The source of western "Turkish" music

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John F
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The source of western "Turkish" music

Post by John F » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:41 am

In the 18th century there was a vogue for music "alla turca," known today through the popularity of Mozart's opera "Abduction from the Seraglio" and his piano sonata no. 11 with its finale, the rondo alla turca. This NY Times article about the Zildjian cymbal company, celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, fills some gaps in my sketchy knowledge of just what kind of music this is.

A Family’s 400-Year-Old Musical Secret Still Rings True
By Lara Pellegrinelli
Aug. 3, 2018

The surest route to a drummer’s heart? Cymbals. “You can have all the swirling harmony in the world,” the drummer Brian Blade said, “but only the cymbals can put you over the top of that mountain you’re trying to climb. The tension is the beauty of it, like riding a wave until you need it to crest.”

Mr. Blade, who is best known for playing with the country music singer Emmylou Harris and the jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, said he thinks of his cymbals as an extension of himself, though he also gives credit for his distinctive sound to the instruments he plays: Zildjians. He has endorsed the brand for 20 years, just one in a long, diverse roster of musicians to do so.

Zildjian was incorporated in the United States in 1929. But the company’s relationship with drummers, and drumming itself, dates back much further: 400 years to be precise, to 1618, when a secret casting process resulted in the creation of a new bronze alloy for the court of Sultan Osman II, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire.

“My father always said that the name is bigger than any one person in the family,” said Craigie Zildjian, the company’s chief executive officer (the first woman to have the job), a member of the family’s 14th generation of cymbal makers. “In other words, you have this little piece of 400 years. Don’t screw it up.”

For the 3,000 or so years before 1618, cymbals had evolved very little. The earliest evidence of them can be found on pottery fragments from Hittite Anatolia dating to the Bronze Age. Metallic percussion was long part of the military music for Turkic tribes including the Seljuks, who migrated to the Middle East in the 11th century. (Some “had horns, others pipes and timbrels, gongs, cymbals and other instruments, producing a horrible noise and clamor,” reads a description of battle during the Third Crusade.)

The sound quality of these boisterous instruments might have left something to be desired by the 17th century, an age of Ottoman musical refinement. It was then that Avedis I, a 22-year-old Armenian metal smith and aspiring alchemist, learned that mixing ample tin into copper would produce a rich, robust sound. But he faced a formidable problem. “It’s a very brittle alloy,” Paul Francis, Zildjian’s director of research and development, said. “It will shatter like a piece of glass.”

Then Avedis I made a music-altering discovery — still carefully guarded by the family — that involved forging a metal so flexible it could be repeatedly heated, rolled and hammered into the finest instruments. “He was looking for gold,” Mr. Francis said. “As far as I’m concerned, he found it.”

Osman II thought so: He granted the young artisan permission to make instruments for the court and gave him the Armenian surname Zildjian (meaning “son of cymbal maker”). The family set up shop in the seaside neighborhood of Samatya in Constantinople, where metal arrived on camel caravans and donkeys powered primitive machines.

Those working in Zildjian’s shop produced cymbals for the mehter — monumental ensembles with double reeds, horns, drums and other metallic percussion that belonged to the empire’s elite janissary military corps. The Zildjians likely also did business with Greek and Armenian churches, Sufi dervishes and the Sultan’s harem, where belly dancers wore finger cymbals.

“Military music was a branch of their classical music,” Walter Zev Feldman, the author of “Music of the Ottoman Court,” said. Although mehter ensembles were known in the West for playing in battle, they also performed courtly suites for its rulers, like those by Solakzade Mehmed (1592-1658), who wrote under the name Hemdemi.

Every morning before prayer, and every evening after prayer, ensembles gathered to play from castle towers, including one above the gardens of Topkapi Palace. Hand-held cymbals measuring a foot or so in diameter probably marked the rhythmic cycles, which Mr. Feldman said “are among the most complex in the world: cycles of 24, 28, 32 and even 48 beats.”

It’s no wonder that composers like Gluck and Mozart wanted to emulate a Turkish style with busy, glittering percussion. Precisely what Ottoman music they heard is an open question, though. A handful of European rulers adopted mehter ensembles or sent their kapellmeisters to Constantinople to learn the tradition, but the composers more likely were exposed, Mr. Feldman said, to “klezmorim, local Jewish musicians, in places like Prague and Berlin, who had learned the Ottoman repertoire.”

What came to be known simply as “Turkish cymbals” were assimilated by European orchestras and, in the first half of the 19th century, into new military and wind band styles that thoroughly integrated West and East. Meanwhile, the janissaries, having assassinated one too many sultans, were outlawed and executed in 1826 — as were their mehter musicians...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/03/arts ... years.html
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: The source of western "Turkish" music

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:18 pm

Turkish band music is the source of all modern marching band music, with the possible exception of pipe bands and fife-and-drum as occurred at the surrender at Yorktown. The following is not Turkish, though there are many YouTube places where you can see Turkish bands marching. I'm afraid it is Sousa again, but you will get the point. (The shaking-bell instrument is quite exotic, and only a few bands own one.)


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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