The form of music today
generally known as Türk Sanat Müziği, or Ottoman Classical Music,
matured, developed in form and aesthetics and came to assume the
identity of a form of classical music in parallel to the establishment,
growth and increasing strength of the Ottoman state itself. This
variety of music furnished products dealing with many subjects, such as
religion, love and war. Each of these then came to develop its own
varieties, styles and communities. Ottoman music was influenced by
other musical cultures as new nations became absorbed into the empire,
giving and receiving various elements. From the beginning of the 19th
century, however, as the empire began to recede and collapse,
increasing shallowness and laxness can be seen in Ottoman music. While
rich modes and styles had been employed in the past, this concept
gradually faded and turned into metropolitan entertainment music. That
process has continued to the present day, and the ‘popular song’ has
become increasingly popular and popularised, effectively taking the
place of the other forms.
A great number of works were
actually forgotten and disappeared as less importance was attached to
notation in the middle of the 19th century. The number of works that
were written down and have survived down to the present day is some
3,000 for works composed between the 15th century and the end of the
18th. The number produced during the 19th century is around 5,000,
giving a total of 8,000. A number of works from the first quarter of
the 20th century can also be added to those works, which from the point
of view of mode, style, means and methods of vocalisation go back to
the very earliest times within a framework of their own distinct rules.
Ever since then, the music that has continued to be produced under the
name of ‘Turkish Classical Music,’ and which has grown ever more
popular, can be seen as an extension of Ottoman music adapted to
Ottoman music is a synthesis, carrying
within it a great many historical riches. It emerged as the result of a
sharing process between the Turks and the minorities living alongside
them, the Byzantines, Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Jews, Armenians etc. It
reached its golden age in the private school in the Ottoman palace. No
country that employed that system was able to reach the level of
artistry attained by the Ottomans.
Ottoman music was formed and given voice in the ‘Fasıl,’ itself based on unity of mode.
Works composed within the same melodic structure (makam) , or mode, set
out and played in a particular order. In a genuine fasıl, there will be
works for voice and for saz. The basis of the fasıl is that the works
should have the same melodic structure, and they are then ordered
according to shape or form. There must generally be two ‘Beste’ (poetic
forms) and five ‘Semai’ composed to count as a complete fasıl. These
are accompanied by lyrics. The compositions are in the form of
‘Murabba’ (a poem composed of quatrains) or ‘Nakış’ (a form of song).
Murabbas are composed for two rhyming couplets of a ‘Gazel,’ and may be
with or without ‘Terennüm,’ which are words that complement the verses
that make up the formal lyric of the song, and may either have a
meaning or else be just a string of syllables, for example ‘ten, tenen,
tenenen, ten nen ni.’ Lines 1, 2 and 4 of the poem are tied to the same
melody, with line 3 having a different melody. This latter section is
known as ‘Miyan Hane,’ wherein the makam is either widened or changed.
Murabbas with terennüm repeat it at the end of each line. The terennüm
of the miyan hane may be different, however. In the nakış, on the other
hand, two verses are read together, followed by a lengthy terennüm.
with lyrics and the same structure as the murabba or nakış (but
composed in the semai style) are known as ‘Ağır’ and ‘Yürük’ Semai
respectively. In the fasıl, lyrical works such as the ‘Kar’ or ‘Şarkı’
and instrumental pieces such as ‘Taksim,’ ‘Peşrev,’ ‘Saz Semaisi’ and
‘Oyun Havası’ may be added. In this way, the structure of a complete
fasıl is as follows;
a) Any introductory Taksim with saz.
c) The first beste or kar.
d) Second beste.
e) Ağır semai
f) Şarkıs (in order from major rhythmic pattern and slow character, to minor and fast)
g) Yürük Semai
h) Saz Semai
‘Kar’ gives considerable space to the terennüm component, and is a work
with lyrics requiring considerable expertise. It is one of the most
developed forms. The ‘Şarkı’ in Turkish literature is a form that
emerged under the influence of the folk song. The şarkı consists of
lines of verse, its name depending on the number of verses involved. It
is composed with a minor rhythmic pattern (usul) and take can take
various forms. It was particularly popular after the 19th century, and
left the other forms which included lyrics in the shade. It went from
strength to strength in the 20th century, going beyond the previously
established frontiers and eventually turning into the ‘Fantezi’ form as
it grew more and more popular. Apart from a few outstanding examples,
it played a major role in restricting the sphere of traditional
The following are the form of instrumental pieces employed in Ottoman music;
Generally composed in major rhythmic patterns, such as ‘Darb-ı Fetih,’
‘Sakil,’ ‘Muhammes’ and ‘Devr-i Kebir,’ or sometimes in minor ones,
such as ‘Düyek.’ It is a saz work that emerged from the sections called
‘Hane’ and the ‘Mulazime’ section that comes between and is repeated
with little change.
Saz Semaisi: Although they have the
same structure as the peşrev, the saz compositions falling in the semai
(six-time), ‘aksak semai’ (10-time) and yürük semai (six-time)
categories are known as ‘Saz Semaisi.’ These come at the end of the
fasıl, following the yürük semai.
Taksim: Intended to
introduce, prepare the way or warm up for the makam, these are played
with a single instrument, within the makam, yet not linked to any
rhythmic pattern, and are either free-form or improvised.
Oyun Havası: Instrumental pieces composed for dancing.
Up to 15-time these are known as ‘Küçük Usul’ (minor pattern), and
after 15-time as ‘Büyük Usul’ (major pattern). When the two are
employed together, this is known as ‘Darbeyn.’ There are also strings
that use one usul after another. One of these consists of five usul,
either 60 or 120-time, depending on which view one adopts, and this is
known as ‘Zencir.’ Kücük usul in 5, 7, 9-time etc. or 10-time works
such as the aksak semai, are known as ‘Aksak Usul.’ The true times that
bear the name ‘aksak’ are usul in 2+2+2+3 form.