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Music Mediating Politics in Turkey: The Case of Ahmed Adnan Saygun

Length: 31 pages27 minutes


As a proponent of musical reforms following the founding of the republic in 1923, Ahmed Adnan Saygun became a figurehead of Turkish nationalism, and his music came to represent the reform-era political ideology that sought closer ties with Europe. In conjunction with compositional strategies that reflected reform rhetoric, performances of his music at several high-profile venues served to mediate political alliances with and beyond Europe. In this essay I discuss the contexts of four performances, two of the opera Özsoy and two of the oratorio Yunus Emre , and how they enable Saygun’s music to establish or solidify alliances with Iran, the post-Soviet republics of central Asia, the United Nations (UN), and the Vatican. By contextualizing Saygun’s compositional style, particularly the practice of pastiche, and by analyzing the presenting, promoting, and reviewing strategies for the performances, this essay establishes a framework for considering the role that music, specifically music performance, plays in mediating politics in Turkey. This essay originally appeared in a special issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East entitled "Mediating Politics in the Middle East."

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