François Dell / Mohamed Elmedlaoui: Poetic Meter and Musical Form in Tashlhiyt Berber Songs [PDF]


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VIII, 274 pp.
complete transcriptions of 9 songs, numerous musical notations, scansions and charts, 4 graphs, 3 tables, index, appendix, with song samples and 9 complete songs (incl. free software application “Audacity” Release 2008)

Text language(s): English

The present book deals with the metrical form of texts in the songs of the Tashlhiyt Berber. Tashlhiyt Berber is a language of western Morocco spoken by around five million people. The Tashlhiyt Berber singing tradition uses a wide array of different meters. The authors encountered over a hundred different meters, with length ranging between four to twenty syllables. They claim that these meters do not form a fixed list whose members are memorized one by one by native speakers. Rather, they are generated by a productive system which is analyzed here.

The authors’ starting point is the ground-breaking work on versification in Tashlhiyt Berber and Tamazight Berber by Hassan Jouad. His most important discovery about versification in these languages is that it is based on a distinction between heavy and light syllables, and that if two strings of words are built on the same meter, they have the same number of syllables, with heavy and light syllables arranged in the same order.

Whereas the best-studied meters in the world’s poetic traditions are periodic, that is, built up from successive repetitions of the same pattern, Tashlhiyt Berber meters are apparently aperiodic. Nevertheless, the authors argue that a subset of these meters have a four-mora periodicity.

The first chapters of the book deal with basic notions on texts and tunes and with foot structure; they present the outlined meter system and define ‘straight’ meters and their alignment with the musical beats in the songs. The following chapters address general issues like the division of verse into successive syllabification domains, text settings at the syllable level and below, and levels of representation for the correspondence between text and tune in singing. The book contains complete transcriptions of nine Tashlhiyt Berber songs.

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