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The Arab Avant-Garde
Music, Politics, Modernity
Thomas Burkhalter, ed.; Kay Dickinson, ed.; Benjamin J. Harbert, ed.


2013 • 296 pp. 19 music examples, 2 figs. 6 x 9"
Music / Arab Studies

$27.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7386-5
$21.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7387-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

This is a must-read book. Packed with high-minded critiques by renowned scholars, it launches a heated debate on the Arab modernism that has been depreciated by the deliberate... [continued in Reviews below]”—A.S. Jawad, Choice

The first in-depth study of diverse and radical innovation in Arab music

From jazz trumpeters drawing on the noises of warfare in Beirut to female heavy metallers in Alexandria, the Arab culture offers a wealth of exciting, challenging, and diverse musics. The essays in this collection investigate the plethora of compositional and improvisational techniques, performance styles, political motivations, professional trainings, and inter-continental collaborations that claim the mantle of “innovation” within Arab and Arab diaspora music. While most books on Middle Eastern music-making focus on notions of tradition and regionally specific genres, The Arab Avant Garde presents a radically hybrid and globally dialectic set of practices. Engaging the “avant-garde”—a term with Eurocentric resonances—this anthology disturbs that presumed exclusivity, drawing on and challenging a growing body of literature about alternative modernities.

Chapters delve into genres and modes as diverse as jazz, musical theatre, improvisation, hip hop, and heavy metal as performed in countries like Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the United States. Focusing on multiple ways in which the “Arab avant-garde” becomes manifest, this anthology brings together international writers with eclectic disciplinary trainings—practicing musicians, area studies specialists, ethnomusicologists, and scholars of popular culture and media. Contributors include Sami W. Asmar, Michael Khoury, Saed Muhssin, Marina Peterson, Kamran Rastegar, Caroline Rooney, and Shayna Silverstein, as well as the editors.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“This is a must-read book. Packed with high-minded critiques by renowned scholars, it launches a heated debate on the Arab modernism that has been depreciated by the deliberate imposition of Western models and Eurocentric visions. The critiques explore the colonial and postcolonial discourses on originality and experimentation and consider how the Arab avant-garde has behaved over years of struggle for self-determination and cultural identity. The transformation of modern Arab music into a contemporary space for experimentation, visions of cultural modernity, and spatialized practices is examined, and the volume as a whole concludes that Arab modernism has fundamentally defined itself through the expression of tonality beyond the typical Western scales. Moving smoothly between traditionalism and anti-traditionalism—examining such social spaces as musical theater, improvisation, hip-hop, folk music, and electronica—this volume breaks new ground, regarding the avant-garde as a key paradigm of the notion of cultural modernity.”
A.S. Jawad, Choice

The Arab Avant-Garde pursues a highly original inquiry into Arab music, politics, and modernism. This volume will serve as a significant point of orientation for a generation of Middle East scholars ready to move beyond the more familiar ethnomusicological positions in the study of music.”—Martin Stokes

“For too long, discussions of the musical avant garde have focused solely on Europe and North America, to the almost complete exclusion of other parts of the world. This ground-breaking volume offers the first critique of such universalizing pretensions, opening up the hitherto unexplored spaces of a rooted and vibrant Arab avant garde scene and presenting a range of alternative voices, voices which have been doubly marginalized, by local traditionalist discourses on the one hand, and by Euro-American appropriation of the center ground on the other. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the music cultures of the region, and more broadly in the richness and multiplicity of contemporary avant garde musical expression globally.”—Laudan Nooshin, City University London

“Conceptually rich, minutely detailed, and theoretically provocative, these essays should inspire scholars and performers alike to rethink their notions of cultural identity in the Arab world. In the wake of revolutionary changes in the region, The Arab Avant-Garde is both timely and prescient.”—Jonathan Shannon, author of Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria

THOMAS BURKHALTER is a researcher at Zurich University of Arts, editor-in-chief of, and author of Local Music Scenes and Globalization: Transnational Platforms in Beirut. KAY DICKINSON is an associate professor at Concordia University and the author of Off Key: When Film and Music Won’t Work Together. BENJAMIN J. HARBERT is an assistant professor of music at Georgetown University and the director of the documentary Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians.

Click here for author's website.

Thu, 6 Sep 2018 11:20:28 -0500