Perhaps the most widespread and characteristic kind of Turkish music history currently available to practicioners has been firmly embedded in two earlier forms of scholarly practice: the first relates to the ilmi musiki (the science of music): an essentially timeless chain of modal musical knowledge relating to makam and usul/iqa going back to the Arab systematist philosophers and beyond. Much of this is published today in theory textbooks, beginning with a few comments about the historical depth and significance of Turkish art music, and moving straight into an ordered sequence of about one hundred makam, presenting the tetrachordal and pentachordal structure of each, written specifications of important notes and characteristic patterns, and, invariably, a piece exemplifying the makam.
A section on usul (rhythmic modes) usually follows. Published instrumental tutors follow a similar pattern: one generally learns an instrument in order to learn makam and representative pieces in commonly used makam. The demands of practical instrumental mastery are invariably subordinated to learning 'the makam system'.
|Published instrumental tutors began to appear around 1910, with Ali Salahi Bey's 'Hocasiz' (teacher-less) Ud Metodu: Behar, who has discussed this at length, notes the way this text reflects what we might think of as a modern pedagogical concern with technical exercise and virtuosity. But the most lengthy and central sections are largely devoted to presentations of modal theory, as seen by a particular authority. For many writers, instrumental tutors was evidently considered to be the most effective way of publicising their own systems. Abdülkadir Töre's 1914 violin method was, for example, a conspicuous attempt to impose his idiosyncratic makam notation system: it was opposed by many at the time (Behar 1993:105-6). The pictures on the covers of 'teach-yourself' volumes also often spell out the message in iconographic terms - with a representation of an instrument placed against a background of makam notation.|
What concerns me here is the form of historical writing to be found in these tutors. Umit Mutlu's recent Kanun Metodu (1985), for example, begins his brief history of the kanun with the statement that the medieval Arab philosopher Farabi is credited with the invention of the instrument sometime during his life (870-950). This is followed by more medieval observations, from, for example Ottoman translations of Safiuddin's Kitab-ul Edvar (4). So far, the history of the instrument is firmly grounded in a distinctly Middle Eastern and Islamic history, of precisely the kind rejected by Kemalist nationalism. The author then leaps immediately to organological observations in the work of western orientalists such as Guillaume Villoteau and Jules Rouanet (5). Here the instrument is provocatively situated not only in Arab territory (long since lost to the Ottoman state at the time of Villoteau and Rouanet), but in territory that was decisively under western colonial control. Here, Said's comments about the appropriation of orientalist language by Middle Eastern intellectuals are particularly apposite (Said 1979:325). The effect of this writing is not directly to perpetuate forms of subordination vis-a-vis the west, but to render an 'old' music acceptable within the context of an ideology that insists on removing it from the present of political 'real time'. It is an orientalism that is redefined for a distinctly specific situation. A final sentence connects present day practice with the kanun masters of the late 19th century: Kanuni Mehmet Efendi and Haci Arif Bey. The possibilities for connecting present practice with the recent, and relevant, Ottoman past are thereby minimized (although not entirely excluded). The introduction to this instrumental tutor therefore situates the kanun and its music firmly in a past which cannot possibly be repeated or regained.
A second kind of history, which I'll mention in passing, relates to the collections of biographies and autobiographies (terceme-i hal) of famous musicians (see for example Ibnulemin Inal's Hos Seda). Such texts are not widely distributed, and also tend to be fairly expensive. But this practical point is not the only reason why their potential bearing on the historical consciousness of contemporary musicians tends to be limited. As a narrative, these histories are devoid of telos or movement. One isolated case follows another. In some (such as, for example, Inal's volume) the musicians are presented in alphabetical order. Here again is a particular form of historical writing which explicitly detemporalizes, and thereby denies connection with the present. In others (for example, Rona 1970), the musicians are presented in order of birth date. Even though this organises the material in terms of a distinct timeline, its effects are somewhat similar to the alphabetic biographical mode of Inal's volume. Birth date is merely a conventional means of organising the material. A later or earlier birth date does not imply any kind of causal connection with the rest of the material. Individual and lives are presented as the organising factor of a musical domain: the ways in which the wider social and cultural world impinge upon, and shape the lives of musicians are given no narrative priority. Biographical writing is not peculiar to musicologists in the Middle East. With respect to the biographies of the Zaidi Imams in Yemen, Dresch notes that there is no 'plot in the offing', no narrative, no telos. Quoting Hayden White, he suggests that these biographies seem to derive from a refusal to rank events with respect to their significance for the culture or group that is writing its own history (1993: 175). Writing about Turkish art music follows similar forms with, I would argue, similar effects. The refusal to permit connection with 'the group that is writing its own history' in Turkish musicological texts is not, of course, directly related to Dresch's analysis of the way the Zaidi Imams sought to transcend (and thereby dominate) tribal politics in the Yemen. The 'refusal' in question here has more to do with the fact that the maintenance of the art music genre (and the kinds of scholarship attached to it in Turkey) is only possible when removed from the 'real time' of the nationalist narrative.
So far, I have been arguing that popular forms of art music musicology have had to coexist with the dominant ideology - an ideology through which some reformers have argued that this entire genre must be consigned to the historical dustbin. Turkish music history writing has remained a fairly specialised affair, little read by the majority of its practitioners. Music books are expensive, and their impact is limited to those with the time and money at their disposal to pursuse these kinds of intellectual issue. Books are also a liability. One music teacher told me that on the day of the 1980 coup, he burned every single book in his library in fear that the mere possession of books would somehow incriminate him. He pointed out that he regretted this rather hasty and, in retrospect, probably unnecessary act, but his anecdote indicates a world in which knowledges are shaped more by speech, memory and performance, and written texts are an unnecessary and potentially problematic encumberance. My kanun teacher only possessed two music books (Karadeniz 1980 and Yilmaz 1978), which he kept amongst a pile of musical notation photocopied from the TRT repertoire in a large wall unit. The presence of this notation was undoubtedly important to him, but only as a point of rhetorical reference. The world of Turkish art music is a highly intellectual world, but one which does not necessarily operate exclusively through the circuitry of the printed word.
These circumstances convey an element of urgency to the work of academic musicologists in Turkey connected with this genre. Their commitment of time and energy is invariably motivated by a sense of the pressing historiographic problem: that the existing way of thinking about Turkish art music denies a vital link to the present which is in need of maintenance or reconstruction. This poses a series of critical questions. Does one ignore, or oppose the state's invented traditions? Or, does one argue that the art music genre belongs to the canon of legitimate music, and deserves patronage on an equal footing with other genres? Does one argue for 'modernization' of the art music repertory along western lines, or along lines suggested by experimenters within the state's invented rural tradition? Or does one argue for the restitution of key principles that have been obscured by the modernist tinkering which has taken place, or the ravages of commercialism? These are political problems, in every sense of the term, and art music historians write as activists. How do they do this? The remainder of this article explores the work of two recent musicologists, Yilmaz Öztuna and Cem Behar, and the way in which they champion two quite distinct modernists in Turkish art music history, respectively Hüseyin Sadeddin Arel and Ahmet Irsoy (Hafiz Ahmet Efendi).
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