Saygun’s Perspective on Tradition and the Anatolian Melodies Used in the Opera KeremYılmaz Koç
This article examines the opera Kerem (Op. 28) composed by Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-1991) in terms of traditionalism due to how it involves elements of Anatolian traditions. The libretto of the opera was written by Selâhattin Batu (1905-1973). The subject of the opera, which consists of three acts and eight scenes, is based on the tale of Kerem and Aslı. Kerem scales identified as belonging to Âşık Kerem are thought to have been used in the work. In this context, the study discusses the Turkish folk music and classical Turkish music scales used in the work, in particular the Kerem scales, and presents detailed examples of their usage.
Saygun’un Geleneğe Bakışı ve Kerem Operasında Kullanılan Anadolu Ezgileri*Yılmaz Koç
Bu makalede, Ahmed Adnan Saygun’un (1907-1991) bestelediği Kerem operası (Op. 28) Anadolu geleneklerine ait ögeler içermesi nedeniyle gelenekçilik açısından incelenmiştir. Operanın librettosu Selâhattin Batu (1905-1973) tarafından yazılmıştır. Üç perde ve sekiz sahneden oluşan eserin konusu Kerem ile Aslı hikâyesine dayanmaktadır. Eserde Âşık Kerem’le özdeşleştirilen Kerem dizilerinin kullanılmış olduğu düşünülmektedir. Bu bağlamda Kerem dizileri başta olmak üzere, eserde kullanılan Türk halk müziği ve klasik Türk müziği dizileri ele alınmış, kullanım örnekleri ayrıntılarıyla verilmiştir.
Among the Turkish Five, the composer who is best known worldwide and whose works are performed the most is undoubtedly Ahmed Adnan Saygun. Saygun was born in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and witnessed the establishment of the Republic of Türkiye in his early youth. He was entitled to study music in Paris upon passing the exam that had been opened along the axis of new art policies. After returning to Türkiye, the composer assumed important positions in state institutions such as the Music Teachers’ School, community centers, the State Conservatory, and the Board of Discipline and Education. He also maintained his loyalty to Atatürk and the values of the republic throughout his life. By adopting the idea of processing Turkish music in universal dimensions, Saygun expressed the awareness of being a nation and the importance of turning to his own roots in fine arts:
[…] Here, Atatürk resolutely addressed language, history, and after a while, fine arts, in the struggle to recreate a society that had been oppressed and humiliated by the Ottoman landlords. He returned to Anatolia and Turkishness in language after the Alphabet Reform and went directly to the roots of the Anatolian people, both in Anatolia and Asia, instead of the understanding of “a strange state born from four hundred tents” in history. And finally, he turned to the same resources in fine arts. (Saygun, 1987, p. 34)
Saygun had an evolutionist understanding of tradition and stated tradition not be a narrow pattern one blindly adheres to but rather a process that can incorporate the new. As a 20th-century composer, Saygun kept his distance from the art movements that had emerged in his age and sought innovation, he stated in his work called Yalan (1945) that no building could be built without a foundation. Combining the traditional music elements of his country with the Western music education he’d received in Paris, the composer made his voice known to the world through his original musical language.
Saygun was an educator, writer, and ethnomusicologist in addition to being a composer and drew attention to the importance of investigating the historical, linguistic, and sociological background of folk music. As a result of his field research, he got to know the lifestyle of the Anatolian people and their folk singing styles and published many articles and books on the subject. In his article titled La Musique Turque (2009), he explained the melodic and rhythmic structure of Turkish folk music and classical Turkish music in detail and drew attention to the descending structure and tetrachords of the scales that reveal this music.
Hi opera Kerem consists of three acts and eight scenes and is based on the widely known tale of Kerem and Aslı, as well as the theater play Kerem ile Aslı (Selâhattin Batu, 1944)
that had been written as a five-act poetic fairytale. The opera’s libretto was written by Batu in the style of folk poetry and in pure Turkish, though the last part of the story was changed in the opera instead of sticking to the original to emphasize the tendency of a hero to start from worldly love and grow to divine love. In this respect, the opera Kerem also reflects the mystical world views of Batu, who was a fan of Rumi (Güleç, 2009, p. 56 - 57), and of Saygun, who was in love with Yunus Emre. In Saygun’s words, “Kerem was like a version of the Yunus Emre drama arranged for the stage: slowly turning to true love through thorny, ordeal paths (Aracı, 2007, p. 168). The composer also noted down the following on the first page of the opera’s composition:
“Your job is to burn…Yunus Emre.”
This article briefly mentions Saygun’s understanding of composition as formed on the axis of tradition and explains the traditional musical elements of Anatolia in the opera Kerem through examples.