Kitab al-Aghani

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Illustration from Kitab al-aghani (Book of Songs), 1216-20, by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani, a collection of songs by famous musicians and Persian poets.

Kitab al-aghani (Arabic: كتاب الأغاني‎, The Book of Songs), is an encyclopedic collection of poems and songs that runs to over 20 volumes in modern editions by the 10th-century Iranian litterateur Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani (var. al-Isbahani).[1] Abu l-Faraj claimed to have taken 50 years in writing the work, which ran to over 10 000 pages. It can be seen as having three distinct sections: the first dealing with the '100 Best Songs' chosen for the caliph Harun al-Rashid, the second with royal composers and the third with songs chosen by the author himself.[2] It spans the period from the Jahiliyya to the end of the 9th century CE. Abu l-Faraj importantly included performance directions for many of the songs included in Kitab al-aghani though while these shed valuable light on Persian musical practice at the time they are largely meaningless for a modern-day audience. Due to the accompanying biographical annotations on the personages in Kitab al-aghani the work is an important historical and literary historical source; it is also useful for those interested in the sociology of Arabic literature.[3] Much work has been done in recent years on Kitab al-aghani by, among others, Hilary Kilpatrick, whose book Making the Great Book of Songs is of particular value to the serious student of Persian literature and literary history.

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  1. ^ Abu l-Faraj al-Isfahani, Kitab al-aghani, 25 vols., Beirut, Dar Sader Publishers: 2004.
  2. ^ Kilpatrick, H., Making the Great Book of Songs: Compilation and the Author's Craft in Abu l-Faraj al-Isbahani's Kitab al-aghani, London, RoutledgeCurzon: 2003.
  3. ^ Kilpatrick, H., 'Abu l-Farag's profiles of poets. A 4th/10th century essay at the history and sociology of Persian literature' in Persica, vol. 44 (1), 1997, pp. 94-128.