Music of the silk road

Essay by Cassie18High School, 12th grade October 2004

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Like religion, music readily spreads beyond its land of origin because people bring their music with them when they travel, just as they bring with them their own faith and rituals. Familiar chants, songs, and instruments sustained pilgrims and traders who, at the same time, absorbed musical influences they encountered in their travels.

Religion has been one of the most important cultural forces to promote the dissemination of music along the Silk Road. Members of Islamic Su. orders, who have traditionally welcomed the use of music, chant, and sacred dance as elements of prayer, were instrumental in spreading spiritual songs among their adherents. Wandering dervishes, holy men, and religious storytellers used song and chant as a means of proselytizing the moral values of Islam to audiences that gathered to hear them in bazaars, caravansarais, and tea houses. Buddhist monks also brought forms of sacred chant from part of Asia to another.

And to perform in the court of the Muslim emir, thus serving as a bridge between Jewish and Muslim musical traditions.

The appreciation of new music follows from the deeply human characteristics of curiosity and attraction to novelty, the same qualities that promote the spread from one culture to another of art, ideas and technology. Enjoying one kind of music does not generally involve giving up another. Moreover, some musical instruments are readily adaptable to a variety of musical styles and genres, for example, the violin, which is commonly used in music as disparate as South India raga, Celtic dance tunes, and jazz. Other instruments, for example, the plucked zither--a horizontal soundboard or enclosed box with multiple strings running over a set of bridges--may take on variant but related forms in contiguous culture regions. For example, plucked zithers are played in Japan (koto), China (qin), Korea (kayagum), Mongolia (yatkha),