Middle Ages Arab Scholars Impact on Modern Music
Arab scholars in the middle ages have greatly contributed to the development of modern music. Their interest in music was crystal clear as from early periods through their translations of the Greek melodies, musical notes and scales and their attempt to develop them.
They translated the works of Aristotle and Ptolemy and benefited from them in making new musical studies and research.
As from the 9th century, the science of music became an important subject of the quadrivium courses which were prevalent at the time. Among the most prominent Arab musicians who lived during this century was Al- Kindi who was a philosopher also, but he was famed for his musical research. He wrote seven treatises on musical notes and scales, three of them are believed to have been in Berlin.
Al- Kindi’s accomplishments were completed by al- Farabi, who lived almost a century after the former. His great knowledge in mathematics and physics enabled him to discover thorough musical principles and correct the Greek mistakes concerning the physical bases of the sound. Such discoveries enabled him to offer a valuable contribution to physiological acoustics such as the sensations of tones.
In his writing, al- Farabi described a musical instrument called al- Tanboor. He also described the scale of al-Tanboor al- Khurasani which was dealt with by al- Kindi. Historians say that this scale became later the basis upon which several musical trends were put. The Arab influence on modern world music is manifest through the origin of the words lute, rebec and guitar.
These words were derived from the Arabic terms: Al-oud, rababa and qithara respectively. Other words include adufe from the Arabic al- duff and albogon from al-booq. The tabla (drum) is still used until the present time. It is played either loose on either legs or over the left shoulder. Beaten by the two hands, it produces different thrilling sounds.
The qithara is an interesting instrument that constituted the base for guitar in Europe. Historians say that the instrument was transferred first to Andalusia from which the Spaniards made guitarra.
Among the Arabic musical instruments is the Arabian qanoon, which became later the European canon. However, four theories were put forward about this instrument; the first says it is originally Greek, whereas the second suggests that it has originated in ancient Egypt. A third opinion is that it was invented by ancient Assyrians, while the fourth theory says that the instrument is originally Indian. But music researchers said that the oldest recorded usage of the word as an important musical instrument was during the Abbasid period (12th to early 13th century)