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In 1913 Béla Bartók traveled to Algeria to research Arab folk music. He took with him the most modern technological device then available, the Edison phonograph, and recorded Arab peasants performing their music. Analysis of his ensuing scholarly documentation and free composition reveals the inspiration Bartók drew from Arab folk music, not only in his treatment of traditional musical elements — melody, rhythm, and harmony — but also in novel incorporation of exotic timbre, scales, drum modes, ululation, and exorcism. This paper elucidates diverse musical elements with examples from authentic folk music and Bartók’s compositions. What emerges is a remarkably comprehensive image of Arab music, seen through the lens of Béla Bartók’s unique scholarship and creativity.

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