By George Makdisi
Makdisi's very important paintings lines the improvement and organisational constitution of studying associations in Islam, and reassesses scholarship at the origins and progress of the Madrasa.
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Extra info for The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West
What mode of attentiveness could possibly be redeemed here that would be worthy, not simply of "hearing;· of "playing the tape;' but of the morally and aesthetically freighted notion of listening? Instead of the stillness and depth of the listening subject, we see an ear calibrated and subordinated to the circuits of capital and technology, a functionally integrated component of the media of distraction. What about the object? Even the religious content, a natural home for the listening ear, fails to provide an anchor: What religious meaning might survive the passage through the channels of commoditization, the technological mediations, the cluttered and deafening soundscapes, the urban geographies of visual and kinesthetic displacement, to then offer itself to a waiting ear?
In doing so, the listeners both "inspire the performer and enhance the effectiveness of the musical performance" (Racy 1982:392). While tarab is frequently associated with Sufi performances, the term is also applied to a much wider range of musical expression: for example, popular twentieth-century singer-film stars like Abd al-Wahhab and Umm Kulthum (whom I discuss later in the chapter) have been celebrated for the tarab qualities of their music (Racy 2003; Stokes in press). Importantly, as a mode of emotional expression founded upon a unique "orchestral" coordination between performer and audience, tarab was not immune to the institutional changes that occurred within the field of popular and commercial music during the twentieth century, changes that tended to widen the gulf between stage and public.
The practical and perceptual conditions that made it possible for the narrator's account to take root in the listener's experience were found in the slow rhythms associated with artisanallabor. Indeed, the labor process itself in some sense constituted the auditory membrane, the receptive medium that enabled the storyteller's speech and gesture to sink into the worker's experience, much as the techniques of manufacture would sink into his bodily habits and modes of expression. Listening in this context is a process of sedimentation: a narrative reveals its secret depths only in its multiple retellings, by the accumulation of layer upon layer within the soul of the listener, like coats of lacquer applied to a wooden box that becomes clearer with each new layer.