On Music: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of EPISTLE 5 (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity)

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9780199593989: On Music: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of EPISTLE 5 (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity)
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The Ikhwan al-Safa' (Brethren of Purity), the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad, hold an eminent position in the history of science and philosophy in Islam due to the wide reception and assimilation of their monumental encyclopaedia, the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa' (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). This compendium contains fifty-two epistles offering synoptic accounts of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age; divided into four classificatory parts, it treats themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and theology, in addition to didactic fables. The Rasa'il constitutes a paradigmatic legacy in the canonization of philosophy and the sciences in mediaeval Islamic civilization, and has also shown a permeating influence in Western culture.
This is the third volume in a series presenting the very first critical edition of the Rasa'il in its original Arabic, complete with the first fully annotated English translation. Epistle 5: On Music examines not just the technical, scientific, and mathematical aspects of music, but its cosmic, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. Music completed the classical training of the quadrivium (the sine qua non for further studies in philosophy and theology), and, as with other epistles of this group, there is much emphasis on numeric proportions and the underlying cosmic order of the universe. Technical concepts such as rhythm, tone, metre, and melody, along with the lute and its tunings as these relate to the fourfold Galenic theory, lead to a consideration of the psychological applications and the ultimately spiritual nature of music.

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About the Author:


Owen Wright is Professor of the Musicology of the Middle East at SOAS, University of London. His research interests focus on the textual sources for the history of music in the Middle East.

Review:

Owen Wright's new translation of and commentary on Epistle 5 of the tenth-century Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity) is a major contribution that, like many of Wright's other works, holds value for a wide variety of both general and specialised readers. ... the disadvantages to those who cannot read Arabic are kept to an absolute minimum throughout this volume, further demonstrating Wright's skill in crafting a significant contribution to the field of Arabic music studies that can enlighten and by enjoyed by many. * Mark Hijleh, JRAS * The publications that are planned within this project will no doubt rekindle the interest of scholars and students of Islam in Islam's rich cultural, educational and historical legacy ... The work of the Ikhwan al-Safa, like many other works that make up the classical Muslim educational thought, need to be seriously studied and reflected upon. This new publication project contributes immensely towards realizing this educational aim. * Abdullah Sahin, Muslim World Book Review - about Epistles of the Brethren of Purity series * Music, in all its varieties, provides a means to make a culture understood by others, no matter how distant, and we can now listen to the music described by Ibn Kurr, thanks to the work of Owen Wright. * Charles Burnett, Oxford University Press Journals: Music and Letters *

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