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[Auditory arts] [Auditory arts] [Classical Turkish Art Music]


One of the principal education centres for the music of the Ottoman age was Enderun, known today as an imperial university which trains and educates prospective statesmen. Children and young people, once their skill and ability was discerned, used to be taught lessons and gain experience-this instruction being known as meşk -from prominent masters in this institution. Apart from Enderun, "musical gatherings" used to be arranged in "kasr”s, and "köşk"s - summer palaces and richly decorated luxury mansions belonging to the Sultan and high officials. These gatherings should be regarded as significant activities that provided opportunities for "mutrıb"s and "hanende"s - "instrumentalists" and "vocalists" -to perform and show their artistic skills, and even more, to improve their art. The Mevlevihanes, active in many provinces, were among the most significant centres for musical education. The Dervish Lodges of Halveti, Celveti, Kadiri and particularly Bektaşi were significant in the progress of sufi music. Music lessons were given great importance in the elementary schools, at first called sıbyan mektebi (the child school), and then called ibtidaî (the elementary school) after 1862. Some great composers, whose ability and skills had been discovered in these schools, were then accepted to the Enderun.

The fundamental principle in music education was meşk, the process of learning from masters. Meşk was mainly based on memorising musical repertoires, subtle nuances peculiar to the performance, usuls (rythmic patterns) and makams (melodic patterns), by means of listening to the masters, and then repeating them. The both tradition greatly improved the musicians' skills of "perceiving by listening". However, the lack of any notation, and the need therefore to transfer musical accumulations preserved only by memory, caused many musical works and masterpieces to be forgotten; even the ones not forgotten have reached our age with some modifications.

The growing maturity of the Ottoman state also affected many branches of the fine arts in their development. The positive side of this effect is apparent in the art of music as well as in the other branches of the art of the Ottoman age. There was no institutionalised musical education until the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Up to that time, musicians were educated through private lessons at the Ottoman court, and in medreses, tekkes and especially Mevlevihanes or Mehterhanes. The mehterhanes, which had various tasks in both peace and war, in one aspect, were one of the centres for musical education, and in another, contributed to the production of new musical pieces which were composed for these organisations by composers in the music of that era. During the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror, education became more institutionalised, the Enderun beginning to function as a music school as well. This era was a turning point, in the sense that the Ottoman Court, taking music under its protective umbrella, began to provide a secure basis for music to improve. Thus, during this era, an evident increase in the production of musical compositions, both religious and non-religious, can be seen. Many new terkibs were formed and new kinds of forms developed. In the major compositions of non-religious music, the same style predominated as in the Mevlevi ayins. Moreover, it can be said that Ottoman music reached its apogee in the Mevlevi ayins. The Imams and Müezzins at court used to be selected from among the musicians with a beautiful voice. Moreover, in order to be assigned to a mosque within a city, one of the primary conditions was to have a beautiful voice and a musical education. The sermüezzin (the chief müezzin) at court were usually the most prominent composer of his time.

Music ensembles were set up for the sultan and his family, and for high officials at court. Musical education used to be given to both male and female officials occupying various state positions. Ensembles formed by instrumentalists and vocalists used to perform musical pieces in both religious and non¬religious genres for the administrative officers. Among the musical pieces in the non¬religious genre, apart from the ones called relaxation pieces, there were entertainment pieces, such as oyun havasıs (the music for folk dances). The Cariyes (the concubines) in the harem, received lessons from special masters in music and dance; and these lessons were of great importance for their education. Sometimes, some cariyes were sent, with an escort, to a master's house for lessons, even staying overnight.

Many non-Muslim musicians like Kemani Corci, Ilya, Tanburi Izak, Zaharya also earned great appreciation from the sultans, in both the way that they contributed to the repertoire of Ottoman music and for their exquisite performance of Turkish music.

Musical life within the Ottoman Court made progress or declined in proportion to the interest that the sultan exhibited in music and entertainment. From the first initiatives taken by Mehmet the Conqueror, and afterwards during the reign of the sultans Murat the Fourth and Mehmet the Fourth, considerable improvements could be observed in the field of music, the interest in music retaining its liveliness during the reign of the sultans Ahmed the Third and Mahmut the First. However, after the death of sultan Mahmut the First, there was a period of stagnation for a quarter of a century. Then, with Selim the Third, a rather splendid period of Ottoman music began and this period lasted until the end of sultan Mahmut the Second's reign. After this period, with the effects of westernisation movements in the Ottoman Empire, the importance and value that sultans and high officials gave to Turkish music decreased.

Music in Ottoman society, was frequently performed at the meclis's (gatherings) of rich, well-educated, intellectual and cultured people. These gatherings were the meetings at which people talked about science, philosophy, literature and art, and but also music was performed. The people coming to these gatherings were not only the persons who listened to the music, but also the ones who actively participated in the performance. In these gatherings, people talked to each other, some recited poems to the others, and music was performed. These gatherings were important social activities at which the musicians had chance to show their art and to improve their skills. Hence, the prominent composers, hanendes and performers of the time were the essential participants at these gatherings. Through careful investigations into the miniatures, paintings or engravings made by western painters, information regarding the instruments of various periods of the Ottoman empire and about the musical environment can be extracted. The Çengnâme of Ahmedî (15th century), The Mevâidü'n ¬Nefâis and Kavâidi'I-Mecâlis of Gelibolulu Mustafa Ali (16th century), The Surnâme-i Hümâyûn (1582), The Seyahatnâme of Evliya Çelebi, The Surnâme-i Vehbî (1720) and The Tefhîmü'I-Makamât and fî tevlîdü'n-Nagamât of Hızır Ağa are some of the sources for information about instruments.

The composers of most of the musical pieces in the repertoire of Classical Turkish Music are known. However, there are still many pieces whose composers are unknown. These anonymous compositions can be considered to be the pieces brought by and belonging to the Acemler (who came to Istanbul from Iran and Azerbaijan), those belonging to Hindus (the pieces that came from the repertoire of the Babur empire, by an unknown way) and the ones whose composers have been forgotten for various reasons.

One of the earliest composers was Korkud the prince (1467 -1513), who was the brother of Selim the First (Yavuz). In the obscure early period, composers like Nefirî Behram ( -1560 ), Gazi Giray Han (1554 - 1608), Eyyubî Mehmed Çelebi ( -1650 ?) and Kantemiroğlu (1673 -1723) emerged. Al i Şîr u Ganî (1635 -1714) produced the most important religious and sufic pieces in this era. Hafız Post (1620 -1694) and Buhurîzade Mustafa Efendi (Itrî) [1638-1712], were regarded as significant composers of Classical Turkish Music. Nayî Osman Dede (1652 -1730), who was also a theoretician, has an important place in over musical history as a composer of mevlevi ayins and his Miraciye. Enfî Hasan Ağa (1670 -1728), Zaharya ( -1740 ) and Ebubekir Ağa (1685 1759) later created the first great compositions of the classical repertoire of non-religious music.

After Tab i Mustafa Efendi (1705 -1765), the great composers of the Tulip Age, such as Sadullah Ağa (-1801), Musahib Seyyid Ahmed Ağa (1728 -1794), Tanburî İzak (1745 -1814), DiIhayat Kalfa (1760 -1820), Hamparsum Limonciyan (-1814), Tanburi Emin Ağa (1768-1814) together with Selim the Third, who was also himself a great composer, enabled the Ottoman age to have the most splendid period of classical Turkish music, with the masterpieces that they composed in the period of both Selim's princeship and reign. Mahmud the Second, too, was a composer, like his uncle. Kömürcüzade Hafız ( -1835), İsmail Dede Efendi (1778-1846) and Dellalzade İsmail Efendi (1797 -1869), whose youth and early adulthood coincided with the reign of Selim the Third, produced the real masterpieces of Turkish music in the reign of Mahmut the Second. The last splendid examples of Turkish music were created by musicians like Kazasker Mustafa İzzet Efendi (1801 - 1876), Zekâi Dede Efendi (1825 -1897), Hacı Ârif Bey (1831 -1885), Mahmud Celaleddin Paşa (1839 -1899), Lem i Atlı (1869-1945) and Tanburî Cemil Bey (1873 -1916).