Hümanur Bağlı
4 minutes

Before moving on to the main topic, I would like to share a few things I remember from a lecture on the characteristics of Turkish music given by our dear friend and teacher, the late Ahmet Hatipoğlu, from whom I had the honor of taking Turkish music theory lessons for a while.

As is well known, in Western music, half and whole tones determine the sound distances between notes. While we express half tones with the concepts of sharp and flat, we characterize the main tones as natural. However, in Turkish music, the distances between notes are divided into nine, called “koma”, and works composed in this nine-division system can be played on the piano, etc. The impossibility of playing with instruments such as the “Dafar” is also among the interesting information related to this subject. Some sounds, such as the note si, played one coma higher, also characterize a makam such as segâh.

I don’t want to tire anyone with too much technical information, I don’t know much more than that anyway. Here I would like to link an interesting piece of information Ahmet Hoca said to another issue. Because after I talked about the “random” in my last article, I thought that some of the things I thought about uncertainty would be appropriate here, in the continuation of this topic.

The information that Ahmet told me in that lesson, which surprised me a lot, was that this one comma difference was not very clear and distinct, and that it meant hovering in a space somewhere between B natural and B flat. In other words, for example, an almost “digitally” precisely and clearly printed “si koma flat”, which gives the segâh makam its character, was actually not working for us. More interestingly, this indeterminate interval was also the basis of the laryngeal melodies and ornamentation techniques of Turkish music. The performer was emphasizing, showing, describing this indeterminate area, not by hitting a certain note with certainty, but by moving around in that area.

This is a region in which western thought and radical science, which tries to bring us certainty everywhere and on every subject, can hardly place itself.

On the other hand, a culture that says “neither it is it nor it is it and it and it”, or “we are neither this from that, nor that from that”, is not in a position to exclude ambiguity, but to embrace it, and even to place it within its aesthetics. We are somewhere in the idea of an isthmus where the two seas do not mix but there is no wall between them. Interestingly enough, it is the same idea that is intertwined with the idea of a clear-cut destiny that says, “He said, it happened”.

The diversity that arises from this uncertainty is a bit like this: The fact that our earth, which is flattened at the top and curved at the sides – which does not define a sphere, which is a geometric form – rotates around the sun at a certain angle creates all the variables such as seasons and climate.

Certainty is a big claim. It is as if it suggests that everything is true the way we know it, the way we associate cause and effect with our little minds, and it absolutizes the routine.

However, uncertainty leads us to another idea of order that embraces chaos just like the “randomness” I tried to explain in my previous article, which is the basis of many nuances, aesthetic values, the humility of not knowing everything and the flow that comes with it. The ornamentation around the sound that is not quite pressed, what we call ornamentation, even what we try to leave out as much as possible in modern thinking, is the place of these tiny slopes and gaps. It is also possible to mention here that modernists see ornamentation as murder. But perhaps this is the side of culture and art that beautifies around imprecise points. Its counterpart in visual arts and architecture could be the muqarnas: the softening and aestheticization of different geometric transitions, such as the corners from a dome to a square plan, through a kind of crystallization.

If cosmetics comes from the word cosmos, it would be too ambitious to discard ornamentation.

Maybe all this should be called “uncertain” rather than “ambiguous”. It is a posture, or rather a pleasant dance between different intervals, a course, as opposed to a stance, or posture, which is the opposite of what is solid and rigid. If you know how to watch.

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