The Voice of Atlas In Search of Music in Morocco by Philip Thornton 1936 Travel History Story


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“The Voice of Atlas” subtitled “In Search of Music in Morocco” by Philip Thornton. Published by Alexander Maclehose & Co. in 1936, it is a hard cover measuring 5½ x 8½ inches with 226 pages. It is in fair to poor used condition, the front cover at the spine has completely separated from the rest of the book and is taped together at the back, however the pages appear to be clean and unmarked when flipping through them except for a notation written on the front free endpaper, which is also embossed with the library stamp of a previous owner. I took pictures using different lighting effects to give you a good idea of what it looks like.


From a review by Richard Bunk:
“The Voice of Atlas” is an engaging book describing many traditional stories, beliefs and practices that may still be found in various forms throughout Morocco today. The book is written in a narrative style belonging entirely to the period in which it was written, Thornton does a good job of describing Moroccan society in places such as Tangiers, Fes and Marrakech through his relation of conversations and personal experiences with both Moroccans and fellow Europeans. His travels through the more remote regions of the country are impressive in demonstrating how traditional life among the Berbers differed dramatically from that of the Arabs and how uncertain and potentially dangerous such travel during this period could be. The black and white photographs and author’s drawings provide a nice view of early twentieth century Morocco.

Many of the anecdotes, tales and observations are presented through a European bias and some do suffer from those prejudices. In most cases, Thornton’s veil of European ignorance about Moroccan customs adds to the overall romantic quality of his experiences. Thornton seems to subscribe with little reservation to the mysticism of Morocco and shares numerous stories of visiting magicians, healers and places of supernatural importance. Some of these stories are probably not his own personal experiences, but provide entertaining material. In a few passages, Thornton’s social commentary requires the modern reader to remember the context of the times in which his book was written. The continuity of Thornton’s narrative at times is difficult to follow, as there are numerous instances when he breaks without clear indication from one story to the next. Also, Thornton doesn’t provide a great deal of detailed information about names of places and people in many of his stories. This has some impact in the authenticity for some of these stories, though doesn’t seem to detract from the romantic quality of the experiences. In cases, however, where he is describing musical theory, instrumentation and vocalization, Thornton does provide more detailed commentary. Lastly, many of the Arabic terms, names of people and places mentioned are transliterated with spellings that are unfamiliar to modern terms. This book is a nice addition to any collection for people who have more than a casual interest in the cultural history of Morocco. It would be equally good reading for those who enjoy old travel adventure stories.”

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Additional information

Weight 31 oz
Dimensions 10 × 8 × 3 in