The Zurna, Oboe, and Syrian Musical Practice: Authenticating a Musical Modernity
AuthorShaheen, Andrea Lynn
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn contemporary Damascus, the modern oboe and an instrument known as its predecessor, the zurna, are heard on a daily basis as they continue to be employed in Syrian popular and folk music practices. After observing the pervasiveness of the sounds of these instruments in Syria, I proceeded to investigate the socio-cultural processes surrounding their usage. This study provides a history of the zurna, traces its development in Europe into the modern oboe, and explores the oboe's re-entry into musical practices in the Middle East. Through empirical fieldwork, I collected data that allowed me to observe the social significance of the sounds of these instruments for musicians and listeners alike in the Greater Damascus area. Using Jonathan Shannon's modernity improvisation model (Shannon 2006) as a departure point, I analyze the way Syrians use instruments such as the zurna and oboe in seemingly diverging ways to create their own "modern" subjectivities. Additionally, I demonstrate how these sounds reflect what Clifford Geertz refers to as the inevitable struggle between essentialism and epochalism in post-colonial nations such as Syria (Geertz 1971) through the analyzation of discourse surrounding instruments so deemed "modern" or "authentic" (such as the oboe and zurna, respectively) in contemporary Syrian society. Musical examples are included in order to demonstrate performance practice and provide perspective on the music theory behind the ways composers and musicians include the sounds of the oboe and zurna in particular works and genres.
Degree ProgramGraduate College