Thursday Seminar "Dimitrie Cantemir and Ottoman music"


Thursday, March 21, 2024, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


I Tatti
Music scene. Detail of fol. 232r from Firadawsi, Shāhnāma, Shiraz, ca. 1535. Berenson Collection, I Tatti, MS Persian 2.

Speaker: Owen Wright (SOAS, University of London)

Important among Cantemir’s many and varied achievements is the major contribution he made to Ottoman music as performer, composer, and theorist. This illustrated seminar will place this within a wider historical framework and in the context of Cantemir’s wider intellectual activities and his eventful political life. The information he provides is crucial to our understanding of the historical development of the Ottoman tradition and of Islamic court-music more generally. His theoretical work, especially, which includes a detailed survey of contemporary modal and rhythmic structures, is illuminating when compared with earlier account. His extensive collection of notations, including some of his own compositions, provides an invaluable record of the instrumental art-music repertoire. A few of the pieces he notated have survived into the modern period, but radically transformed by oral transmission, thus shedding light on otherwise poorly documented processes of change.

Owen Wright is Emeritus Professor of Musicology of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London.

After a first degree in modern languages, he studied Arabic at SOAS University of London, where he also did his PhD on Arabic and Persian musicological texts of the period 1250-1300. His academic career was to continue at SOAS, teaching Arabic language and literature and also the musical traditions of the Islamic world, on the history of which his research has been concentrated. He has just completed a monograph entitled Text and time: the Ottoman classical repertoire in historical perspective, to be published by Routledge; and he is presently working on another monograph on the historical development of the maqām from the 13th to the 19th century.


Image: Music scene. Detail of fol. 232r from Firadawsi, Shāhnāma, Shiraz, ca. 1535. Berenson Collection, I Tatti, MS Persian 2.

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