Ottoman şarkı: the song, changing continuity and late Ottoman modernity
My research discusses the development of the late Ottoman art song (şarkı) in the context of the significant political, social, linguistic and aesthetic transformations taking place in the long Ottoman nineteenth century. It focuses on the era of Abdulhamid II (1876-1909) and on the song as a social and linguistic phenomenon, seeking to reassess and reconsider the notions of Westernization, modernization, and the nature of the late Ottoman/early Republican continuity and change discourse by demonstrating how, on the eve of the empire’s collapse, the song repertoire still very much provided a form of social and linguistic identification in the midst of the tumultuous transition into the Republic (1923), being the reflection of the cultural hegemony of the burgeoning Ottoman bureaucratic elite and middle class.
The project is interdisciplinary and aims at looking at the phenomenon through the lens of musicology, history and the social sciences – In other words, opening to a ‘relational musicology’ (Born 2010) – to shed light on the relationships which nurtured the development of the repertoire, both in terms of patronage and the relationships of the musicians with other members of the Ottoman intellighentsia which contributed to the shaping of the late Ottoman aesthetic and intellectual production as well as the shaping of new political ideas which would crucially alter the nature of the imperial system. The song emerges as playing a significant part in this complex process of transformation, particularly when its linguistic connotations are taken into consideration. With its mostly Turkish lyrics, it testifies to the gradual linguistic shift from Ottoman (with its heavy Persian and Arabic component) to the language reform which would place Turkish at the heart of the nationalistic discourse while its aesthetic of unrequited love reflects the transforming relational negotiations at the heart of the transition into the Republic.