The Aesthetics of Motion in Musics for the Mevlana Celal ed-Din Rumi

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2007-06-04

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This dissertation investigates the concept of motion as a fundamental aesthetic element in the devotional music, dance, and rituals performed in honor of the celebrated thirteenth-century Persian mystic poet and saint, the Mevlana Celal ed-Din Muhammad Rumi. The main focus of the study is threefold. First, it investigates the prevalence of the notion of movement in Islamic music and culture, specifically within the Sufi communities of Turkey, in order to arrive at a broader understanding of the relationship between music, aesthetics, and worldview. Secondly, it explores how musical performance functions as a form of devotion or religious worship by focusing on the musical repertories performed in honor of a single holy figure, the Mevlana Rumi. Finally, it provides an ethnographic account of contemporary developments in Sufi musical culture in Turkey and across the world by describing the recent activities of the Mevlana's devotees, which includes members of the Mevlevi Order of Islamic mystics as well as adherents of other Sufi brotherhoods and followers of so-called New Religions or New Age.

The primary research for this study involved two short one-month field trips to Turkey and India in 2002 and 2003, respectively, and a longer one year expedition to Turkey in 2004 and 2005, which also included shorter stays in Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.  Additionally, the dissertation draws directly from critical theories advanced in the fields of ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and ethnochoreology and focuses on the kinesthetic parameters of music, dance, trance, and ritual as well as on broader forms of socio-cultural movement including pilgrimage, cultural tourism, and globalization.  These forms of movement are analyzed in four broad categories of music used in worship, including classical Mevlevi music, music of the zikr ceremony, popular musics, and non-Turkish musics.

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