Today, Turkish music is a fusion of classical art music, folk songs,
Ottoman military music, Islamic hymns and the norms of western art music.
Classical Turkish music is the courtly music of the Ottoman sultans that
is an offspring of the Arabic and Persian traditions. This music is not
written down in scores; with only the maquam, which is a similar pattern
of major-minor scale system, being marked down. Improvisation (taksim)
is a traditional variation technique, featuring the form. One of the characteristics
of Turkish classical and folk music, as well as the military music and
the hymns, is being monophonic. There are about 24 unequal intervals and
almost numberless modes.
Aksak is the irregular meter typical to Turkish folk music. This metric
pattern provides a rich texture to the doubles, triples and quadruples
of time measures of the western music. The tradition of regional variations
in the character of folk music prevails all around Anatolia and Thrace
even today. The troubadour (singer-poets) contributed to this genre for
Turkish military music of the Janissary Band influenced 18th and 19th
century European music, with its percussive character, aksak rhythms and
mystical tones. Inspired by the Janissary bands, both Mozart and Beethoven
wrote Alla turca movements; Lully and Handel composed operas.
Western music became known in the 19th century because many foreign
musicians visited Istanbul and performed concerts. Giusseppe Donizetti
was one of them. He founded a band in 1831 after Sultan Mahmut II abolished
the Guild of Janissaries in 1826.
The proclamation of the Republic in 1923 by Ataturk heralded a new
era under his leadership. Turkey underwent such reforms that transformed
her from an oriental empire to a western nation. In the early years, a
group of talented young musicians was sent to European cultural centers
for training. As they returned, they became the founders of modern Turkish
art music. Conventional approach considers five of these composers, commonly
called the Turkish Five as the first generation of the polyphonic school.
Namely, Cemal Resit Rey (1904-1985); Ulvi Cemal Erkin (1906-1972), Hasan
Ferit Alnar (1906-1978), Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-1991) and Necil Kazim
Akses (1908-) are the members of this group. Their torch illuminated the
way for successive generations. Their common aim was to use Turkish art
and folk music tunes to compose in Western norms. Later compositions became
more spontaneous in inspiration with each composer exhibiting the color
and mysticism of folk tunes in his style. While direct inspiration becomes
less and less obvious, the original tunes remain detectable nonetheless.
The composition styles of some of the leading composers of polyphonic music
can be explained in short such as:
Cemal Resit Rey (1904-1985) a pioneer among polyphonic Turkish composers,
Rey is also known as a conductor, pianist and teacher. He is the founder
of the Istanbul City Orchestra. He studied in Paris and Geneva becoming
a student to Gabriel Faure. His compositions are all in a modal structure,
tonal and melodic.
Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-1991) is a hallmark in Turkish music as a
pioneer in polyphonic composition, an ethnomusicologist and an instructor.
Saygun studied on pre-modal and modal music. His compositions are all in
a modal structure but sometimes with a pentatonic character.
Ulvi Cemal Erkin (1906-1972), a pioneer of modern Turkish music, he
was a composer, pianist and teacher. His works are a blend of elements
that were drawn from Turkish folk dances, traditional modes, mystical Islamic
philosophy and the norms of western music.
Bulent Arel (1918-1991) installed the electronic music studios at the
State University of New York at Stony Brook. Most of his works are derived
entirely from electronic sound material.
Ilhan Usmanbas (1921-) belongs to the second generation of Turkish
polyphonic composers. His first international success came with FROMM Music
Award in the in 1955. His composing method is a direct product of his eclecticism.
His tools find a wide spectrum from neo-classicism to aleatory; 12-tone
to serialism; blocs to minimalism.
Kamran Ince (1960), Aydin Esen(1962) and Fazil Say (1970) characterise
the new generations of Turkish polyphonic music. Their compositions are
quite eclectic with the traces of traditional Turkish music as well as
the modern western trends, including the pop and jazz elements.
In Turkey, there are six state conservatories, four symphonic orchestras
and three opera houses. Bilkent University has a private music school and
a private symphonic orchestra in Ankara. Music festivals that are held
yearly in Istanbul (for 25 years) and Ankara (for 14 years) are the members
of European Festivals Associations.
The state conservatories can be listed as follows: Ankara Hacettepe
University; Istanbul University; Istanbul Mimar Sinan University; Izmir
Dokuz Eylül University; Mersin University; Edirne University.
(Adana) University. The traditional Turkish music conservatories are
follows: Istanbul Technical University; Izmir Ege University and Gaziantep
University. There are four state symphony orchestras (Ankara Presidetial,
Istanbul, Izmir and Adana) as well as opera and ballet houses. Bilkent
University has a private music
school and a symphonic orchestra in Ankara.
Music festivals that are held
yearly in Istanbul (for 25 years) and Ankara
(for 14 years) are the members of European Festivals Associations.
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