Fadi Al-Ghawanmeh and Kamel Smaïli

Andalusian Fragrance (2018)

In the context of Arab maqamic music, mawwāl is a non-metric vocal improvisation and is often applied to narrative poetry. Upon the completion of each vocal sentence in the mawwāl, the instrumentalist performs a recapitulation, or a translation of the vocal sentence. This musical submission features the new and improved version of the mawaweel computer application for automatic accompaniment to mawwāl. The application provides real-time instrumental translations to vocal sentence, and is primarily based on machine learning. To train our model, and due to technical reasons, we constructed our own parallel corpus. Because of the high expenses and great effort required  for this, our corpus was small and consisted of only 4,041  vocal phrases and their corresponding melodic instrumental responses, or translations. Having such a very small corpus made it suitable to treat it the same as corpora of under-resourced languages were treated, and accordingly to apply statistical machine translation rather than neural machine translation. “Andalusian Fragrance” is a mawwāl narrating poetry excerpts from the dramatic love story of two very famous poets and lovers in Andalusia: Ibn Zaydún and Wallada. Throughout this artwork, the improviser Muhannad Alkhateeb used elaborative expressiveness, maqam modulation and choice of register all to convey the deep and diverse feelings expressed in the poetry, such as: passion, doubt, anger, sorrow and hope. The computer successfully stood as a peer while translating the creative vocal sentences. As this was a studio recordings, we had the privilege of recording several takes and selecting the best ones from two perspectives: vocal and instrumental. We then applied slight reverb, EQ, and compression. However, the model is robust for live performances.

Website with longer write-up/more examples: http://mawaweel.com/NIPS_Creativity_2018/


  • Vocal Improvisation: Muhannad Alkhateeb
  • Instrumental accompaniment: Mawaweel computer application
  • Poetry: excerpts from poems by Ibn Zaydún al-Makhzumi and Wallada bint al-Mustakfi