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Sounds of Byzantium and Islam

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012

«New York offers a feast of sounds for early music enthusiasts who would like to immerse themselves in the aural landscape of the medieval and contemporary Middle East. The Met has scheduled a number of musical events in conjunction with the exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition.» On March 18, musicologist Alan Gampel and cellist Clive Greensmith will provide background to changing music styles in a presentation called "Music between East and West: Continuity and Change."

On Friday, March 30, Cappella Romana will perform "Desert and City: Medieval Byzantine Music of the Holy Land" in the Grace Rainy Rogers Auditorium, with special focus on eastern liturgical music dating to the period.

Middle Eastern tones will fill the auditorium again on June 12, when the Catalan viol player Jordi Savall will perform Arabic and North African music in the program "La Lira D'Espéria."

For those interested in musical traditions from medieval Europe, the Cloisters hosts concerts in the unique setting of the Fuentidueña Chapel throughout the year, including several this spring.

Lately, I have been captivated by the crosscultural and multilingual melodies of the Canadian group Constantinople. I hear traces of Renaissance motets in Latin melded with the soulful timbre of the muezzin's call to prayer. Inspired by both western and eastern traditions, the ensemble manages to evoke a musical aesthetic at once completely medieval and totally modern.

What are your musical recommendations?

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About the Author

Betsy Williams is a graduate student at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and was the 2012 Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow in the Museum's Department of Islamic Art. Her dissertation is on precious-metal jewelry and notions of adornment in the Byzantine and early Islamic periods.

About this Blog

This blog accompanied the special exhibition Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, on view March 14–July 8, 2012.