Music in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey

Supervised by: PD Dr. Judith Haug

Duration: Since 2011

The musicological focus at the Orient-Institut Istanbul covers two branches of musicology: historical musicology and ethnomusicology. The projects differ from each other significantly in both methodology and content, dealing with different aspects of the music of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic. Besides musicological work with mainly notations and manuscripts from the 19th century, the research centers on the analysis of surviving historical audio. There are also field research projects on recent musical developments in Istanbul and Anatolia.

Corpus Musicae Ottomanicae

Supervised by: Prof. Dr. Ralf Martin Jäger, Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika & PD Dr. Judith I. Haug

Collaborator: Dr. Nevin Şahin

Duration: 2015–2027

Main collaborator: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Musicology

Sponsored by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

From the beginning of the second decade of the 19th century, the repertoire of courtly and urban art music was recorded in the Ottoman Empire (at first in Istanbul) in an increasing number of manuscripts. To this end, a notation method was primarily used that had been developed by the Armenian Hamparsum Limonciyan (1768–1839) before 1813 and was highly suited as a recording medium for the art music repertoire. In addition, Western notation was increasingly common from the mid-1830s. The value of the manuscript holdings in both forms of notation cannot be overestimated for the tradition of art music culture. They were cultivated up until the early 20th century in the major cities of modern Turkey as well as in the urban centers of Syria and Egypt. Besides Oriental Studies, the sources are of primary importance to music research, which is able to uncover historical phenomena and processes in the musical cultures for the first time. The aim of the long-term project is to prepare, in an initial seven-year project phase, critical editions of the pivotal manuscripts in Hamparsum notation from the 19th century. The second five-year phase of the project is primarily concerned with the critical edition of selected manuscripts from this period written in Western notation. In parallel, the edition of the song lyrics will be prepared in an interdisciplinary group. The edition of the Corpus Musicae Ottomanicae (CMO)—Critical Editions of Near Eastern Music Manuscripts will be issued as an open-access database and published online by the editors of In addition, the editions of individual manuscripts will be available as print-on-demand titles. The overall project will be carried out at the Institute of Musicology at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in cooperation with the Orient-Institut Istanbul,, and the Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. The project is supervised by an international academic advisory council.


Editing Post-Byzantine Notations

Supervised by: Dr. Kyriakos Kalaitzidis and Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Duration: Since October 2016

Sponsored by: Alexander Onassis Foundation

In numerous manuscripts on Byzantine church music and several special collections of musical scores, there are also scattered notations with non-religious music, folk music, the art songs of the Phanariots, but also Ottoman art music. In a preliminary pilot phase, the transcription and editing process of these still largely unknown sources will be refined and tested.

For the publication of these notations, a joint collaboration is planned with the project Corpus Musicae Ottomanicae (CMO). A volume has already been published on this subject as part of the Institute’s series “Istanbul Texts and Studies”: Kyriakos Kalaitzidis,Post-Byzantine Music Manuscripts as a Source for Oriental Secular Music (15th to early 19th Century). Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2012.

In a concert to inaugurate the Institute’s new building, Kyriakso Kalaitzidis (ud), Şevhar Beşiroğlu (kanun), Yelda Özgen (cello) and Neva Özgen (kemençe) played rediscovered works in post-Byzantine notation: a tasnîf from Azerbaijani music theorist and composer Abdülkadir Marâghî (1353–1453), an instrumental piece from Hânende Zacharias (18th century) and two songs from Istanbul composer Petros Peloponnesios (1740–1778). The recording can be found at:


Post-Traditional Music in Turkey

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Duration: 2011–2016

The subject of this research project is the recent changes in traditional music in Turkey. Four trends are being studied:

– the tendency towards historicizing and the historical reconstruction of traditions,

– the tendency towards internationalizing the traditional music of Turkey, including the musicians and the audience,

– the constant search for new hybrid combinations of ensembles, repertoires, and for musical arrangements, and

– the effort to standardize in light of growing musical diversity.

Music in Dersim

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Duration: Since 2012

This project deals with the music of the Eastern Anatolian region of Dersim, i.e. the current province of Tunceli and its surroundings. The project is divided into two phases: The first phase of research deals with music in the context of the social history of the region and its diaspora in Turkey and Europe during the last forty years. In addition to ethnographic fieldwork, interviews are also carried out at this stage with musicians of the region. In addition, historic recordings are explored and evaluated that will then be analyzed in the second phase of the research.

Haug, Judith I. Ottoman and European Music in ʿAlī Ufuḳī’s Compendium, MS Turc 292: Analysis, Interpretation, Cultural Context. Vol. 1: Monograph. Münster: readbox unipress 2019.

Wendelmoet Hamelink, Ulas Özdemir, Martin Greve (Hrsg.). Diversity and Contact among Singer-Poet Traditions in Eastern Anatolia. (Istanbuler Studien und Texte 40). Baden-Baden: Ergon Verlag 2018.

Greve, Martin. Makamsız – Individualization of Traditional Music on the Eve of Kemalist Turkey. Würzburg 2017 (in press).

Yıldız, Burcu. Armenian Music in Turkey. (Istanbuler Texte und Studien 35). Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2016.

Greve, Martin (ed.), Writing the History of “Ottoman Music.” (Istanbuler Texte und Studien 33). Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2015.

—-. “Traditionelle Musik in der zeitgenössischen westlichen Musik der Türkei.” Jin-Ah Kim, Nepomuk Riva (eds.). Entgrenzte Welt? Musik und Kulturtransfers. Berlin: Ries & Erler 2014. 311–337

—-. “CD booklet.” Marc Sinan. Hasretim—Eine anatolische Reise. München: ECM 2013.

Kyriakos Kalatzidis (ed). Post-Byzantine Music Manuscripts as a Source for Oriental Music (15th to early 19th Century). (Istanbuler Texte und Studien 28). Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2012.

International Conference: Integrative Approaches to Contemporary Cross-Cultural Music Making: Turkey, Italy, Germany

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 8–19 Mar. 2016

Event location: Rome

Main collaborator: DHI Rome

Sponsored by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bahçeşehir University, Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung, Max Weber Stiftung

This two-day event focused on the various attempts of many contemporary composers to incorporate traditional music—whatever the tradition—into their own music. Jin-Ah Kim’s (University of Seoul, South Korea) inaugural lecture already questioned the current common terminology. By the end of the conference, there was a general consensus that the concepts of hybridity, inter- or trans-culturalism, Third Space, etc. were no longer appropriate for describing the variety of individual life worlds and musical approaches. Indeed, the many composers who participated from Italy, Germany, and Turkey reflected an astonishing degree of diversity, which was also evident in the two accompanying concerts. In a lecture-concert, three bağlama players first played contemporary music on their instruments, which was partly avant-garde, partly influenced by traditional music: Kemal Dinç (Cologne/Rotterdam), Erdem Şimşek (Istanbul) and Taner Akyol (Berlin). In a public rehearsal, the musicians of the international Istanbul Hezarfen ensemble talked about the difficulties of simultaneously dealing with Turkish makam melodies and the notational and performative intricacies of newer Western music. Today, many composers are equally researchers looking to gain insights in areas such as acoustics, religious history, or traditional music, which they can then use in their compositions. The highlight of the event was the final concert of the Hezarfen ensemble, featuring several intercultural compositions that had their Italian and global premieres.

Eduard Zuckmayer—A Musician in Turkey

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 7 Mar. 2016

Event location: Mimar Sinan University

Main collaborator: Mimar Sinan University, Goethe-Institut Istanbul

Lecture series at the Orient-Institut Istanbul: Music and Musicians in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: October 2014–May 2015

The lecture series was dedicated to musicians and music worlds of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic: cosmopolitans like the Polish-born court musician and interpreter Ali Ufuki from the 17th century or the composer Nazife Aral Güran from the 20th Century; religious Alevi music and its evolution in the 20th century; the vibrant jazz milieu in Beyoğlu in 1920s; the processing of horrific memories in Armenian lullabies; or the close links between Armenian Church Music and Ottoman art music in the early 19th century. Especially in Turkey, but also, for example, in Greece, music was understood as a symbol of national identity. Folk songs and dances, as well as marches, immediately took on political meaning. Minorities, too, often expressed themselves and their identities through music, as in the search for and reconstruction of lamentations about the massacres in 1937 and 1938 in Dersim (Tunceli). The simple, beautiful songs and instrumentals in the villages of South-West Anatolia, the classic Turkish choirs and, for example, the rock scene in Istanbul, have practically nothing in common. There are few countries in the world that have as rich and contradictory a musical life as Turkey.

International Conference: Transfer and Diversity. Music and Transcultural Practice

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 9–11 and 17–18 Oct. 2014

Main collaborator: Humbold-Universität Berlin and Istanbul Technical University

Sponsored by: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

As part of the German-Turkish 2014 Science Year, the project “Transfer and Diversity. Music and Transcultural Practice: Turkey—Germany” attempted in October to take stock of Turkish-German music relations. Participants included Humbold-Universität Berlin, Landesmusikrat Berlin, the Center for Advanced Studies in Music (MIAM) of Istanbul Technical University, the Orient-Institut Istanbul, and other partner institutions. After panel discussions, concerts and a three-day conference in Berlin, a two-day symposium took place in Istanbul at MIAM. The Orient-Institut Istanbul was responsible for the conceptual planning. In addition to music and cultural scientists, numerous German and Turkish musicians, composers, and cultural managers participated in this experience exchange. Individual panels were devoted to the experiences of political refugees and their influence on music and musical life, as well as the topic of music and gender. Recent developments in Turkish music in Germany were presented such as the efforts to set up bağlama degree programs or to create a “bağlama platform” in Berlin.

At the conclusion of the symposium, Kurt Reinhard’s musicological research, and that of his wife Ursula, was evaluated retrospectively on the occasion of his 100th birthday. For decades, they both shaped the representation of Turkish music in Europe through their books and articles.

Conference: The Bağlama in the Context of Education, Music School, “Jugend musiziert,” and the Concert System

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 7–9 Sept. 2014

Main collaborator: Landesmusikakademie Nordrhein-Westfalen

Sponsored by: Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

The bağlama (or saz) symbolizes Turkish musical culture in Germany and has come to epitomize the Turkish musical identity in the Turkish community. It is not only played in North Rhine-Westphalia, but it is also frequently taught at local music schools. It is featured in “Jugend musiziert” and is taking on a more visible role in public musical life. To further this process, the conference brought together lectures, workshops and panel discussions that aimed to promote the interaction, exchange, and knowledge transfer between bağlama experts, university representatives and music schools, and concert organizers. Key topics included the possibilities for ensemble playing with European instruments and the bağlama; the methodology and didactics of bağlama teaching; the presentation of textbooks, training, and performance opportunities for professional bağlama players.

Conference: Rhythmic Cycles and Structures in the Art Music of the Middle East

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 27–28 Feb. 2014

Main collaborator: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

In the research on Ottoman art music (and related musical styles), rhythmic modes have been greatly neglected up to the present day in comparison to the melodic types of makam. Here, the usul in particular is decisive for the musical form of compositions. The conference was a first substantive cooperation between the Universität Münster (in particular the Institute of Musicology) and the Orient-Institut Istanbul officially entered into in 2013 by means of a cooperation agreement. In addition to lectures from leading music historians like Prof. em. Dr. Eckhardt Neubauer, Prof. em. Dr. Owen Wright, Emeritus of the SOAS London, Prof. Walter Feldman and Prof. em. Dr. Yalçın Tura, numerous young musicologists such as Dr. Judith Haug (Münster), Dr. Jacob Olley (London), Mehmet Uğur Ekinci (Ankara) or Dr. Nilgun Doğrusöz-Dişiaçık (Istanbul) presented current research on historical rhythm and form concepts. A final panel was dedicated to the musical developments of the 20th century: rhythms in fantezi, in the music of gazinos, and in Anatolian folk music.

Symposium: Germany’s First Bağlama Symposium

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 14–15 Sept. 2013

Main collaborator: Landesmusikrat Berlin

On 14–15 Sept. 2013 “Germany’s First Bağlama Symposium” was held in Berlin, jointly organized by Landesmusikrat Berlin, the Orient-Institut Istanbul, the State Conservatory of Turkish Music of ITU Istanbul, and the Universität der Künste Berlin. To begin with, the instrument, its structural variants, and its regional distribution were presented. This was followed by its history, theory, and notation. Today, the instrument is taught at various music schools and conservatories in Turkey but also in Europe. For purposes of illustration, the bağlama was discussed in the context of Istanbul, Berlin, Vienna, and Ghent. Since the 1990s at the latest, a number of structural, technical, and compositional innovations have strongly changed the instrument and its music, while dramatically extending its musical possibilities.

Link to the opening bağlama concert—Instrument of Year 2013, Berlin:

DVD Germany’s First Bağlama Symposium. Berlin: Ethnological Museum, National Museums in Berlin 2015

Documentary filmmaker Özay Şahin created at the Orient-Institut Istanbul a two-hour documentary on the bağlama and its music using presentations by musicians and musicologists, recordings of bağlama teaching sessions in Berlin, and musical recordings of a concert with Erol Parlak, Okan Murat Öztürk, and others. The film has been released as a double DVD together with a documentary about the bağlama construction of Derya Takkali in the DVD series of the Ethnological Museum Berlin.

Symposium: Hören Sie—Erfahrungsaustausch Deutsch-Türkischer Musiktherapie

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve and Dr. Alexandre Toumarkine

Event date: 25–26 May 2012

Main collaborator: Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal

Practical experiences in music therapy in Turkey, Germany and Austria were exchanged for the first time at an international conference in May 2012. In Turkey, music therapy is still largely uncharted territory. The few currently active Turkish music therapists usually combine, in their own way, highly diverse methods. At the same time, they have also accumulated a great deal of experience. Here, two different music therapeutic approaches come into conflict. On the one hand, in the Islamic Middle Ages there already existed a doctrine of healing through music. In the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman art music was deliberately used for therapeutic purposes at several hospitals. Around the mid-19th century, however, this tradition was abandoned, only to then be taken up again over the course of the last twenty years by individual musicians and therapists. In particular, Rahmi Oruç Güvenç became known both in Turkey and in Europe with his “ancient oriental music therapy.” On the other hand, the medical field in Turkey—including psychiatry and psychotherapy—works with international (mainly Western) methods. Psychotherapy especially has experienced a significant upsurge in Turkey in the past few years. An increasing number of therapies are being practiced and more and more international literature is available in translation. Western music and dance therapy, however, have only been used in Turkey very recently for experimental purposes.

The situation in Germany is quite different: Here, music therapy is now well established (although the same can hardly be said for dance therapy); there are degree programs, regular conferences and training opportunities and a professional association. At the same time, however, psychotherapists find themselves confronted everywhere in Europe with the utterly new task of working with patients with migrant backgrounds.

The entire conference, including all the workshops and discussions, was video recorded by the documentary Özay Şahin and supplemented with additional recordings of music therapy sessions in Istanbul. From this material, the Orient-Institut created together with Özay Şahin a two-hour documentary film, which appeared on DVD in early 2013.

DVD Erfahrungsaustausch Deutsch-Türkischer Musiktherapie / Türk Alman Müzik Terapi Tecrübelerinin Paylaşımı. A film by Özay Şahin, Istanbul 2013.

International Conference: Writing the History of “Ottoman Music”

Supervised by: Dr. habil. Martin Greve

Event date: 25–26 Nov. 2011

Main collaborator: Istanbul Technical University

This international and interdisciplinary conference dealt with approaches to, and the problems of, Ottoman music history. In view of the sources of individual written music collections and theoretical treatises, and mostly orally transmitted music, the focus was on the question of whether it is possible to arrive at a coherent narrative of Ottoman music history, and if so, in what form. The first step in this direction would be a periodization of the music from a musicological standpoint. Another area of concern was Anatolian folk music: To what extent is it possible here to overcome political and historico-philosophical ideologies to arrive at a scientifically grounded historical research? Finally, the conference discussed the issue of the practical reconstruction of historical Ottoman music.

Martin Greve (ed.), Writing the History of “Ottoman Music.” (Istanbuler Texte und Studien 35) Würzburg: Ergon Verlag 2015.

Music Recordings of Armenian Prisoners of War in Germany

Supervised by: Dr. Melissa Bilal (Columbia University, New York)

Duration: 2015–2016

Main collaborator: Ethnological Museum, Berlin State Museums, Ethnomusicology Dept.

Sponsored by: OII (postdoctoral fellowship)

The recordings of Armenian prisoners of war made in various prison camps in Germany during the First World War are to be documented and analyzed. A CD with an extensive booklet will be published through the Ethnological Museum Berlin.

Mitrip and Community Dances in the Urfa Region: A Portrait of the Music, the Musicians and Dances in Their Changing Social Context

Supervised by: Sara Islán Fernández (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Sponsored by: OII (doctoral scholarship, 1 July–31 Dec. 2015)

The community dances of the Şanlıurfa region and their music are a vibrant example of a popular repertoire that is rich and diverse. The aim of the project is less to offer a static portrait of a musical corpus than to describe an ongoing transformational process involving music and dance, as well as the factors that determine this process. Special emphasis is placed on the relationship of the members of different communitiesnot least the mıtrıps (i.e. the musicians) themselves—to this repertoire, as well as the transformations of this relationship. It will be shown that music and daily life in this society remains so tightly interwoven that major changes in the human habitat and the social context have an immediate and significant impact on dance, music, and its performers.

The Formation of National Music on Both Sides of the Aegean Sea in the 19th and 20th Century

Supervised by: Ersin Mihci (Universität Heidelberg)

Sponsored by: OII (doctoral scholarship, 15 May–15 Aug. 2014)

Following the establishment of an independent Greek state in 1830 and Turkey in 1923, both states dedicated themselves to the project of constructing an individual national identity. In this attempt to form new national identities, music played an important role. Both countries sought to create a new national music by combining the modes, rhythms and forms of performance of traditional music with the compositional style and instrumentation of Western music, which at that time had become a symbol of progress and modernity. This dissertation focuses on exemplary works that were composed shortly after the founding of the respective independent states. Contemporary concepts of culture and aesthetics are also to be considered in a global context within a musicological framework. The dissertation undertakes a comparative approach and seeks to identify helpful criteria for elucidating national music and the nationalization of music in Greece and Turkey.

Women Composers’ Creative Conditions Before and During the Turkish Republic

Supervised by: Melike Atalay (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien)

Sponsored by: OII (doctoral scholarship, 15 Mar.–15 June 2014)

This dissertation centers on three female Turkish composers, who, though representative of many other female composers of similar musical thought, belong to three different historical periods of Turkish history. Leyla Saz (1845–1936) was an Ottoman composer who, after being educated in the harem until 1861, was then active as an artist for the remainder of her life; Nazife Aral Güran (1921–1993), born shortly before the founding of the Turkish Republic, was a representative of the new, republican woman and reflected the Kemalist female ideal; and Yüksel Koptagel (b. 1931) belongs to the second generation of contemporary Turkish composers after the founding of the Turkish Republic. She mainly lived and worked outside of Turkey, however. The aim of the dissertation is to investigate how these trained composers were able to develop their musical identities in differing national historical constellations.


Villages in Modern Sasun

Supervised by: Dr. Wendelmoet Hamelink

Duration: 2013 (completed)

Sponsored by: Gerald D. Feldman Travel Grants of the Max Weber Foundation for the Orient-Institut Istanbul, the Orient-Institut Beirut and the German Historical Institute Paris

Building on previous work on dengbêj, this research project dealt with the fate of Armenians from Sasun (South-East Turkey). Before 1915, this region was characterized by a mixture of Kurdish and Armenian villages. Few Armenians live there today in the aftermath of the mass murders and expulsions of 1915. In many cases, they have adopted the culture and language of their Kurdish environment. Many migrated abroad. What happened to the Armenians from Sasun and their culture? How do they experience their Armenian identity and how do they express it in music and in songs? How do they relate to their Armenian past and to other identities? The transnational focus of this study sheds light on the various experiences of people who are all from the same region. What stories did they hear from their parents and grandparents about life in Sasun? These issues are examined by means of music and songs in connection with the development of identities in living conditions of conflict and exile.