5. Modernist musicology 2: the arts of memory (7)

The recent writing of Cem Behar presents a diametrically opposed picture, in which Arel is only mentioned in passing, and then only as an object of scorn. A brief chapter in Behar's Klasik Türk Musikisi Üzerine Denemeler (1987) is largely devoted to historicising, and then dismissing, Arel's fiction that tonal and makam (modal) thinking could be seamlessly united. As he points out, what works with modes such as Rast, Nihavent and Acemasiran does not necessarily work with modes such as Hüzzam, Ussak or Saba (1987:90). Behar's most recent book, Zaman, Mekan ve Muzik (1993) is devoted to the theme of oral transmission (mesk/aktarim), and related matters of performance. Arel is again only mentioned in order to be knocked down. Arel's 'Grand Symphony Orchestra' is put in the intriguing historical context of Ottoman and modern Turkish efforts to introduce a western style conductor into art music ensembles. Arel misses the point, as Behar eloquently illustrates, of the organising principles of what is essentially a chamber genre. For most of the book, mention of the towering figure of Arel is studiously ignored. Behar is concerned with traditional pedagogical techniques. 'Mesk' is seen not only as a sound means of transmitting music and musical principles, ordering a creative and rapidly changing Ottoman musical world, but also as a moral principle, involving respect for one's place within chains of authority, patience and so on. Notation and written methods, the world inhabited and mobilised by Arel, are treated with some disdain by Behar.

The hero of Behar's book is indeed an interesting figure: Ahmet Irsoy (1896-1943). Behar occasionally refers to him by his full Ottoman name, Zekai Dede Zade Hafiz Ahmet Efendi. This stresses both his family connections with one of the key composers and teachers of the late Ottoman period, Zekai Dede, and also his prolific memory; the term hafiz indicating one who has memorised the Koran. Behar's picture of Ahmet Irsoy is of a man who kept alive a valuable part of the Ottoman cultural heritage through the memory and quiet deceit. A key moment in his career took place in 1925, when, according to the Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu, the ministry of education made the teaching of western music an obligatory part of the school curriculum. Ahmet Irsoy was at this time teaching in the Darussafaka, a prestigious high school in Istanbul. He complied with what was demanded of him, since he occupied a conspicuous position in the educational establishment. However, he invested even more energy in teaching the art music genre in an unofficial capacity, continuing to rely on oral teaching methods. He taught sporadically at the Darülelhan and the Istanbul conservatory: here his phenomenal powers of memory were pressed into service by the Tasnif ve Tesbit Heyeti, which included such luminaries as Rauf Yekta, Süphi Ezgi, Mesud Cemil and Ali Rifat Cagatay. Much of the currently established notated repertoire today, Behar argues, owes its existence to the quiet, methodical, modest Ahmet Irsoy. This picture of quiet conservative resistance attains a certain significance when considered alongside the author of the book. Like Irsoy, Behar works, as it were, under cover, formally as an economist, not as a musicologist, at Bogazici University - an English speaking institution with impeccable Kemalist credentials. Behar's explicit critique of modernist thinking might constitute something of a puzzle unless it is set in the context outlined above. This might be defined as an emerging sense of the failure of the Kemalist project amongst the Kemalist intellectual elite. Behar's musicology constructs a sense in which all has not been lost, that the worst excesses of reformist zeal have not totally destroyed the chains of memory that link past and present.

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