Michael A. Toler has been the Archnet Content Manager since September 2012. He also served as Interim Program Head of the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT (AKDC@MIT) from July 2018 to April 2020.
Michael has been involved in the digital humanities since the mid-1990s. From 2001-2010 he served as the Program Director for the Al Musharaka Initiative of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education. Michael was responsible for the development of content for the Arab Culture and Civilization Online Resource, and for coordinating inter-institutional, collaborative endeavors of faculty, librarians, and technologists using technology to enhance teaching and research on topics relating to Islam, the Middle East, and North Africa. Michael has contributed more than 3,500 images to Archnet, and creates most of the help videos and user guides. He is particularly proud of collaborations with the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM) and other institutions, including Wellesley College and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress to bring online the glass negatives from TALIM's collection showing Tangier, Morocco, Algeria, Spain, and Frace in the period from roughly 1890 to 1930, and the nearly 70 hours of Moroccan music recorded in 1959 by Paul Bowles.
Michael received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a Certificate in Translation Studies from Binghamton University (SUNY), after teaching in Morocco at L'Ecole Supérieure Roi Fahd de Traduction and Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. He also holds an MA and BA in English from New York University and Virginia Commonwealth University, respectively. He has published and lectured extensively on digital pedagogy and scholarship, as well as the literature, history, cinema, music, and cyberspace of the Maghreb, and the Middle East more widely.
Michael is Secretary of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM), and serves on the board or advisory groups of numerous academic societies and cultural institutions.
"The Maalem was loath to play the liara; he considered it a poor substitute for the rhaïta, which was only natural, as the latter is a much more evil instrument and requires far greater musicianship. However, I finally persuaded him to oblige me with a piece for liara, although he refused to make it a true solo, insisting that he must have a second instrument with him. Fortunately the Maalem was possessed of an extraordinary versatility in so far as instruments went: he was an expert kamenja-player, a superb performer on the rhaita, and, I think, an unusually competent man on the liara, although I should have liked him to unbend a bit and play something which permitted a little more personal expression. However, he was a fanatical classicist, and for that I suppose one should be thankful. Also, the presence of a dozen or so soldiers sitting with their guns across their knees at a few paces from the players undoubtedly put an effective damper on any possible flights of musical fancy. (One must remember that Moroccan musicians were subjected to having their repertory thoroughly scrutinized by politicians a few years ago, and have not forgotten the experience.)
It is interesting in number one to note
the similarity of both melody and rhythm to a jig or a hornpipe. Some centuries
ago it was the custom for the acrobatic dancers of the Souss (which region
still furnishes such specialists to small circuses in Europe) to travel to the
British Isles and performed there as wandering minstrels. The entertainment was
called Moorish dancing, which term is said to have been transformed
colloquially into Morris dancing. I am unable to vouch for the authenticity of
this report, but it occurred to me when I listen carefully to portions of “El
Rhyna Darifa Sidi Habibi,” in its instrumental version."
Bowles, Paul F. "Arcila." from Folk, Popular, and Art Music of Morocco.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection. Washington,
DC: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1959-1962.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies