Turkish harp project aiming to bridge gap in musical world
The modern harp, which existed in the Anatolian region between the 11th and 14th centuries under the name “çeng” and evolved in different cultures, will meet with Turkish music again thanks to the “Turkish Harp Project.”
Within the scope of the project prepared by the “Harp Art Association” and planned to bring a new breath to the world music culture, the Ottoman-Turkish music repertoire, folk songs and 20th century works will be transferred from manuscripts to the digital media by experts.
A team of local and foreign experts in their respective fields will come together under the umbrella of the association for the project, which aims to prepare written, audio and visual materials of a musical note collection in line with the norms of universal, performance and educational activities.
Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, artist Şirin Pancaroğlu, the founding president of the Harp Art Association who pioneered the project, said that the çeng was once very important among Islamic cultures in the Middle Ages, and then was slowly forgotten.
Noting that the instrument has a mystical side to it, Pancaroğlu stated that the presence of the instrument in this region in the past is an inspiration to the harpists living today.
Expressing the pursuit of how the harp can be positioned in Turkish music, Pancaroğlu said: “Since 2013, I needed a guide, especially in my work on the çeng. I asked the questions, ‘How can we move forward with this music? How can we combine today’s harp with the culture to which the çeng belongs, both with ancient music and with today’s Turkish music?’ Then I needed a master who knew Turkish music very well. In this way, we met composer and vocalist Bora Uymaz and realized our first cooperation for çeng.”
Pancaroğlu stated that one of the main objectives of the Harp Art Association was to preserve local versions of this instrument and produce innovative works on them.
In their concerts abroad, she noted that they brought together the works of different harp artists to outshine the aesthetic character of Turkish music.
Noting that “one of these concerts was a turning point,” she said that at the International Harp Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2016, a music publisher approached her after the concert asking her for the musical notes.
“Harpists watching the concert ask for the notes of the pieces you played. Do you have notes? Where are they?” the publisher asked Pancaroğlu.
Speaking with the publisher that they do not play with notes, Pancaroğlu said, “We take them [notes] from sources and manuscripts and perform them on our instruments.”
It is at this point that the publisher encouraged Pancaroğlu to write the notes down, saying, “Everybody wants to play them. I think you should write them down.”
“That’s when we decided that we really should write them because no one else will be able to sing them when we are gone,” Pancaroğlu said.
Stating that many people have encouraged and supported the project, Pancaroğlu said that currently, a major Turkish music reference source for harp artists on the basis of both maqams and methods would soon be published.
“It contains 120 small pieces, basic elements related to maqams and methods. In addition, we will publish 133 individual works. We are already playing all of them and about 15 of them are in writing.”
Noting the transition from texts to digital platforms, she said, “These will be richened with beautiful graphic designs and uploaded to a harp training platform set up in France, and then these notes will be easily downloadable by harpists around the world. Also, each piece will be performed by harpist from different countries.”
Talking about the reasons for difficulty in following up a methodological approach for Turkish music, she said, “Turkish music was not studied by children in the music lessons in schools, and music note publishing in Turkey had no educational approach on it, as a result, there was no methodological approach for Turkish music to spread in the world.”
Underlining that though they do not have a methodology for writing notes, nor for popularizing music in the world, she said a very serious methodology will be prepared for the transfer of this heritage.
“Although this is the starting point of this project, it is very beneficial for the country as it brings a very serious methodological perspective.”
Pancaroğlu added that the project, which will bridge the gap in the musical world and started through the small means of the Harp Art Association, is believed to get the support of different institutions, organizations and individuals.
Composer and vocalist Uymaz stated that there were around 500 maqams in Turkish music. Noting that they chose the most suitable ones for the project, Uymaz emphasized that the project included both the discipline of Western music and some special facts of Turkish music.