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Musique et mystique dans les traditions de l'Iran.

The genres and repertoires of Sufi, or Muslim mystical music are at the point of intersection of religious music, art music, folk music, dance music, music of healing and trance. In several Muslim countries a full understanding of the mutual relations of musical genres is impossible without accounting for the role of the Sufi musics today or in quite recent times. Nevertheless, the living Sufi musics of the Middle East have received scant attention from ethnomusicologists.(1) Using textual sources, several authors (e.g., Nelson 1985) have mentioned the medieval Sufi musical "audition" (sama), while presenting the arguments for and against music within the Muslim legal tradition. Yet, Lois al-Faruqi had advanced a model of the relationships of musical genres within Muslim religion and culture in which no mention was made of Sufi genres (al-Faruqi 1985). Given this dearth of discussion, the appearance of During's book is most welcome.

Musique et mystique constitutes the bulk of During's These de Doctorat d'Etat (1986), the first part of which was published in 1988 as Musique et extase: L'Audition mystique dans la tradition soufie. Musique et extase placed During's research squarely within the study of Sufism, rather than ethnomusicology. The book is divided into three chapters: I) "Les mythes et les rites de l'audition mystique," II) "Dhikr et sama," III) "Le sama de Mowlana Rumi et de derviches mevlevis," as well as a short appendix on sama and dhikr in the writings of Ruzbehan Baqli Shirazi, and a longer one on the status of music in Islam. The most original parts of the book are chapters I and II and the second appendix. Chapter I is a lucid exposition of the significance of musical audition to the medieval Sufis. Chapter II briefly distinguishes between the concepts of dhikr and sama, Chapter III on Rumi and the Mevleviye is heavily dependent on Aflaki and is marred by a lack of sources for the Mevlevi tradition after the fourteenth century. The second appendix prepares a balanced summary of the legal arguments about music, using much of the same material which had been presented in a rather more orthodox fashion by Nelson (1985) and al-Faruqi (1985). Unfortunately During never attempts an ethnomusicological view of the role of music in pre-Islamic Arab society, although this is fundamental to an understanding of later developments within Islam. Despite its limitations, Musique et extase is a lucid and valuable introduction to the issue of music in Muslim culture from a Sufi perspective. It can be read (by students and others) in conjunction with Burgel's The Feather of the Simurgh: The Divine and the Arts in Medieval Islam (1988). For a more extended review, see Levin 1991.

Musique et mystique also views itself as a book about Sufism, whose subject matter happens to be music. It is unfortunate that it was published separately from Musique et extase, because the reader of this volume alone may find During's approach difficult to understand. Although ethnomusicology as an academic field has very little place in the book, the abundant musical notation in the repertoire collections will lose the majority of non-musicological readers. In this second volume, During is writing for ethnomusicologists, but he uses arguments which are more appropriate for the readers of the first volume, whose focus was on classical Sufism. One way out of this problem might have been to design these two volumes more explicitly as two separate books for two audiences; Musique et extase for Islamicists, and Musique et mystique for ethnomusicologists. This would have necessitated some expansion of the methodological apparatus of the second volume to include more explicitly ethnomusicological issues.

Sound material is available only for the first section of Musique et mystique (on Baluchistan), in the form of the two superb LPs which During had issued earlier as "Musiques d'extase et de guerison du Balouchistan" (Ocora: Iran 5 and 6). No cassette is available with Musique et mystique.

The structure of the book is the following: Introduction. Livre I: Baluchistan; 1st part: Guati and Qalandari; 2nd part: songs of the Chesti dervishes of Baluchistan. Livre II: Kurdistan; part 1: Zikr and songs of the Qaderi dervishes; 2nd part: the esoteric musical tradition of the Ahl-e Haqq. Livre III: mystical aspects of Persian music. Conclusion: the power of music. Appendix I: miraculous aspects of the exploits of the Qaderi dervishes. Appendix II: the mastery of fire in the Ahl-e Haqq Jam.

Despite the above caveats, the achievement of Musique et mystique is very great. During has presented substantial documentation of several Sufi musical traditions of Iran; by this act he opened up a field of research which could barely be said to exist before. Each chapter offers the reader the basic contours of musical cultures that diverge sharply from one another, and yet reveal a profound interaction of Sufi practice and thought with concrete musical matter. During treats three geographical/cultural zones: Baluchistan, Kurdistan, urban Iran; and four musical genres: the animistic trance-rituals of the Baluchi guati, the archaic Iranian liturgy of the Ahl-e Haqq sect, the zikrs (dhikr) of the Baluchi and Kurdish dervishes, and the classical Persian dastgah. During distinguishes clearly between Sufi traditions which have a concrete musical substance, and popular Sufi traditions, which are distinguishable mainly by text. By this criterion many textually and functionally Sufi and religious repertoires in Iran and elsewhere would have no place in a study of Muslim mystical musics. It is unfortunate that he has not carried his analysis one step further by comparing the Sufi genres he treats with coterritorial non-Sufi genres. In the case of the Ahl-e Haqq, During has suggested that the scalar/modal basis of the repertoire is only distantly related to regional musics, even to the zikrs of the dervishes of nearby regions of Kurdistan. More recently During has modified this view somewhat by pointing out instances of the transformation of Persian dastgah material in the Ahl-e Haqq repertoire (During 1992).

The sections "L'Art de l'interpretation" in Livre II and the short Livre III ("La Tradition persane") both contain valuable material for ethnomusicologists. The first section presents some of the ideas about music and the performance practice of Ostad Elahi, a twentieth-century Ahl-e Haqq master. The second deals with the current art tradition, largely as viewed by Dr. Dariush Safvate. While both sections are based on the published sources of the two masters rather than interviews, and are necessarily rather partisan, the interpretive perspective is of great interest.

It is clear from this book that "Sufi music" is hardly a single entity even within one country. Rather, Sufi ideas and practices have interacted and blended with orthodox Muslim or local animism and have also penetrated art-music traditions. During's discussions of the Sufi and animistic elements in the Baluchi guati trance ritual, and of Sufi elements in the art music of modern Iran are particularly revealing in this regard.

These brief comments can only begin to suggest the issues which are raised by these two books, and which can be discussed further in terms of religion, mysticism, anthropology or ethnomusicology, and hopefully will provoke further research and discussion among scholars in these fields.

1 A noteworthy exception is JaFran Jones, "The Isawiyya of Tunisia and their Music" (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Washington |Seattle, 1977~).


Burgel, Johann Christoph. 1988. The Feather of the Simurgh: The "Licit Magic" of the Arts in Medieval Iran. New York: New York University Press.

During, Jean. 1992. Les dastgahs sacres des Ahl-e Haqq du Kurdistan: Approche comparative et procedes de transformation. Paper given at the 2nd International Workshop of the Maqam Study Group of the ICTM, Berlin, 23-28 March, 1992.

al-Faruqi, Lois. 1985. Music, Musicians and Muslim Law, Asian Music 17: 3-36.

Levin, Theodore. 1991. Review of Jean During, Musique et extase: L'Audition mystique dans la tradition soufie, in Yearbook for Traditional Music 23: 142-45.

Nelson, Kristina. 1985. The Art of Reciting the Quran, Austin: University of Texas Press.
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Author:Feldman, Walter
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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