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date: 22 October 2019

Ṣafī al-Dīn [al-Urmawī]locked

  • Owen Wright

Extract

[al-Urmawī]

(d Baghdad, 1294). Theorist, performer and composer, possibly of Azeri origin. He was a prominent court musician under the last Abbasid caliph, al-Musta‘ṣim (1242–58), although he first attracted attention for his skill as a calligrapher. Surviving the sack of Baghdad in 1258, he entered the service of the Mongol Il-Khans and became attached to the powerful Juwaynī family, but after their fall (1286) he lost favour, and died imprisoned for debt.

Ṣafī al-Dīn is one of the most important figures in the history of music theory in the Islamic Middle East, and the first great theorist since Ibn Sīnā (980–1037) and Ibn Zayla (d 1048) whose works are extant. His two treatises on music, the Kitāb al-adwār (‘Book of cycles’) and the later and fuller Risāla al-sharafiyya (‘The Sharafian treatise’), present a synthesis of elements found in the earlier theoretical tradition which dominated the thinking of all the more important theorists of the following two centuries....

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