Audrey Wozniak, M.A. (Harvard University)
A Discipline for the Nation: Turkish Classical Music Choirs in History and Practice

Cumhurbaşkanlığı Klasik Türk Müziği Korosu (Presidential Classical Turkish Music Chorus) Concert, Istanbul, November 2021. Photographer: Audrey Wozniak.

My research project is concerned with an extraordinary but overlooked musical phenomenon in Turkish classical music that emerged in tandem with the establishment of the Turkish Republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923: the formation of many state-run and amateur choirs throughout the new Republic, which also entailed a fundamental shift in the musical genre and performance practice. My central argument is that seemingly extramusical social and political during the decline of the Ottoman Empire and in the burgeoning Turkish Republic were reflected in these emerging Turkish classical music choirs, which prove to be valuable sociocultural microcosms within which anxieties and contentions over (individual and national) identity play out in rehearsal and performance practices.

Using ethnographic and archival research methods, my work traces the historical phenomenon of the choir as an ensemble format in Turkish classical music over the course of the last century as well its widespread present manifestations in Turkish and diasporic urban contexts. My project is the first to center Turkish classical music choirs as sites in which contestations of “Turkishness” and concerns about political, cultural, social values continue to be performed. I aim for my work of documenting the cultural and political significance of Turkish classical music to have long-term national and international impacts by demonstrating how a manifestation of Turkish cultural heritage has meaning for Turkish citizens and Turks around the world.

Daria Kovaleva (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts)
Oral Drama in Istanbul and the Production of Public Culture in the Second Ottoman Empire (1570s-1820s)

Karagöz puppet, reproduced in Felix von Luschan, “Das türkische Schattenspiel,” in Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie 2 (1889): 81.

Daria Kovaleva is a PhD candidate in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her dissertation investigates the performers of oral drama and the production of spectacle in Istanbul between the late sixteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The history of the imperial capital’s storytellers, comic impersonators, shadow puppeteers, their evolving dramatic practice and emerging repertoire serve as a window to explore how public culture was produced at that time in the major urban centers of the Eastern Mediterranean (Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul) in comparison to Venice and Naples. The chronological frame of the project allows to revise what remains of pre-nineteenth-century dramatic texts and the evidence which sheds light on its performers, while placing their investigation within the public sphere of early modern Istanbul and within the historical context of the Second Ottoman Empire (1580-1826), as conceptualized by Baki Tezcan (2010). To approach the elusive performative arts historically, the project combines methods of book history and manuscript studies with a history of concepts, historical semantics and socio-economic history (study of profession, industry and market). This research will demonstrate how the Ottoman Empire was not unlike its early modern contemporaries when it comes to the politics, economy, and sociology of the production of culture in general, and the production of spectacle in particular.