Sounding Al-Kindi’s Interwoven Braid: Reviving a 9th Century Experimentalism
Khyam Allami

Tuesday 11 July 2023 | 6:30 pm | Main Building

The earliest existing writing on Arabic music is the 9th century Risālah fī Khubr Taʾlīf al-Alḥān (Treaties on the Craft of Melodic Composition) by the revered Iraqi polymath Al-Kindī. Within its fascinating musical content al-Kindī presents six methods for the composition of musical phrases, four of which are based on visual shapes. Utilising spirals and braids, the manuscript represents one of the earliest experimental and generative music composition methods in history.

For the last 100 years this treaty has been interpreted, translated and commented upon by multiple Arab and Anglo-European scholars, but always with shortcomings. In this presentation Allami will share his re-reading, re-interpretation and re-visualisation of the treaties, highlighting the repression of al-Kindī's experimental musical imaginary and the inheritance of this repression from the Anglo-European logics embedded in its earliest German/Egyptian interpretation from 1931.

The talk will be in Arabic. 

Khyam Allami is an Iraqi-British multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, researcher, and founder of Nawa Recordings. His artistic research and practice explores experimental composition and improvisation based on and inspired by the fundamentals of Arabic music and culture. Recent works include Requiem for the 21st Century, an immersive Oud-based installation for Opera North (UK), Ma-a aba ud mena gin Ma-a di-di-in, a string quartet for JACK quartet (US), and Apotome, a collaborative project with Counterpoint Studio which was awarded the inaugural Isao Tomita Special Prize at Ars Electronica 2021 (AT). He holds a BA and Master in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (UK), and a PhD in experimental Arabic music composition from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University (UK).