New directions in the study of medieval Andalusi music
Dwight F. Reynolds,
Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies: Volume 1, Issue 1 (2009)
The study of medieval Arabo-Andalusian music has recently begun to play a more prominent role in medieval Iberian Studies. New directions have begun to open up and the field is currently moving forward using multiple new approaches. Important medieval texts, previously thought lost, have surfaced in recent decades creating a new body of evidence for scholars to interpret. In addition, a number of already well-known texts are now being re-evaluated from a musicological, rather than a purely literary, standpoint and are revealing significant new insights about the musical cultures of medieval Iberia. Painstaking research in a variety of different archives and collections has begun to offer a more detailed sense of the context of medieval musical performances, the lives of performers, their economic and social status, and so forth. And comparative studies across historical time periods and regional traditions are providing radical new interpretations of the history of certain musical structures, modes of transmission, and individual repertories.
The present survey offers an overview of recently published research in the field of medieval Arabo-Andalusian music and sketches out a variety of new lines of research that are currently, or should be, followed by future scholars.
The study of music of al-Andalus played a prominent role in the field of medieval Iberian studies during the first hadl of the twentieth century when scholars such as Julian Ribera y Tarrago, Henry George Farmer, Higinio Angles, and others published a series of controversial and contradictory studies. This early twentieth-century flurry of publications centered on whether Andalusi music had or had not influenced the musical tradition of the Occitanian and Catalan troubadours, Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria and the Gallego-Portuguese tradition of cantigas de amigo, and was deeply implicated in the larger question of how, and to what extent, medieval Arabo-Islamic culture had influenced that of western Europe, a question that continues to provoke spirited debate even today.