Turkish Music of the Silk Road

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The music of Turkey, dating back to the Silk Road Era, contains dissonantly dramatic chords unlike what many Westerners are accustomed to (Sheehan 86). Although the musical foundation of Turkey was created by the blending of customs from outside influences, stylistic choices vary throughout the country because individual provinces developed without a sense of national unity (“Turkish”). Turkish music theory practices have been influenced by the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic faith, and Arabic traditions. These stimuli led to the development of unique wind, string, and percussion instruments.

Classical Turkish music was the most strongly influenced by the Ottoman Empire (McComb). It tends to be driven by upbeat tempos, loudness, and exciting rhythms (Cline). Using the general octave minor scale, Ottoman classical music rarely reaches past a fifth in its melodic range (Cline). Because of this, the music sounds eerie and fairly repetitive. Some Ottoman music does not even have a specific time signature (Cline). These pieces use what is called a “free rhythm style” (Cline). This type of music is difficult to follow, so it is usually played by an unaccompanied solo musician. During antiquity in the Ottoman Empire, music would be supplied to enhance dances (Cline). The most ancient dance known is the “serra,” a war dance that begins slow and accelerates throughout the duration of the song (Cline). The most significant musical ensemble in the Turkish culture is and was the janissary band (Clark 144). It was the premier military band in all of the Ottoman Empire and inspired Ottoman soldiers while in battle and during ceremonies (144). As with all traditional military bands, these consisted of

winds and percussion (144). On the battlefield, the janissary bands would create a tremendous din to compete with enemy bands while the infantry fought the opposing forces physically (Sheehan 86). It was a symbolic battle of the bands amidst an actual war zone....
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