Turkish music can be divided into two main categories: Turkish classical music, which originated as the favorite music of the Ottoman courts, and Turkish folk music, the music of the rural areas. The works in the classical style have known composers and usually reflect some Arabic influence. On the other hand, folk music is almost always anonymous, and classified according to the geographical region or city in Turkey. In addition to these two main categories, various other traditional styles developed over time as a result of cultural, social, political and religious developments. Turkish art music, Mehter music (Turkish military music) and devotional music are some of the examples.
Haydar Haydar, a Sufi Song from Central Anatolia, became one of the signature pieces of Ali Ekber Çiçek, a virtuoso player of the Turkish folk instrument, bağlama. The piece incorporates various compound meters such as 5/8, 7/8, 9/8 in a repetitive style reminiscent of Western minimalism. Such compound rhythms are also used in Yüksek Yüksek Tepelere, a folk song from northeastern Turkey, in Batum, a fast dance piece typical at the Black Sea region and in Kadıoğlu Zeybeği, an example of a zeybek dance performed by all males dressed in Ottoman soldier costumes from western Turkey. Such compound rhythms and the resulting odd number of notes in each measure result in animated dance steps.
The lyrics of Bozlak, which are attributed to the 17th century poet Karacaoğlan, describe a warrior unfairly sentenced to death by the Sultan. Inspired by Aşık Veli’s Üryan Geldim, I wrote the introduction as an uzun hava, a long improvisatory form. Another piece related to bravery, Kolbaşı, is one of the most popular works from the Ottoman Military Band repertoire. Such pieces would not only be played at military ceremonies but also during the war itself usually intimidating the opposing army-perhaps the main motivation for European composers to write Turkish marches during the most powerful centuries of the Ottoman Empire. Rondo alla Turca by Mozart, Marche à la Turque by Marais and many other works by Beethoven and Telemann are prime examples.
Sultaniyegâh Sirto which has a long introductory section followed by a fast finale is one of the master-works in the style of Turkish classical music, just like the Nihavend Longa which is in a rondo form. A more recent work, Nihavend Semai, was written by the 20th century composer and virtuoso ud player Şerif Muhiddin Targan. The dark sweet tone of the ud, which is unfretted, and its similarity to its sister instrument the lute presents a wide range of possibilities for playing this music on the guitar. Bahir is the name given to each section of Mi'râciyye, a religious epic musical cycle written by the 17th century composer Nayi Osman Dede for the celebration of Prophet Mohammad’s ascension to Allah. I selected a slow and spiritual section for this recording and harmonized it for the guitar. Çile Bülbülüm, written by Saadettin Kaynak is perhaps the most popular example in Turkish classical style; it is always included in the live entertainment repertoire at traditional restaurants and most Turkish customers love to sing along with it.
Cadenza Anatolia is a cadenza that I composed to use in the fourth movement of Concerto Anatolia written for me by David Hahn. The concerto features various Turkish rhythms and melodies and the cadenza utilizes the main themes from the second and fourth movements.
A bridge between Asia and Europe, Anatolia has been home to numerous cultures at different historical periods. Kâtibim, a flirtatious and sweet love song from Istanbul, is thought to have connections to the Jewish communities of the city. Sarı Gelin is a perfect example of a treasure simultaneously claimed by several cultures to be their own: Turkish, Armenian and Azeri (from Azerbaijan). I tried to reflect these influences by arranging the work in three sections: The first as an introduction, the second with a slow 10/8 compound rhythm, and the last using the same melody but in 6/8 rhythm, as played in Azerbaijan.
Special thanks to Safa Gürbüz and Dale Ellison for their invaluable advice and guidance for this project.