Monday, 16 February 2009

Ottoman Sources on the Development of the Taksim

Ottoman Sources on the Development of the Taksim
By Walter Feldman

The taksim (Arabic taqsim) is often referred to in the musicological literature of the Middle East as an instrumental “improvisation” (Nettle 1973:11). The taksim has been known as a major musical genre during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in most of the countries of the Middle East which had been incorporated within the Ottoman Empire, especially Turkey, Syria/Palestine and Egypt. It is also significant in Tunisia, but less so in the rest of North Africa. In Iraq it became prominent only after the end of the Second World War. Earlier the taksim ahd probably been known only to and practiced by a small Ottomanized Iraqi elite. In other Arab countries, such as Morocco and Yemen, the taksim is largely a post World War II adaptation of Egyptian musical practice. In the European part of the Ottoman Empire, the taksim has also left important vestiges in the music of Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedona, and to a lesser extent Romania (Garfias 1981). Its name, and a few of its musical characteristics were known even within the instrument klezmer repertoire of East European Jews (Beregovski/Slobin 1982: 539; Feldman 1993a). The fact that current Arabian and Turkish performance practices are not identical, and were even more differentiated early in the twentieth century when the first sound recordings of taksims were made in Turkey, Syria and Egypt, has not prevented Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian musicians from employing the word taksim to refer to all the local sub-styles of the broader taksim genre.

In contemporary Turkey the taksim is essentially urban and shows no close affinity with rural genres. In Syria and Egypt on the other hand, the taksim seems rather more connected with non-metrical vocal genres such as the layali and mawwal which also have rural forms. Perhaps the broad diffusion of the taksim and related genres in the Levan has been the cause of its rather extensive treatment in studies of modern Arabian music. On the other hand, Turkish musicologists, such as Yekta, Ezgi, Arel or Oransay barely mention the taksim, while it is treated somewhat more extensively by Signel.

At times the entire art music or maqam system is discussed as though it were inseperable from or even equivalent to the taksim, e.g. by Touma. More recently Racy (1991) had delineated a broad generic continuum in which the taksim is one vehicle for the expression of tarab (musical rapture or ecstasy) in what he refers to as “the modern tarab style of the east-Mediterranean world and Egypt, a style that emphasizes live musical performances, gives prominence to instantaneous modal creations, and treats music as an ecstatic experience” (1991:9).

Excerpt from JSTOR article by Walter Feldman.
• Ottoman Sources on the Development of the Taksîm
• Walter Feldman
• Yearbook for Traditional Music, Vol. 25, Musical Processes in Asia and Oceania (1993), pp. 1-28 (article consists of 28 pages)
• Published by: International Council for Traditional Music
Copy of Article in JSTOR (Journal)

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