Oliver Gerlach: Religious Chant in the Late Ottoman Empire — Between Petros Bereketēs and Hamamîzade İsmail Dede Efendi

“Exoteric music”

Here some may pose the difficult question, of whether Sufi musicians were doing religious chant or Ottoman art music using the makamlar.

The ghazal which precedes the quoted one in the second selam (movement of the dance suite) treats a subject which is obviously not religious:

O musicians, play the melody for that beloved of ours (who) is arriving drunk!
That life possesed of purity and faithfulness is arriving drunk.
O incomparable Love, look at how a soul is making a goblet full (of wine)!
The face of the cupbearer that is laughing because of eternal life is arriving drunk.
ay muTrib-ân ân parda zan k-ân yâr-é mâ mast âmad-ast
ay ân Hayât-é bâ-Safâ-wo bâ-wafâ mast âmad-ast
ay `ishq-é bê-chûn bîn, ke jânê-râ chûn qâdah por mê-kon-ad
Ay rôy-é saqî ke khandan az baqâ mast âmad-ast[12]

The whole Sufi ceremony is called sema, which is the Turkish derivative for Arabic samā‘ and can be translated as “listening to music”.[16] But the word is also used for a drinking bout and for religious contemplation and it is characteristic for the genre of Sufi poetry to talk about both at the same time. The term for musicians mutribân means “humours maker” and it somehow transports the suspicions, but also the respect that religious authorities (lawyers) have against the effects of music on the human soul. Hence, the term is used both for musicians working in a hospital which is usually part of a larger mosque complex, and for Sufi musicians. In a hospital music therapy was used for the treatment of mental illness, and since the medical treatises of Avicenna love sickness (‘īshq) was regarded as a king of mental illnesses.[17] Also the name for a radical Sufi ‘āshiq is derived from the term ‘īshq. So he was called a mad lover (‘āshiq), and not simply a lover (muhibb) like a moderate Sufi. Even in the less elitarian Bektashi Order nomadic bards used to be called ‘āshiq. Finally, even a “secular” text like this one has a hidden religious meaning which is understood properly by everybody, who is familiar with the conventional metaphors of mystic philosophy and poetry.

It was certainly available for Sephardic musicians who emigrated from Spain after the expulsion of the inquisition into the metropoles of the Ottoman Empire—especially to Smyrna (Izmir), Salonica (Selanik), and Constantinople (Istanbul), because the Andalusian school developed their own tradition of cyclical forms used for samā‘ and the Sephardic emigrants were very proud of their knowledge in Arabic language. Over the centuries the Andalusian school and their own modal system of tubū‘ has survived among Sephardic musicians in Morocco, while the Sephardim of the Ottoman Empire adapted soon models of the Eastern Mediterranean Sufis in their synagogal rite. The following example is an introduction (peşrev) in makam segâh, which was performed as the opening of a cyclic form in the synagogue of Edirne. Like in Morrocan Sephardic tradition which parodied famous nawba models, a composition of Yusuf Paşa (19th century) was arranged with a famous Hebrew poem of Israel Najara (16th century):[18]

Sound example 2: Peşrev «Yehemeh Levavî» (Israel Najara, music by Yusuf Paşa) —
Samuel Benaroya (Edirne / Seattle)

This piece proves that Jewish cantors adored so much the music of Yusuf Paşa that they found it worthy to adapt it to a piyyutim poem by Israel Najara, who was a well-known musician, too. Probably the music he composed to this peşrev has neither survived in the oral tradition nor in the collection—a kind of Hebrew mecmua—«Shirei Israel be-Eretz ha-Qedem», published in 1921 by the choral society Maftirim in Istanbul.

Edwin Seroussi who tried to summarize the first research results in this field in a paper in 1997, started more or less his history of Jewish chant in the Ottoman Empire with Israel Najara and the sources give evidence that even Andalusian musicians adapted the local genres, makamlar, and usulümler during the 16th century—both in Safed (Syria) and in Istanbul. His activities as a musician were not reduced to the synagogue and there was an exchange with Sufi musicians and Janissaries which is hardly astonishing, because Andalusian Sephardim were already used to these exchanges in Spain where samā‘ existed among Sufis, but also as secularized court ceremonies. As for the Greek Christians, there are several examples of Sephardic musicians who served at the Ottoman Court. Seroussi also mentions that Samuel Benaroya, who emigrated to Seattle in 1990, in an interview talked about his contacts to dervish musicians who visited the synagogue, while he liked to visit the sema ceremonies in the tekke.[19]

There are some reasons to be less surprised about these exchanges than about the ideological construction according to which a local tradition could exist isolated from the others in the Ottoman Empire:

Die Frage der gegenseitigen Akkulturation ist daher keine des 15. Jahrhunderts (nach der Eroberung Konstantinopels), sondern stellt sich bereits für die Zeit der beginnenden Kreuzzüge (wobei man sicherlich weniger vom „barbarischen“ Westen übernahm, als dorthin abgab). Und die osmanische (Kunst-)Musik ist ihrerseits ebenso eine Synthese aus arabisch-persischer Musik gewesen, wie sie von den nicht-muslimischen Musikern mitgestaltet wurde. Somit ist im levantischen Raum mit Sicherheit keine Musikkultur als ausschließlich eigenständige Tradition anzusehen (siehe Baud-Bovy 1983:XV), wohl aber als ethnisch-regionale urbane Stile einer „levantischen musikalischen Traditionsgemeinschaft“.[20]

The question of reciprocal acculturation therefore does not concern the fifteenth century (after the conquest of Constantinople), but could already be posed for the time of the first crusades (whereby surely less was taken over from the “barbarian” West, than was passed on to them). And the Ottoman (art) music was itself in the same way a synthesis of Arabo-Persian music [i.e. in fact, the Arabian music was instead a Byzantine-Persian synthesis of the seventh century], as it was formulated by non-Muslim musicians. Therefore no musical culture in the Levant can be regarded as an exclusively self-sufficient tradition, but certainly as an ethnic and regional urban style of a “community of traditional musicians in the Levant.”

It was certainly not because the sultans were so tolerant, that the caliphates tried to imitate the Byzantine Empire in this respect from the beginning, but without using all these regulations concerning other religions. The sultans accepted the authority of the patriarchate and so the Fanariots became part of the Ottoman administration, and in foreign policies the sultanate was clever enough to profit from the expulsion of the most educated part of the population carried out by the Spanish and Portoguese Inquisition.[21]

About the relation between the exot(er)ic phthorai and the makamlar

Returning to the earliest layer of music tradition, which has survived in sources with musical notation, the 17th century, my purpose was to concentrate on a Greek church musician who was closer to Brandl’s “community” than to other contemporary psaltes of the patriarchate like Panagiotes the New Chrysaphes, Germanos of New Patras and Balasios. Petros Bereketēs was never directly associated to the patriarchate, but he was domestikos and later protopsaltes of the parish church St Constantine in the Hypsomatheia district. Today he is better known than his colleagues and according to Alexander Lingas he “was the first composer of Byzantine chant to have had his complete works transmitted posthumously as a unit”.[22]

Today he is mainly present as a composer of heirmoi kalophōnikoi and I thought of one composition πᾶσαν τὴν ἐλπίδα μοῦ—a composition in ēchos varys (ἦχος βαρύς) which uses two phthorai named after certain makamlar, but rather used as transition models than as a proper melos.

The one question I wanted to adress was how these transitions are marked in the late Byzantine notation of the 17th century or whether they are later interpretations of the transcribers? Unfortunately I did not find this composition in the anthology in late Byzantine notation in Berlin—the only one which has a heirmologion kalophōnikon part.

Finally the treatise Εἰσαγωγὴ Μουσικῆς, written in 1749 by Kyrillos Marmarēnos, uses special phthorai for the above mentioned divison of the octave within the older notation. In his quotation of the autograph MS 305 of the “Historic and Ethnologic Association” (Ἱστορική καὶ Ἐθνολογικὴ Ἐταιρεῖα) Iannis Zannos reproduces these phthorai thus:

Ioannis Zannos, ‘Ichos und Makam - Vergleichende Untersuchungen zum Tonsystem der griechisch-orthodoxen Kirchenmusik und der türkischen Kunstmusik’, Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik 74, ed. Martin Vogel (Bonn, 1994), 182-183.
Fig. 5: Kyrillos Marmarēnos (IEE, χγ. 305) quoted by Iannis Zannos, ‘Ichos und Makam’, 182f.

The frets [perde] nīm [between the main positions] are what we like to call phthorai [φθοραὶ]. As there are four ēchoi, there are also four phthorai which are derived nīmia as lower positions, in Turkish they are called şedd [“transposed”], as there are kyrioi [main positions], plagioi [4 steps lower], and triphonoi [3 steps higher] and eptaphonoi [7 steps higher up to the octave]. And there are three additional which are laid as follows:

The [phthora] called hıcaz [χιτζάζ] lays between [the frets of] çargâh [τζαρεγκιὰχ] and nevâ [νεβὰ]. And from this fret we find [on the other cords] şehnaz [σεχνάζ], hüzzam [χουζάμ], and hümayun [χουμαγιοῦν].

The [phthora] called hisâr [χισάρ] lays between [the frets of] nevâ [νεϐὰ] and hüseyni [χουσεϊνί]. And from this fret we find [on the other cords] beyâti [μπεϊατί], zirgüle [ζιρκιουλές], gevest [γκεβέστ], and sünbule [σουμπουλές].

The [phthora] called acem [ἀτζέμι] lays between [the frets of] hüseyni [χουσεϊνί] and eviç [ἔβιτζ]. And from this fret we find [on the other cords] sabâ [σεμπάς], buselik [μπουσελίκι], karadügâh [καραντουγκιάχ], zemzeme [ζεμζεμές], nihâvend [ναχαβέντι], rehâvi [ραχαβί], and mahur [μαχούρ]. From these are derived the aşîran [ἀσχιράνια] [lower octaves] and their tiz [τίζια] [higher octaves].

Ioannis Zannos, ‘Ichos und Makam - Vergleichende Untersuchungen zum Tonsystem der griechisch-orthodoxen Kirchenmusik und der türkischen Kunstmusik’, Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik 74, ed. Martin Vogel (Bonn, 1994), 183.
Fig. 6: Iannis Zannos’ transcription of the nīm perde into staff notation

It is not only interesting that some of Kyrillos’ names are odd in comparison with other Ottoman treatises, one may also doubt, if his trial to interpret “16 ēchoi in the system of the asma” mentioned in the old Hagiopolitēs treatise is the right explanation for Ottoman tanbur frets. But it is evident that he was very impressed by the big amount of unknown frets of the makam system which lay between the frets common to the oktōēchos system. So he used them to explain the older unknown tradition of the Byzantine cathedral rite (ἀκολουθία σματική) which was definitely lost after the Turkish conquest of Salonica in 1430.

If the phthora forms are correct here, it means that the usual middle Byzantine signs, known as phthora, thema, and thematismos esō were reinforced or inspired by the tanbur frets. So here we are no longer on the level of frets as pitch classes, but we enter the level of makam and melos. Because in the context of late Byzantine notation these phthorai are also part of the great signs (μεγάλα σῃμάδια), and the question is: How should the thesis of the melos be done?[23]

In modern Byzantine notation these usual forms were replaced by new forms which should specify their meaning clearly. But even in the early manuscripts from the early 19th century, we can find different ways how to transcribe them. Here we have the other questions concerning the makam tradition: What is the Turkish concept of the makam behind the exot(er)ic phthorai? What is the Fanariot reception of this concept?

The relation between φθορά χισὰρ and makam hısar

A passage taken from Petros Bereketēs’ composition […]



Quotation and English translation of the Persian poem according to the edition of the International Mevlana Foundation:

The Musical Composition Called "Farahfeza" [Farah-fezâ âyîn-é Sharîf], translated from Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration), 12/6/05, <http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/farahfeza.html> accessed 2 October 2009.

Ibrahim Gamard used this transliteration for the Persian letters:

p = pe, t = te, S = Se [thâ], j = jîm, ch = che, H = he-jîmî, kh = khe, d = dâl, Z = Zâl [dhâl], z = ze/zayn, zh = zhe, s = sîn, sh = shîn, S = Sâd, Z = Zâd [Dâd], T = Tâ, Z = Zâ, ` = `ayn, gh = ghayn, q = qâf, k = kâf, g = gâf, h = he, ' = hamza


According to Kurt Reinhard the musicians of traditional institutions still insist on using the traditional Hamparsum notation. The use of Western staff notation can be proved since 1828, when Giuseppe Donizetti was in charge as a musician at the Ottoman court, but it was never used during the performance of a dervish ceremony. The systematic transcription of ayinler into staff notation started — Mevlevî ayînleri (Istanbul, 1923–39) —, when Rauf Yekta Bey founded the first conservatory in Istanbul in 1919. Otherwise one would have expected a codification of “Turkish classical music” into Western notation in the new Turkish Republic, when Turkish musicians were supported to create “Turkish contemporary music”, but Rauf Yekta Bey’s initiative came a few years earlier:

Kurt Reinhard, ‘Die Quellensituation der türkischen Kunstmusik - Gedanken zur Frage mündlicher und schriftlicher Tradition und zum Problem Improvisation-Komposition’, Festschrift für Walter Wiora zum 30. Dezember 1966, ed. Ludwig Finscher (Kassel etc., 1967), 578-582.

The used transcription differs slightly from Rauf Yekta’s one, in that it was reset by Western notation software and can be downloaded for free at <http://www.semazen.net/> accessed 3 October 2009. The main reason to use this notation common to Western scholars is to promote it. Despite the fact that there is still a current need to promote it among scholars, it was always a very popular attraction among travelers and tourists.


In the living practice of oktōēchos chant there is as well a kinship between kyrios and plagios of tetartos (G-C) as between kyrios tetartos and prōtos (G-D).


In the 20th century it was already used by Evstathios Timōnidēs and Dēmētrios Vasiadēs as “a kind of melos belonging to the ēchos tetartos”, as Romanos Joubran had recently presented it in a paper:

Romanos Rabih Joubran, ‘The Use of Eastern Musical Modes in Byzantine Compositions During the 19th and 20th Century’, Byzantine Musical Culture — First International Conference 2007 ed. The American Society of Byzantine Music and Hymnology (Pittsburgh, 2009), 549; script and video recording of the paper available at <http://www.asbmh.pitt.edu/page12/Joubran.pdf > accessed 24 January 2010.


Amnon Shiloah, ‘On Jewish and Muslim musicians of the Mediterranean’, Musicians of the Mediterranean - Ethnomusicology Online, 3 (1997), <http://www.umbc.edu/eol/3/shiloah/index.html> accessed 2 October 2009.


Eckhard Neubauer, ‘Arabische Anleitungen zur Musiktherapie’, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, 6 (1990), 227-272.

In his essay Eckhard Neubauer explains the popularity of tarqibāt (terkib) by the medical use of makamlar as an active ingredient. Usually a “female night makam” was combined with a “male day” one. His sources are Persian and Arabic medical treatises written between the 13th and the 15th century.


CD ‘Ottoman Hebrew Sacred Songs performed by Samuel Benaroya’, Anthology of Music Traditions in Israel, 12 (AMTI 9803, Jerusalem, 1998).

About the vocal genre of the prelude peşrev as it was used by Jewish composers and poets:

Edwin Seroussi, ‘The Peşrev as a Vocal Genre in Ottoman Hebrew Sources’, Turkish Music Quarterly, 4 (1991), 1-9.


Edwin Seroussi, ‘From the Court and Tarikat to the Synagogue: Ottoman Art Music and Hebrew Sacred Songs’, Sufism, Music and Society in Turkey and the Middle East - Papers Read at a Conference held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, November 27-29, 1997, ed. Anders Hammarlund, Tord Olsson and Elisabeth Özdalga (Istanbul, 2001), 81-93.


Rudolf Maria Brandl, ‘Konstantinopolitanische Makamen des 19. Jahrhunderts in Neumen: die Musik der Fanarioten’, Maqam - Raga - Zeilenmelodik: Konzeptionen und Prinzipien der Musikproduktion - 1. Arbeitstagung der Study Group “maqām” beim International Council for Traditional Music vom 28. Juni bis 2. Juli 1988 in Berlin, ed. Jürgen Elsner (Berlin, 1989), (156-169) 158-159. Many thanks to Barbara Haggh-Huglo who improved my English translation of the German quotation.


Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts — Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 (London, New York, Toronto, Sidney, 2005), 47:

In Spain itself not everyone favoured the expulsions. (Perhaps this was why a different policy was chosen towards the far more numerous Muslims of Andalucía who were forcibly converted, and only expelled much later.) […] A later generation of Inquisitors feared that the Jews who had been driven out ‘took with them the substance and wealth of these realms, transferring to our enemies the trade and commerce of which they are the proprietors not only in Europe but throughout the world.’

The expulsion of the Jews formed part of a bitter struggle for power between Islam and Catholicism.


Alexander Lingas, ‘Bereketes, Petros’, Grove Music Online, available at <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com:80/subscriber/article/grove/music/52228> (accessed 4 October 2009).


Maria Alexandru, ‘Studie über die „großen Zeichen“ der byzantinischen musikalischen Notation unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Periode vom Ende des 12. bis Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts’ (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2000), 3 vols., pp. 591.

Unfortunately this very important study is still unpublished, but I want to thank here Maria Alexandru for her great generosity in sending me a copy.