|Turkey, rich in
musical heritage, has developed this art in two areas, Turkish
classical and Turkish folk music. When describing Turkish music
today it is generally said that Ottoman composers availed
themselves of the rich musical heritage found in the cultural
centers of the Abbasid and the Timurogullari, where Turkish,
Araband Iranian musicians performed and created music known as
Ottoman court music. This music was based on mode and human
The mode and musical instruments
of Turkish music can be found in all middle-east countries.
However, with the passing of time, there have been changes in
the mode from region to region. Although written sources
indicate 600 modes, only 212 have survived to our day. These can
be divided as follows:
3.Modes with changing pitch.
Through the centuries many
instruments have been used in Turkish music, such as the ud,
tanbur, kemence, ney, kanun, kudum, bendir, def, halile, lavta,
santur, rebap, musikar, cenk and sinelkeman.
The various types of Turkish
music differing in modes and pitch include tunes and spirituals
and are classified as kar, murabba beste, agir semai, yuruk
semai, sarki, pesrev, saz semai, taksim, gazel, ilahi and
Turkish music is also graded
under the four headings below:
1.Non-religious music (with or
4.Islamic mystic music.
The history of Turkish music,
especially in regard to melodic variations, can be divided into
four periods. The first is the formation which goes back to the
years 1360-1453, when the Turks adopted Islam. After the
conquest of Istanbul, but prior to the period of classical
music, Ottoman music was influenced by Byzantine music, mainly
in the years 1640-1712. The greatest proponents of the Ottoman
style after the exemplary classical music created by Itri were
Ebubekir Aga, Tab'i Mustafa Efendi, Kucuk Mehmet Aga, Sadulla
Aga, Padisha III Selim and Ismail Dede Efendi. The period from
1955 onwards has been designated as the reform period.
Intended reforms in the field of
music during the Republican period led to debates on the
subjects of European, Turkish, polyphonic and monophonic music.
During this period composers who were noted for their work
included Refik Fersan, Cevdet Cagla, Sadettin Kaynak, Selahattin
Pinar, Suphi Ziya Ozbekkan, Lem'i Atli, Rauf Yekta, Suphi Ezgi,
Huseyin Saadettin Arel and others.
Currently, three groups represent
Turkish music. The first group favors polyphonic music. The
second group prefers an individual interpretation of classical
music. Numbered among this group were the Nevzat Atlig chorus,
Bekir Sidki Sezgin, Meral Ugurlu, Niyzi Sayin, Necdet Yasar,
Ihsan Ozgen, Erol Deran, Cinucen Tanrikorur and others. The
third group preserves traditional ties coupledwith high quality
and includes Yalcin Tura, Mutlu Torun, Ruhi Ayangil and others
of the "new wave."
Turkish music is a product of
Turkish thoughts and feelings and of migrations and changing
geographical positions. It expresses the changes in the ways of
life of the Turkish people throughout history.
Ballads and songs are especially
important. Turkish folk music encompasses all natural and
communal events. It branches out into "Kirik Hava" and
"Uzun Hava" and makes use of wind, string, and rhythm
From 1926 onwards various state
enterprises have conducted research into Turkish folk music.
In 1826, Sultan Mahmut II
attempted to modernize the Turkish Army and organize a military
band similar to the bands of western armies, and in 1828 the
Imperial Band was founded.
After the proclamation of the
Republic, the orchestra was renamed the Riyaseti Cumhur Musiki
Heyeti, and in 1958 it was again renamed the Presidential
Symphony Orchestra, its current title. The Music Teachers
Academy was opened in 1924 and the Ankara State Conservatory in
1936. Today there are conservatories in both Istanbul and Izmir.
The flow of pop music from the
west has also influenced Turkey, and since the 1960's Turkey has
followed world trends and produced artists in this field of
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 ages
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
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
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
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
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
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