The Relationship Between Art and Politics in the 19th Century Ottoman Empire: Institutionalization, Change and Continuity
Inventing Scientific Foundations for Ottoman Music: On the Way to ‘Civilized Nations’ With the Help of ‘Positivist Faith’Okan Murat Öztürk
The 19th century is conspicuous for the Europeanization movements that were introduced to the Ottoman world. The domain of music theory exerted a predominant and specific influence on Ottoman music in the 1800s. A series of events related to an individual named Rauf Yekta occurred in the second half of the century. These occurrences evince the course that established the content and framework of present-day Turkish music theory. The world views and attitudes of 19th century Ottomans educated according to the European style primarily exhibited an understanding of modernization based on concepts such as science, progress, evolution, positivism, and measurement. Auguste Comte promised that the transition from the theological stage, which indicated a state of backwardness, to the positive stage could only be achieved through science. Believing in this promise, Yekta adhered to the tenets of Comtean positivism, which appeared dominantly positioned in his scientific orientation and allowed him to conduct his music theory studies completely within this framework. This chapter focuses on the individuals engaged in theoretical investigations initiated with the claim of discovering the scientific foundations of Ottoman music. It further evaluates the roles discharged by these researchers. This prosopographical study aims to construct a unique history of events and to highlight the significant difficulties and deficiencies in contemporary circumstances. Historian Yılmaz Öztuna, one of Arel’s best-known students, wrote a stereotypical and fictional narrative claiming that three Mevlevi sheikhs and three followers accomplished studies in music theory. However, Öztuna confused the names of Ataullah Dede and Hüseyin Dede when he was a student in Paris; this major inaccuracy caused the publishing and dissemination of erroneous information. Apparently, Öztuna preferred to silently witness the proliferation of his invented misinformation throughout his long career as a writer rather than rectify the simple mistake. It was subsequently revealed that a process that began with Yekta’s efforts to introduce scientific theory to Ottoman music transmogrified, especially by Arel, into content that completely imitated European harmonic tonality. The study disclosed that individuals desirous of modernizing Ottoman music theory were intimately linked with diverse political and social groups, including bureaucrats, sheikhs of religious orders, foreign schools, political parties, missionaries, foreign embassy officials, literary circles, freemasons, and especially the press. The chronological exposition of the findings of the study elucidates the significant functions performed successively by Rauf Yekta, Ataullah Dede, Celaleddin Dede, Suphi Ezgi, and Sadettin Arel to shape music theory studies in Turkey. Further, Salih Zeki Bey, Mihail Mishaqa, S. Murat Uzdilek, and Yılmaz Öztuna were indirectly involved in the process, discharging diverse roles over varied time periods.