2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Conquest and Culture: The Exchange of Moorish and Spanish Musical Traditions

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Rachel Becker


After the Umayyad conquest in 711 of most of the Iberian Peninsula, known as al-Andalus, this area became a center for learning. Under multiple caliphates, the city of Córdoba was one of the leading cultural and economic centers throughout Europe and the Islamic world. Christians, Jews, and Muslims coexisted peacefully, which led to their economic and social expansion. In addition to the economic and social prosperity, there were huge developments and fusion of musical styles and genres. Many composers trained in the Andalusian style were desired in the courts of Christian Spanish rulers outside of al-Andalus. This coexistence and sharing of culture broke down by the 14th century when Muslims were persecuted for their religion within the Iberian Peninsula.

In the early twentieth century, there was a debate between scholars who believed that Spanish and French music developed independent of the musical culture of al-Andalus. Eventually, this debate settled with no cohesive conclusion. In recent years, musicologists have revisited this debate and concluded that the Middle Eastern roots of al-Andalus influenced Western European musical development more than initially acknowledged. The Iberian Peninsula's musical traditions profoundly influenced Western European music's evolution.

The influence of al-Andalusian music on Spanish musical forms was profound, particularly in the development of flamenco music. Flamenco incorporates many elements of al-Andalusian music, including intricate melodic patterns, rhythmic complexity, and Arabic scales and modes. Al-Andalusian music also influenced the development of Spanish classical music, particularly in using the guitar and other stringed instruments. Overall, the legacy of al-Andalusian music can be heard in much of the music of Spain.

In conclusion, the impact of al-Andalusian music on Spanish music cannot be overstated. From the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and into the modern era, the rhythms, melodies, and instruments of al-Andalusian music have played a crucial role in shaping the rich musical traditions of Spain. The rhythms and styles are incorporated from medieval Christian masses to the Spanish secular song of the Renaissance. The fusion of Islamic and Christian musical styles and practices during the al-Andalusian period laid the foundations for developing some of Spain’s most iconic musical forms, including flamenco and classical guitar music. Today, the legacy of al-Andalusian music lives on in Spain's vibrant and diverse musical landscape, serving as a testament to the enduring power of cultural exchange and artistic collaboration.

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