The Contribution of Muslims to the Development of Music
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The influence of Muslims on the musical revival of Europe can be detected as early as the period of the Carolingian Empire. Charlemagne tried to emulate and compete with Baghdad and Cordoba. He too invited scholars from abroad to his court and established schools. This revival was chiefly mastered by three influential scholars; Theodolfus (d.821), Claudius (d.c.839) and Agobardus (d.840), all of whom had contacts with Muslim learning as they were Goths born or educated in Spain or Southern France. In addition to his friendship with the Abbassid Caliph, Harun Al-Rashid, the renowned Chanson de Geste revealed that Charlemagne spent seven years in Spain.
According to some sources, Pepin and Charlemagne (9th century) expanded, to some extent, the use of church music through the introduction of some Muslim Arabic instruments. Schlesinger is certain that these instruments came from Spain or Sicily. She pointed out that the instruments portrayed in the Evangelarium of St. Medard (8th century) and the Lothair, Aureum and Labeo Notker Psalters (9th & 10th centuries) were all Oriental instruments derived from the Egyptian or older Asiatic civilisation and disseminated in Europe mainly through the Muslims. Notwithstanding, by the eleventh century the flow of Muslim knowledge, including music, reached its apogee. The musical transfer was carried out through three main routes.
a) Spain and the Southern France Connection:
The social and economic intercourse between Spanish Christians and Muslims and other European Christians resulted in the dissemination of Islamic learning and art throughout Europe. The influence of Muslim music in Spanish and Portuguese music and folklore is self evident and does not need any proof. There is a considerable amount of literature on this issue confirming the deep penetration, which shaped the cultural and artistic life of these two regions under the 800 years of Muslim rule. Perhaps the earliest example of this influence is found in the collection of Cantigas de Santa María. Composed around 1252 under the orders of Alfonso X el Sabio, king of Castile and Leon, the collection consists of 415 religious songs. These songs are the first known literature works, preserved with their original musical notation, in the Galician language. Detailed studies on their structure and form have concluded that they were a direct inspiration of Arabic music as 335 of them were Zajal. Chase has found that the melodic patterns in the Cantigas closely follow the forms of the French styles Virelai and Rondeau. Apel linked the virelai to a Spanish (Andalusian) origin, while Plenckers proved it to be inspired by songs known as Al-Muwashahat. Guettat found the poetical form of muwashahat and Zajal in a large number of the Ballades and Rondeau styles dated from the thirteenth century and coming from the north of France such as "the beautiful Aeliz" in the Robin & Marion play of Adam le Bossu (13th century).
Similar conclusions can be made about the Cantigas de Amigo; the Cancionero de Palacio and the Chansonnier of the Arsenal (Saint Germain des Pres). In fact, the consensus of Western academics believe that the explanation of the appearance of Zajal in the West can only be attributed to the Andalusian Muwashah, which, in the view of some experts, itself originated from an ancient Roman poem with a similar structure. The latter claim has never been substantiated though Arabs have always been renowned for their poetical talents and literary inventions.
Another area where Muslim influence was early felt was in the popular poetry of the Troubadours. These medieval lyric poets, musicians or singers spread mainly in the Languedoc region in the south of France, as well as in the north of Spain and Italy. There is a growing body of evidence that troubadours were influenced by Andalusian poetry and music. The evidence taken from the poetry of Guillaume IX of Poitiers (1071-1127), a renowned provencial troubadour, is quite clear. In his study, Levi-Provencal is said to have found four Arabo-Hispanic verses nearly or completely recopied in Guillaume's manuscript. The contact with Christians, in this subject, was established through the many thousands of Muslim prisoners, including women and young girls, who were taken to Normandie, Bourgogne, Provence, Aquitaine and Italy, especially after the fall of Balbastro. According to historic sources, Guillaume VIII, the father of the troubadour Guillaume IX, brought to Poitiers hundreds of Muslim prisoners. It is likely that Guillaume IX learnt much from some of these prisoners whom his father kept as servants. Pope Alexander II, is also known to have brought to Italy more than a thousand Muslim women. Trend admitted that the troubadours derived their sense of form and even the subject matter of their poetry from the Andalusian Muslims.
The troubadours integrated Andalusian themes such as chaste and virtuous love and the idealisation of women into European poetry. Such noble themes could not be found in Western poetry before the Andalusian mode. Nelli admitted that people of tenth century Europe, especially Provence, learnt from the Arabs new kinds of affectionate and compassionate pleasures and love, contrary to the customs of robbing, raping and massacring which swept the rest of Europe in those times. He summed it up when he wrote: ‘‘we owe to the Orient and the Moors of Spain all what is noble in our customs.'
In fact the influence of Andalusian themes and poetry had an even more significant impact, paving the way for changing attitudes and morals which were the fundamental seeds of the Renaissance. Islam, father of monotheism, which itself prevails in the Christian doctrine, fought the polytheism which had existed before and took clear positions against the changing essence of Christianity, which replaced the sole God with intermediary levels of ranks of saints and clergy. This monotheism was the fundamental spirit of Catharism and later the free spirit, which spread along southern European territory adjoining the Muslim Caliphate. The majority of the Troubadours, imitating Iberian musicians, believed in Catharism. Maria, Mary, (Peace be upon her) became the true object of the songs and poetry of the Spanish and French Troubadours as well as the Italian "Trovatori". The Cantigas songs provided an excellent example of refined court music, completely deta
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