Music Theory in Mamluk Cairo: The ġāyat al-maṭlūb fī ‘ilm al-adwār wa-’l-ḍurūb by Ibn Kurr, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Music Theory in Mamluk Cairo

The ġāyat al-maṭlūb fī ‘ilm al-adwār wa-’l-ḍurūb by Ibn Kurr, 1st Edition

By Owen Wright


372 pages

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pub: 2014-07-02
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The ġāyat al-maṭlūb fī ‘ilm al-adwār wa-'l-ḍurūb by Ibn Kurr is the only theoretical text of any substance that can be considered representative of musicological discourse in Cairo during the first half of the fourteenth century CE. Indeed, nothing comparable survives from the whole Mamluk period, which extends from 1260 until the Ottoman invasion and conquest of Egypt in 1516. But its value does not derive merely from its fortuitous isolation: it is important, rather, because of the richness of the information it provides with regard to modal and rhythmic structures, and also because of the extent to which the definitions it offers differ from those set forth in an interrelated series of major theoretical works in both Arabic and Persian that span the period from the middle of the thirteenth century to the late fifteenth. Alongside the presumption of transregional uniformity these texts suggest, it consequently asserts the significance of local particularism.

Owen Wright provides a critical edition of the text itself, together with a glossary, prefaced by an introduction and a detailed commentary and analysis. The introduction provides immediate context, situating the work in relation to the dominant theoretical tradition of the period and providing biographical information about the author, active in Cairo during the first half of the fourteenth century.


“Author of numerous books, book chapters, and articles on related topics, Wright has deep mastery of all the major treatises written in the centuries both before and after Ibn Kurr’s treatise (in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish).” - Scott Marcus, University of California, Santa Barbara

“This edition has been fastidiously prepared. The Philology is near impeccable. Wright has done a superb job of deciphering a codex that demands considerable guesswork (words without dots).”Li Guo, University of Notre Dame

About the Author

Owen Wright is Research Professor of Musicology of the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is also the author of Touraj Kiaras and Persian Classical Music: An Analytical Perspective and Demetrius Cantemir: The Collection of Notations.

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology
MUSIC / History & Criticism