Songs of Imperial Authority: The Changing Function of Music From the Timurids to the Safavids

A lecture by Ann E. Lucas, Dept. of Music, Boston College

In the literature on Persian music, the Timurid Dynasty is often depicted as ushering in a golden age of musical development in the thirteenth century, while the Safavid Dynasty is portrayed as overseeing a period of drastic musical decline beginning in the sixteenth century. Ironically, there is no actual evidence that music’s performance or consumption were curtailed under the Safavids. In fact, while a vibrant Timurid music culture is well-documented, the Safavids also memorialized their own music patronage, often on a grander scale than their Timurid predecessors. In this presentation, I will consider a new approach to understanding what changed from the Timurids to the Safavids in relation to music’s practice and valuation via the analysis of song text collections available from the courts of both dynasties. In comparing and contrasting approaches to various topics in song and their implications for music’s context and function in each era, a more nuanced image emerges of why each dynasty patronized music differently than the other. This analysis allows for a more direct understanding of how musical discourse demonstrates the function of music in the context of medieval Islamic empire, even as it documents how music’s function changed to fit with the unique needs of the early modern Gunpowder Empires.

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Duration: 39:09


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Published: Friday, January 9, 2015