Free «European Art Music in the Ottoman Empire» Essay Sample

Turkey was declared a republic in 1923 and this came with a series of radical changes of culture and music, which brought a wide gap between the past and the modern music. Music in Turkey is very important and you can get it anywhere. Concerts and festivals are also common in Turkey. The Ottoman music originated from Middle Asia.  This music evolved over centuries as the Turks absorbed the cultures of the lands that they conquered. When Turkey opened to the west, art music also developed in the process. The aim was to introduce Turkish musicians to the European tradition. In 1924, a music teachers’ college was established. This college brought rise to the first generation of composers and performers in Turkey.

In Ottoman Empire, the first serious lessons were taught in Palace schools. During this time, there was little interest in music since the schools were few and very little progress was achieved in educating music teachers. Ottoman music was spread from generation to generation through compositions and several concerts. In Ottoman Empire, music was performed by an individual person and not a choir. Rhythm in this type of music was considered optional though there was melody in the music. Ottoman music relied mainly on human voice, musical instruments were hardly used (Foroqhi, 2005).

Sultans in the counts got involved with music and art apart from administration. They had been taught music at the time of their prince hood.  Traditionally, Ottoman music accompanied a single singer with few small instruments. Also the candidates to the prince hood were also trained music in schools. The musicians and those people who made instruments in the courts received salaries. At the same time music was also developing in urban areas other than in the courts.  However, in the courts, not all the sultans supported music and during their reign, the court music ceased completely.

Ottoman orthodox supported religious classical music and they therefore contributed greatly to the development of music. During liturgical ceremonies, songs were used. Turkish secular and religious music written down in the books cannot be easily differentiated since they were composed by the same musicians during the Ottoman Empire. Songs were also performed in the military to encourage the army. The military organized themselves in bands which were very active (Bartok, 2007).

Professional musicians were hired to perform during functions. Coffee houses and recreation gardens were the places where such performers would present their songs and plays. Urban entertainers composed of both male and female performers, singers and dancers. Their performances encouraged more people to join the music industry. Music was also performed during occasions such as weddings, in the palace, feasts and during festivals. Turkish music has been strongly influenced by the western countries since the end of the Ottoman Empire. To show modernity and democracy, Turkey has accepted the western polyphonic music as well as culture while marginalizing the Ottoman traditions.

The European military bands brought musical instruments from the Ottoman bands to Turkey. During this period, Gaetano, the famous composer was told to become the music master tu Muhmud II. In 1924, a new school for western music instructors was founded in the Turkish Republic. Young talented musicians were also sponsored abroad for further education in music. An example of such students who later became composers includes, Turkish Cemal Resit Rey who was one of the famous ‘Turkish Five’. The Ankara State Conservatory was also founded by a German composer in 1936 and this clearly showed that the Turkish Republic wanted to copy the west. Twentieth century Turkish composer include Fazil Say and Suna Kan.

Ottoman composers got influenced by European performances and they were inspired to write music for the theater. Dikran Cuhaciyan was one of such composers.             Instead of composing his songs in European style purely, he however retains Ottoman classical music monophonic texture which is not western. The instruments used are also Ottoman Instrument as well as western instruments. Harmony was also improvised through use of pianos showing how the western culture had been copied.

Classical music was developed during the Ottoman Empire. However, Western music became known in the 19th century because many foreign musicians visited the Eastern countries. Today, the Turkish music is a fusion of western, ottoman and Islamic songs. The young and talented musicians who were sent to the west to learn music became the pioneers of Turkish western music (Bellman, 2003).

Before westernization of Turkish Music, traditional musical instruments were being used. These included long lute, flute, violin and the drum. Today, advanced instrument introduced from the west are being used. However, the composers of European songs in Turkey are showing great interest in Ottoman kind of music. This shows how poorly westernization has been done in Turkey. This disruption has a negative effect in the society in that modernization is not taking place as it should.

One of the 19th century composers was Donizetti Pasa who played a great role in introducing the European music in turkey. He oversaw the European military bands training of Muhmud’s army. In the Ottoman Empire, he taught music the royal family members, ladies and the princes of the harem. Donizette composed Ottoman Empire’s national anthem. He was also active in Italian operas and in the sultan courts, he would organize entertainment performances. He is also remembered for hosting eminent visitors.

Salim Bilgen, a Turkish composer was a popular 20th century musician both in turkey and in other different parts of the world. He had studied law but was an active musician since he had studied music in his youth. He died in Ankara in 2005. He studied music in his high school where he learned how to play the piano from the mother. He was also able to play the violin since he attended Asian Violin classes in a municipal conservatory. These classes enabled him to play the violin professionally and his music was directed by Hasan Ferid.

Traditional Turkish music falls under two main genres, classical art music and the folk music. The classical music has its origin from the Ottoman Empire and is influenced by some other culture including the European culture. Music in turkey today is a fusion of classical music, Ottoman band music, and folk and western art music. Folk music instruments include strings and bowed instrument. Turkish military band has influenced the European music as well. Many foreign musicians, who visited Turkey, brought with them the western music to the country. The people sponsored to study music in Europe also became the pioneers of western music introduction to Turkey (Newman, 2003).

The colonizers who viewed Ottoman music as old fashioned were determined to abolish it and they established a new music curriculum where they taught the western music. Initially, polyphonic music was not common in Turkish music. It came in with operettas, kantos and tangos in the early twenties. Through choir performances and concerts, the polyphonic music was introduced to Turkey.

Popular music was also developed in Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire due to modernization attempts and innovations from the musicians. Hip hop and pop music originated from Germany and was brought in by the young and energetic youths. Today, music is played during celebrations and religious festivities such as Christmas.


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