Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

1393x0x Ottoman music -- popular entertainment over the

Expand Messages
  • TRH
    Dec 4, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      x0x Ottoman music -- popular entertainment over the

      Sunday, December 3, 2006

      Traditionally a master would perform a composition by
      playing or singing for students who would then repeat
      what they heard until they had memorized it. Thus
      musical works were passed down from generation to


      ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

      No one knows what early Ottoman music sounded like. Why
      not? Because over the centuries, even those
      compositions that remained popular changed. Many
      collections of songs, hymns, etc., exist in Turkey's
      libraries, unexamined or forgotten, with the style of
      the pieces noted and even the composers' names given,
      but notes and tempos there are not, at least not until
      quite recently.

      Perhaps this should be surprising since we know little
      about ancient Greek or Roman music although Hollywood
      movies would have you believe otherwise. In recent
      years though scholar / musicians have made attempts to
      recreate or approximate sounds taking, as examples,
      wall paintings that show what instruments looked like.
      Chants connected with the medieval Christian churches
      have been more easily recovered and a wide repertoire
      is now available on the market in record or CD form.

      The famous Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist
      Bela Bartok not only collected and categorized the folk
      music in his country but also spent a few days in
      Anatolia in 1936 attempting to record folk songs among
      the Yörüks, a nomadic tribe located east of Adana near
      Osmaniye. The conclusion was that there was a
      connection between Old Hungarian and Old Turkish folk
      music, but it was lost during the sixth or seventh
      century once the groups that moved into Hungary and
      those that migrated to Anatolia split from each other.
      Similarities were, however, still quite striking
      according to Bartok.

      Does that mean that the origins of Ottoman music should
      be sought in the folk music brought to Anatolia? There
      are some who believe that Persian music and possibly
      even Arabic music contributed to Ottoman music. When we
      say Ottoman music, we mean music produced in the major
      cities of Anatolia from the early 14th century and
      later throughout the empire until the 20th century saw
      the end of the Ottomans.

      Although it can be shown historically that all the
      societies of the Middle East had music, some would have
      people believe that the only music in Persia for
      example occurred at court. That cannot possibly have
      been true. More likely that only music composed and
      performed at the court was written about and therefore
      has come down to us today. And for instance in Anatolia
      under the Seljuk Turks, there was music performed at
      the court in Konya while we know that mystics such as
      the Mevlevis or Whirling Dervishes were teaching and
      performing their circling ?dance? to bring them closer
      to God.

      Certainly, there was music at the Seljuk Turkish court
      in Konya for we know that they had mehter music, the
      band music that became known under the Ottomans and in
      the West as Janissary music. It was a Seljuk sultan who
      sent his band to Osman, the man who was the founder of
      the Ottoman dynasty, when he was officially appointed
      the head of a principality.

      If later centuries are anything to go by, music was to
      be found everywhere in Ottoman society. It was not just
      in religious or military circles, but also throughout
      the culture at the imperial court level and in lower
      echelons of society. Individuals were involved in
      composing and performing most of the music and were
      basically amateurs who were independent and had their
      own individual style and circles.

      What is known is that when Sultan Murat I set up a
      palace school for the first time in Edirne when that
      city was made the Ottoman capital at the end of the
      14th century, young men were educated there and trained
      to serve in the palace or to become administrators
      around the empire. Music formed part of that education,
      both in terms of training musicians and teachers.
      During this same period the growing success of the
      Ottomans attracted artisans and musicians to the
      Ottoman court from various cities and even from cities
      further east like Baghdad.

      Traditionally a master would perform a composition by
      playing and/or singing for students who would then
      repeat what they heard until they had memorized it.
      Thus musical works were passed down from generation to
      generation. The master could interpret the music as he
      liked, of course leaving the student free to do

      The music itself was monophonic, that is, there was a
      single melody line using quartertones. This often makes
      it difficult for westerners who are accustomed to
      polyphonic music and whole tones to appreciate Ottoman
      music or for that matter, modern Turkish music.

      Musical theory books were plentiful in Persian and only
      began to be translated into Turkish in the first part
      of the 15th century so that the many musicians who did
      not have sufficient command of Persian could understand
      them. Along with the many theoretical books, there were
      collections of songs but these did not have a
      notational system. So that is why today we know little
      about how Ottoman music sounded although scholars have
      concluded that it was lighter and simpler in the 16th
      and early 17th centuries than later.

      At the end of the 17th century, however, two foreigners
      arrived in Istanbul who were well acquainted with music
      and thanks to their writing down compositions in the
      notational system used in the West at the time and
      which is still known, researchers have been able to get
      some idea of what Ottoman music sounded like, well
      around 1700 at least.

      Additionally we are fortunate to possess books of
      miniatures showing musicians and their instruments.
      Some of the latter of course, which were popular at one
      time would disappear over time or be modified. The main
      instruments resembled what one could describe as a
      fiddle, a lute, a reed instrument like a flute, a harp
      and a zither. There were even what is known as pan
      pipes, that get their name from the god Pan who is
      supposed to have played them as one can see in early
      Greek statuary.

      When tuning pegs were added to the zither-like
      instruments, for example the kanun, the musician had
      greater flexibility in modulating the melody line. The
      kanun is still played today in groups that specialize
      in playing Ottoman music.

      Western influence began to penetrate the Ottoman Empire
      in the 18th century as more Ottomans were exposed to
      western style music when traveling abroad and
      westerners came east. Interestingly enough the foreign
      community in Izmir was influential in introducing
      high-ranking Turkish officials to concerts and even
      opera. A regular circuit developed in the 19th century
      whereby troupes and musicians would visit Alexandria in
      Egypt and then come to Izmir before going on to
      Istanbul. These performances were often under the
      patronage of the grand vizier.

      Following the dissolution of the Janissary mehter band,
      the sultan invited Italian bandmaster Giuseppe
      Donizetti to establish a new band along western lines.
      He also taught music in the harem. It is thought that
      his more famous brother, Gaetano Donizetti, who wrote
      operas would send him his work to try out.

      Theaters appeared whereby the general public became
      acquainted with western music and plays. The famous
      Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt visited
      Istanbul at the invitation of the sultan in 1847 and
      gave a number of performances. There were even people
      who came to teach music -- piano, violin, etc., --
      mostly in the Beyoglu area where most of the embassies
      (today's consulates) were located.

      The upper class Ottoman took to western music easily
      because it was part of the mystique of western power
      and superiority. The popularity of Ottoman music
      dropped off and it wasn't until recent years that
      people began to be interested again. Today there are
      frequent concerts and groups often perform in
      restaurants that specialize in serving Ottoman cuisine
      and during music festivals. Similarly Turkish folk
      music gained in popularity.

      Growing interest in the music of previous centuries has
      led to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism opening a
      virtual music museum on the Internet. One can easily
      find it by searching for Kadiköy Turkish Virtual Music
      Center. The first stage of the project has been
      completed with 200 videos and 50 pictures, starting
      from the Stone Age, of instruments and documents. It is
      expected that the second stage will take about a year
      to complete. The hope is that Anatolian music will now
      be able to take its place among the music of the world.

      So all will not be lost.
      Copyright 2006, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with permission for personal use of TurkC-L readers. No part of this article may be reproduced, further distributed or archived without the prior permission of the publisher. Contact: Turkish Daily News Online on the Internet World Wide Web. www.turkishdailynews.com For information on other matters please contact tdn-f@...