Patterns of modernization in Turkish music as indicators of a changing society

Ali Ergur
Department of Sociology, Galatasaray University, Turkey

Yigit Aydin
Musikwissenschaftliches Institut, Philipps Universität, Marburg, Germany

In: R. Parncutt, A. Kessler & F. Zimmer (Eds.) Proceedings of the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM04) Graz/Austria, 15-18 April, 2004

Background in sociology. The Turkish modernization presents an unsimilar example of cultural change, due to its singularity vis-à-vis both the western Enlightenment and modernity as it is conceived in decolonized world. Turkish society, experiences a profound transformation since the late eighteenth century, that stimulates an extensive social change in which traditional modes of cultural expression are restructured, throughout capitalistic standardizations. This simplification is also observable in the structural transformation of traditional Turkish music. In fact, musical rationalization encodes the logic of an entire phase of modernization. Background in ethnomusicology. The sound system of traditional Turkish music, on whose scale degrees Turkish musicologists have not reached a consensus yet, differs substantially from the western one which became universally valid. Based on micro-tonal varieties, traditional Turkish music theory necessitates a sufficiently refined and nonwestern musical perception. However, during the last two centuries this perceptual affinity is being abolished through the standardizing process of modernity, which realizes in effect a hidden temperament within the traditional sound system, while systematically eliminating modal, rhythmic and compositional elements of the traditional Turkish music, through the adoption of the western system. Aims. We aim to analyze, the main features of rationalization in Turkish music, through the change of its expressive specificities, as representation of a sociological transformation. Main contribution. Music is one of the most symbolic domains, in which symptoms of a rationalization process can be observed. Our study, based on a survey of modal and rythmic preferences of some composers, who can be considered as the pillars of both the tradition and modernization, and an analysis on different musical elements (performance, instruments, market, etc.), tries to demonstrate the progressive proliferation of a process of rationalization, together with the consequences on contemporary popular music, scarcely linked to the global market conditions. Traditional and westernized (it can be read today as globalized) sound systems and performances have always been conceptualized as deeply separated spheres, even as antagonistically polarized hermetical spheres which possess their specific audience, expressive instruments, discourse, etc. Conversely, we also deduce that the actual phase of musical rationalization in Turkey has attained such a degree that the artificially fragmented nature of musical genres are being melted in a technical and stylistic fusion. Implications. In nearly all of the sociological studies on Turkish music, the ontological specificities of music are underestimated, while developing deductions from music itself. In the case of ethnomusicological researches on the same subject, with a quite contrasting tendency, musical phenomena are usually isolated from their sociological context. Opposing to such prevailing considerations both in sociology and ethnomusicology, the present study may help to inaugurate, in a totally unexplored domain, an alternate path through which the artificially divided musical spheres of Turkish cultural context can be reevaluated as different aspects of an identical comprehensive modernization process.

The Turkish experience of modernity differs significantly from that of western context and

of decolonized countries both. Although it includes some of the basic characteristics of a


which caused a resolution of an economic order based predominantly on conquests and spoil- 2 . in their personal life as well as in the artistic one. the principal composers reflected. Indeed. the sound system began to realize a hidden temperament. as rhythmic patterns. Although the evolutional process came not too much suddenly. But it certainly does not mean that the entire Turkish modernization is an imposed metamorphosis. that played crucial roles in the formation stylistic and technical modifications in music. a more visible course of modification. sometimes too much slowly that changes could only be associated to the changing styles in fashion. while having a sharpened presentiment about new demands of a new urban populace as well as that of rising market conditions. All planes of social representation are naturally reflecting the features of the progressively standardizing life-world. during the artistic reign of some major composers. but also a series of unstable contradictions. performances. at every moment of the social change. Decline of an economic order The Ottoman Empire had confronted a succession of military defeats since the end of the seventeenth century. the consequences of an extensive disintegration of the older social practices. Because the process of modernization emerged as a precipitated enterprise of westernization. certain periods of modernization gave rise to accelerated moments. a cultural equilibrium that helped to preserve a constant course of evolution.CIM04 . instruments. But it attained.Proceedings universal modernization. intertwined with a step-bystep institutionalizing capitalism that standardizes things and the ideas associated to them. in certain periods. the hidden temperament has a real evolutional character. The logic of composing in a changing society The ambivalences procured by a progressive change on musical practices and sound system affected the very nature and guise of composers. Although significant in essence. mostly liturgical masterpieces that helped to keep links to tradition. fragmentation of the music universe into genres. can be observed in different aspects of the structural change in Turkish music. This matchless itinerary of social evolution caused. in which they were also tightly incorporated. the entire ambivalent social psyche.Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology . it is not surprising to discover today that most of great Turkish composers of the nineteenth century had produced. In other words. especially. an entire reasoning of the process of modernization. Having sufficiently refined insight to diagnose and interiorize the relevant characteristics of a social sensuality in transformation. Modernization in Turkish music Indeed. in the same time. as it has been conceived and experimented in the Turkish context. a series of transformations have also been observed in other aspects of music. as most thinkers tend to schematize with too much orientalist bias. that caused inevitably the translation of social reforms into an adoption of western codes. But one must argue that the Turkish modernity’s equivoques did not help to maintain. derived from a set of capitalistic relations in ferment. The modal structure of the Turkish music contains a vast variety of micro-tons and an extreme multitude of scales called makams. but rather a sum of theoretical and practical articulations along centuries. pillared by both the traditional basis and modern tendencies. First of all. a well-articulated dynamism. organization and zeitgeist. which in fact should not be considered as a well-founded system. Meanwhile. As modernization proliferated throughout social praxis. Hence. The progressively dominating market conditions superimposed on a newly blooming urban lifestyle. but music seems to present the most symbolically charged domain ever existed. the abandon of incompatible makams came progressively. and the most classically dignified. in their works. it consists of a set of specificities that render it much more polyvalent. these composers felt directly. we should mention that the musical modernization had necessitated a mutation of the sound system. due to a relatively rapid change. while eliminating its too much incompatible scales vis-à-vis the already tempered western sound system. the most popularized songs and other genres carrying out the characteristics of the dynamism of everyday-life in ebullition. as social expression. in a two-century long period of modernization. the rise of a music market. etc.

The most relevant composers in Turkish music lived and created their artistic corpus in such a modernizing period. On the other hand. Thus. though it remained initially limited and shy. but the very idea of modernization had sparked in cultural domain.: the crossculturally discovered subdivisions of the octave. The latter have later acquired. because the direction of the modernization was the western cultural experience. Selim III. Thus. while being positioned at the historical crossroads that opposed the traditional to the modern and shaping the circumstances of a capitalistic market for music. It should be considered of symbolic value that one of the very pioneering ottoman sultans. since the late eighteenth century. Turkish music. that ended up a long period and tradition of monarchic absolutism and regulated some of basic rights of Empire’s subjects. Dimensions of musical rationalization The gradual modifications on the sound system should be analyzed in two consequent levels for a more insightful evaluation: On the one hand. Indeed the structural transformation of music became much more visible in the after-Tanzimat period. Accompanied by a social decline. fifth. though partially overdetermined by capitalistic relations. then being fragmented into commercially functional genres. because it has both popular and abstract (intrinsic complexity) characters.).Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology .Proceedings gatherings. but also as a master of Turkish traditional music. public and military riots.). throughout the process of modernization. etc. the first reformist attempts had been limited in only military technology and organization. which is based on the use of micro-tons and a vast variety of scales derived from them. Music had never been thought out of this social quivering. An urban 3 . as well as other cultural contexts. Meanwhile a culture of consumption was replacing that of an Islamic sobriety. the musical preferences of any audience were mostly associated with the schematized ideological meanings. is known today. and the most significant of them is a certain rationalization of the lifeworld. not only as a reformist. Essentially perceived in the sense that Max Weber theorized it. one should take into account that modernization evokes universally pertinent consequences. Of course. among other arts. the most significant and accelerated social change has flourished after the public declaration of the Decree of Tanzimat in 1839. symptoms of a general state of decadence immediately appeared (uncontrollable inflation. which triggered out the polarization between conservatism and modernism. In such a context. economic life had weakened as it was being nearly paralyzed by a rapid proliferation of European commodities into ottoman markets.CIM04 . to adopt the apparently technical applications related to modernization. the rationalization of the sound system should also be considered as an extension of the natural course of social evolution. Given that the technological superiority of industrially produced commodities was wiping out the power of competition of ottoman local products. also mainstream ideological connotations that prevailed until recent periods. musical rationalization developed in Turkish society. through a process of simplification and standardization in the musical universe. Music as ideological connotation Music occupies a privileged place in Turkish modernization. devaluation of coins in currency. Although the late eighteenth century (1770s) is conventionally considered by a large number of historians as the beginning of the Turkish modernization. The sound system of Turkish traditional music began therefore. but also it integrated these contradictions into the very logic of the market: More ideological tension meant more fragmented thus commercially varied musical market. A more predictable and calculable world conception necessitated a rationalized sound system. this incompatibility is defined according to the western tempered sound system. not only music absorbed ideological components. In other words. has eliminated a considerable part of its incompatible sound elements. on the very universality of the basic principles on the formation of scales (for ex. The inner dynamics of the ottoman society assisted to the simplification and standardization of the channels of social representation. fourth. The double-sidedness of musical expression explains its ideological over-charges that made it a vast conceptual terrain of social and political but certainly nonmusical debate. etc. increasing luxury and poverty. as the eighth.

But even the very fact that this debate exists. that has been charged with an ideological excess of signs. this same historical point of inflection. Hammamizade Ismail Dede Efendi (1778-1846) was one of these ambivalent personalities. on the other.CIM04 . polyphony. The change occurred not only in music theory. while having also systematized the already inseminated hidden temperament. In fact. But one should not interpret it only as a sum of contradictions. At the end of the nineteenth century. they fashioned a large collection of classical-style compositions. and. There are serious doubts and ambiguities about whether the original chromatic scale of Turkish music should be divided in 17 or 24 steps. 116/8. who introduced the song form as a tool of popular culture. which implicated a massive demand for the production of simplified and schematized cultural expressions. from the symphonic composition to the actual pop. Rhythmic structures that use very complex patterns (for ex. fusing the quasi-artificially fragmented commercial genres. The debate is still hot to a great extend and unsolved among several musicological points of view. particularly in the twentieth century.Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology . on the one hand. several composers and theoreticians preferred to identify some of the scales of Turkish music with an exact equivalence to their western homologues. etc. the world of modernity was offering a much more calculated. trying to establish rationalized scales and a standardized sound system.Proceedings lifestyle was germinated during the nineteenth century in the ottoman everyday life. and on the other hand. if not democratic tendencies. 4 . Modifications in other aspects of music Beside the temperament observed in the sound system. at the same time. theory. 88/4. This hidden temperament resulted in a natural selection. Most of popular songs composed by these eminent musicians can be grouped around a restricted number of scales. Haci Arif Bey invented new scales and rhythms to respond to the rising popular demands in a better way. Hidden temperament and popular music The rapid blossoming of the premises of a popular culture inaugurated the path both to capitalistic relations and to a self-expressing society. Although it was commercially packaged.). instead we can deduce of this highly dynamic musical plethora that Turkish music is in a phase of surpassing its old tensions. However. the Cargah for C Major. etc. instruments. they were ironically constructing. while feeling themselves rejected out of their times. the very foundations of a modernizing social symbolism. while. This helped to the development of conventions of practice. the Hicaz for A minor. demonstrates that Turkish music still feels the repercussions of a hidden temperament. performance. as for example. an evolving society was quitting traditional. etc. the masters of Turkish music in nineteenth century played a central role in the profusion of songs. 76/16. that had not take place until then in the erudite music. but in a whole social perception and representation system.) in the classical conception of Turkish music. through an uncountable number of abandoned and then forgotten makams. predetermined and prompt social system. Another great composer of the time was Haci Arif Bey (1831-1885) who contributed too much to the expansion of popular music especially in the song form. Musicological investigations in a more scientific manner were carried out during the republican era (after 1923). the Rast for G Major. being rationalized institutionalizing a tempered sound system together with all other musical elements (composition. the process of rationalization has been realized also in other aspects of Turkish music. rhythm. because. with their own works. he enriched the theoretical range of Turkish music. The latter (makams) were those with relative proximity to the ones in the western tempered sound system. Different initiatives for systematizing the musical notation have been noted since the eighteenth century. on the one hand. therefore responded to the dominant psyche referring to standardization and simplification. As already mentioned. Toward a fusion of genres The direct or indirect consequences of the rationalizing process can be observed today in different levels of music life in Turkey. feudal structures towards a slowly growing commercial rationale. the song form carried a vast amount of popular representations. have been simplified through reductions to 4/4 and ¾ and their derivations. But.

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