The music of Turkey, dating back to the Silk Road Era, contains dissonantly dramatic chords unlike what many Westerners are accustomed to (Sheehan 86). Although the musical foundation of Turkey was created by the blending of customs from outside influences, stylistic choices vary throughout the country because individual provinces developed without a sense of national unity (“Turkish”). Turkish music theory practices have been influenced by the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic faith, and Arabic traditions.
These stimuli led to the development of unique wind, string, and percussion instruments. Classical Turkish music was the most strongly influenced by the Ottoman Empire (McComb). It tends to be driven by upbeat tempos, loudness, and exciting rhythms (Cline). Using the general octave minor scale, Ottoman classical music rarely reaches past a fifth in its melodic range (Cline). Because of this, the music sounds eerie and fairly repetitive. Some Ottoman music does not even have a specific time signature (Cline). These pieces use what is called a “free rhythm style” (Cline).
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This type of music is difficult to follow, so it is usually played by an unaccompanied solo musician. During antiquity in the Ottoman Empire, music would be supplied to enhance dances (Cline). The most ancient dance known is the “serra,” a war dance that begins slow and accelerates throughout the duration of the song (Cline). The most significant musical ensemble in the Turkish culture is and was the janissary band (Clark 144). It was the premier military band in all of the Ottoman Empire and inspired Ottoman soldiers while in battle and during ceremonies (144).
As with all traditional military bands, these consisted of winds and percussion (144). On the battlefield, the janissary bands would create a tremendous din to compete with enemy bands while the infantry fought the opposing forces physically (Sheehan 86). It was a symbolic battle of the bands amidst an actual war zone. Many Islamic sects reject aesthetic enjoyment, but the Sufi Order disagrees with this aspect (Clark 143). The Sufi encouraged the practices of music in Turkey, especially for rituals (143). Another Muslim Order called the
Mevlevi, led by a religious figure referred to as the Mevlana, also had a profound impact on Turkish musical culture (Sheehan 86). “The Mevlana influenced the music of Turkey in a creative way because his call for a more personal relationship to God encouraged artistic expression” (86). Mevlevi music developed as a means to intensify the performances of Turkish dancers known as the Whirling Dervishes (86). The dervishes wore elaborate costumes that enhanced the effect of their synchronized, continuous twirling.
A traditional ensemble used to accompany the Whirling Dervishes consisted of flutes, strings, and percussion (Clark 143). Muslim Orders such as these contributed a vibrant adornment to Turkish music culture. Arabic traditions have had arguably the greatest impact on Turkish music theory. The music is based on changing centers of pitch, rarely resolving chords to the expectations of Western ears (Cline). Much Turkish music is based on circles of rhythm called usul (McComb). The most important Arabic contribution to music theory; however, are many different series of modes, which make up the maqam system (McComb).
The Turkish maqam is one of the most complicated and extensive modal systems in existence (Abddon). It is monophonic and often based on theoretical octaves called “Diwan” scales that consist of either seventeen, nineteen, or twenty-four notes in each series (Abddon). “Maqam represents a way of conceiving of tuning and mode that creates a framework to understand a lot of different folk and classical music traditions” (Abddon). The modes express more pitches than the Western system contains by using half flat and half sharp tones (Abddon).
These have smaller intervals and are referred to as microtones (Abddon). Aside from the technicalities of Arabic Turk music theory are the historical musical practices. Music was experienced by a vast variety of social classes. It was often displayed in royal palaces according to strict maqam and usul traditions (Clark 143), but was also found in more relaxed, folk styles throughout the countryside (144). Ancient Turkish music was not written down (Sheehan 86). Wandering troubadours spread their knowledge and demonstrated their skills all across Turkey in their travels (86).
Anatolian folk music called ozan was played to accompany poets known as asiks (86). The most common instrument used for these bards was a bizarre long flute with strings called a saz (86). It was not uncommon for there to be a lack of a necessary instrument in many places. In order to compensate, players used their instrument to mimic the style of another instrument (Cline). For example, it would be like an opera singer trying to sing jazz. Turkey’s wind instruments consist mainly of woodwinds, straying away from brass.
There are many different types of flutes, the ney flute being the most difficult to master (Sheehan 86). The ney flute is the principle instrument of Sufi style Anatolian music (McComb). Similar to Scotland’s bagpipe, the Turks have the tulum (Cline). The tulum is droneless, has a double chanter with five holes on each side, and has a bag used for storing air that is usually made out of goat skin (Sheehan 87). The double reed family is the most prominent type of instrument in Turkey. There are two main double reeds in Turkey.
The mey is a simple rod, made of metal or plastic, which has a low pitch (Sheehan 87). The zurna is higher in pitch and is used more than any other instrument in Turkey. It is decorated with silver and requires circular breathing to play (Clark 147). The winds are most used in the janissary bands (147). Strings in Turkey were mainly played with art music (Clark 146). The most common string instrument of Anatolia is the raspy tanbur (McComb). The Kemence is an asymmetrical violin looking instrument played with a nylon bow (Sheehan 87). The ud is a fretless lute “played by women in the harem” (87).
It has a short neck, five strings, and is made out of wood (Clark 144). The kanun zither derives its name from the greek word “kanon,” which means “rule” (146). It has exact measurements of interval size of pitch (146). The kanun zither rests on the musician’s lap and played with his index fingers (146). There are a series of levers underneath each string that tune the strings to accommodate each of the different modes (146). A general rule used for making string instruments in Turkey is that when more materials are used, a better sound is always produced (144).
Turkish percussion instruments are not normally pitched. Most of them are drums. The davul is a bass drum with two heads (Sheehan 87). It is played with a different sized stick for each side to produce either a low or extremely low sound (87). Kasik are wooden or metal spoons which are played by slamming the faces together (87). The kudum is a small kettledrum that is often played in pairs (87). A deblek is a goblet drum which is accompanied by a davul and possibly other drums to create a drum ensemble (Clark 143). This drum is most commonly used in janissary bands along with the kudum (144).
Percussion in Turkey during the Silk Road had the main purposes of making as much noise as possible and keeping beat for other instruments (144). The Ottoman Empire, the Muslim religion, and Arabic traditions have played a great role in shaping Turkish music theory and history. Because of this, wind, string, and percussion instruments developed in Turkey unlike many others. Works Cited Abddon, Seifed ??? Din Shehadeh. “Arabic Music: Samaie Farhafza Analysis. ” Leb. Net. May 2003. 5 May 2008. ;http://leb. net/rma/Articles/Samaie_Farhafza. pdf;. Clark, Mitchell.
Sounds of the Silk Road. Ed. Sarah E. McGaughey. Boston: MFA, 2005. Cline, Leigh. “Pontic Music. ” Scimitar Music. 2006. 15 Apr. 2008. ;http:// www. scimitarmusic. com/pontos/music. html;. McComb, T. M. “Turkish Classical & Traditional Music. ” 31 Jan. 2002. 16 Apr. 2008. ;http://www. medieval. org/music/world/turkish. html;. Sheehan, Sean. Cultures of the World: Turkey. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1996. “Turkish Music. ” Ottoman Souvenir. Win Web Hosting. 22 Apr. 2008. ;http:// www. ottomansouvenir. com/Music/ottoman_and_Anatolian_Folk_Songs. htm;.