Term Paper: European Art Music in Terms of Westernization Movement

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Westernization -- European Art Music

How did the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire Begin?

What were the initial Western influences in the arts that made inroads into the Muslim culture during the Ottoman Empire and into the Turkish Republic? What Western ideas and strategies were the first to be recognized? In this section this paper reviews the first influences that were accepted and indeed revered in those cultures?

In Owen Wright's book Touraj Kiaras and Persian Classical Music: An Analytical Perspective, the author mentions that the leaders in the Ottoman Empire (and Egypt) had previous to the early Westernization of their culture worked to build a "bulwark against western expansionism" and Western influence. Honoring their own culture (through their arts and music and writing) had become vitally important to Islamic institutions in the mid-nineteenth century (Wright, 2009, p. 2). However, a shift towards Western influences had taken place. Iran had attempted to reform its army "along European lines," Wright explains, and in order to do this there needed to be "technological borrowing and the importation of foreign expertise" (p. 2).

In order to get the needed military expertise from the West, the resources for the training and education of Western military strategies had to be brought in. Through these influences many Muslims showed "a degree of receptivity to western ideas, and not merely of administration and politics… [hence] there emerged a new intellectual elite" in the Ottoman Empire "with a western-style educational background, a knowledge of western languages" along with an increased interest in "western art forms" (Wright, 2).

Those art forms included Western literature -- that was encouraged through journalism using Western style approaches to writing -- which introduced forms of narrative prose that Muslims were not accustomed to but became fascinated with. Still in the nineteenth century what had been "the grand tradition of miniature painting in Iran was virtually abandoned" in favor of "western-style oil painting" (Wright, 2). The Qajar ruler Nasir al-Din Shah (1848-96) helped to popularize Western oil paintings when he commissioned portraits and military scenes (usually showing large-scale events); al-Din Shah also supported the training of Muslim artists at Western art schools. The work they produced -- Wright continues -- would in time result in a "radically estranged" departure from previous art genres in the Ottoman Empire.

However, when it came to Western music influences, Wright (p. 3) local "elites" in the Ottoman Empire did appreciate Western music but there is "little evidence" the author notes that outside of "court circles" and outside of the "cosmopolitan milieu of Istanbul" that many citizens were taken in by Western music. But it "clearly did have an impact" in the context of the military, Wright goes on. In fact in 1868 al-Din shah invited a French band-master named Alfred Lemaire to "institute a western-style military band to replace the traditional trumpet and drum ensembles" (p. 3). Trumpet and drum ensembles had served the Ottoman Empire's military ceremonies for many years, on the battlefield and at home at the end of the battle.

"Lemaire seems to have been both energetic and efficient" in his consulting work for al-Din Shah, Wright explains (3). He procured instruments and introduced basic music education techniques, and the Persian bandsmen were gradually exposed not just to notation but also to elements of western theory," Wright concluded (4).

Art Music

An article by Dale Olsen and Daniel Sheehy explains that art music is that music which is "formally taught, notation-reliant European or European-derived tradition of music that is associated most closely with an educated elite" (Olsen, et al., 2001). The art music genre is also associated with the liturgical purposes in mind -- for use in Christian church events -- but the genre is mostly linked to secular compositions intended for concert performance" (Olsen, p. 2). Olsen goes on to explain that art music has come to be known as those processes and issues that go into music in this genre; it is "…therefore as much the domain of ethno musicological study as it is the domain of historical musicology, music theory, and music criticism" (p. 1).

That said, Olsen points out that art music -- according to ethnomusicologists -- is an emphasis of the processes and issues "as aspects of human behavior" (p. 1).

The Westernization of the Republic of Turkey -- Contemporary Music

Stefan Pohlit insists that musical life in Turkey has been "restructured by Western influences the late Ottoman era" (Pohlit, 2010). Early in the Turkish Republic the Republican government introduced "polyphonic music" that was an attempt to launch a "new cultural expression for a modern, democratic society" for Turkey. At the same time, introducing Western music was like officially closing the door on "the classical Ottoman tradition," Pohlit explains.

Did the introduction of European art music truly help the Turkish society evolve into a modern state? Pohlit says that that both the meaning and the contents of Western art music served more as "objectified statements" than as transitions into the modern world. In fact, the introduction of art music into Turkish society following the Ottoman Empire had a disrupting effect on the society, Pohlit continues.

Looking into musical tradition as an extension of a society, or as Pohlit writes, as an extension of the sensory body of a people, that tradition can not be separated from the environment in which it is composed, performed, or listened to. There are those, the writer explains, who believe that music tends to "reinforce boundaries as much as it expressed community"; and moreover, it reflects the "self-perception of a society" and it presents a platform or a stage for the social pecking order -- or as Pohlit puts it, a stage for the organization of "social hierarchies." Following his use of multiple examples of how music has had great influences on cultures, Pohlit explains that it is often true that Westernization has reached "extra-European cultures" on the guise of providing a "reliable tool" for modernist progress.

In the Republic of Turkey the introduction of Western classical music "grew from a reform" that was part of the officially promoted culture by Turkish leadership. The beginnings of the introduction of art music into Turkish culture can be traced to the decline of the Ottoman Empire, Pohlit goes on. In the 19th century, the new institutions popping up in the Ottoman Empire were based on Western ideas and institutions, and following the "execution of the entire Janissary army" in 1826 (held responsible for that slaughter was Mahmud II) a European-style military system was set up in Turkey (Pohlit).

As was mentioned earlier in this paper, the music of European extraction was employed in Turkey due to the military needs; in fact a military chapel was set up in the Turkish Republic, and it featured a Western conservatory, directed by Italians Giuseppe Donizetti and Callisto Guatelli, Pohlit explains. The leadership of Musta Kemal Ataturk (the man who founded the Turkish Republic) brought in a time of great changes in the country, and music was just one of those changes. Ataturk (his government is known as "Kemalist" government) introduced polyphonic idioms, "orchestras and opera houses" designed to promote the "new cultural expression" of a Western-influenced society that Kemal hoped to establish.

Kemal send talented young musicians to Austria and to France so they could study how Western music is composed. The push for European / Western music became so pronounced, according to Pohlit's article, that the classic music tradition in Turkey -- which had been "ala-turka music" -- was "stereotyped as the expression of an alien culture." This radical change in the cultural appreciation for music, one can obviously see, was a giant break with the past, brought into the Turkish culture by Kemal, who was the first Turkish Republic president, and the first leader in that country to wear Western suits and ties.

As much as Kemal tried to introduce art music to the masses in his country, according to Pohlit the only portion of the Turkish society to truly buy into art music (and Westernized music per se) was the "intellectual elite" also referred to as the "urban upper class" (Pohlit). The new official culture of Turkey did not appeal to -- or permeate with any degree of success -- the "lower social strata"; moreover, the art music that Kemal advocated for the country did not change "the country's deeper consciousness," Pohlit continues.

And when in the 1930s the Kemal government officially banned "Turkish classical music from the radio," the lower echelon of citizens -- and rural folks that were pretty much isolated from the urban and modernized culture -- had no trouble tuning their radios to "Radio Egypt" that offered more familiar programs, notably not art music or Western music per se. That seeming punishment of the poor and rural peoples may have backfired on Kemal; in his passion to introduce his country to modern Western music, apparently isolated many of the poor and "underdeveloped provinces" in the Eastern part of Turkey, and today Turkey has… [END OF PREVIEW]

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European Art Music in Terms of Westernization Movement.  (2011, August 15).  Retrieved April 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-art-music-terms-westernization/563900

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"European Art Music in Terms of Westernization Movement."  Essaytown.com.  August 15, 2011.  Accessed April 25, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/european-art-music-terms-westernization/563900.