Paul Amiel
Paul Amiel

The Arizona Senior Academy’s ethnomusicology series, “Music in a Cultural Context,” continues at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (June 3) with “Music of the Mediterranean,” presented by Paul Amiel.

Unifying and dividing such diverse cultures as Turkish, Greek, Italian, Moroccan, Egyptian, and Spanish, to name a few, the Mediterranean serves as a watery crossroads for religions, technologies, armies, arts, and, of course, music.  Paul Amiel will discuss some of the cross-cultural identities of this ancient and fertile musical region, and will present live and recorded musical examples of key characteristics of the region.

The sources of the Mediterranean’s music derive from Byzantine, Arabic, Persian and Turkish musical practices, coming together in a “makam” system of musical composition and improvisational performance.  The musical scales involve quarter tones and semitones, and the complex rhythms combine with ancient poetic meters.

Amiel says that he found himself drawn to the philosophical and reflective non-western musical practices such as the gamelan, the complex Arabic musical suites, and the sankyoku of Japan.  As an ethnomusician and composer, he continues to explore these musical processes from the perspective of a student.

He performs with the groups Summer Thunder Chinese Music Ensemble, Okiraku (Japanese music), and Aman (Mediterranean music), and also does collaborative work in traditional and experimental theatre.  Amiel is presently the house musician for the Empty Mountain Sangha.

Written by Leslie Nitzberg, Academy Village Volunteer

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The Mediterranean: A Watery Crossroads for Musical Cultures: June 2015