A study on Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek’s tone-system
Available sources that discuss Turkish music theory date back to Farâbî (10th century). While some studies with new theoretical understandings have been conducted since then, some others could not have gone beyond repeating the previous ones. Important music researchers, such as Farâbî and İbn-i Sînâ (11th century), carried out significant studies on Turkish music theory. However, the tone system studies of Safiyüddin Urmevî, who lived in the 13th century, have attracted more attention than studies conducted a few centuries before and after him.
Centuries after Safiyüddin, the 24-fret system, which was first described by Rauf Yekta in the 20th century and then by Hüseyin Saadettin Arel, Suphi Ezgi, and Salih Murat Uzdilek with minor changes, flamed the tone system issue in Turkish music. While examining the 24 unequal interval tone system discussed in the present study, as can be understood from the title, the works of Rauf Yekta Bey were not addressed as the same as Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek. The reason for this is that Yekta’s using different terminology (limma instead of bakiye, apotom instead of kucuk mucennep, etc.), although at the same rates, in dividing the binary interval, his showing the main scale on the Yegâh fret, and, thus, showing the Iraq and Segâh frets as the elements of the main scale, and using modifying signs different from Arel could lead to terminological confusion in the manuscript.
As stated by Arel in the “Turkish Musical Theory Courses (1993),” the 24 unequal interval system obtained by the transposition of special fifths and fourths, which are useful for the scale formation, to all tones of the maqam scale named “Kürdîli Çargâh” by Arel (created with the addition of the Bûselik fourth to the Çargâh fifth) and 11 fifths starting from the Çargâh fret to a high-pitched voice, and 12 fourths starting again from this tone to a high-pitched voice, was generally accepted as the best system that could be used to express Turkish music. In this sense, it has overshadowed Safiyüddin’s system and many other system proposals that have been put forward after it.
The 24-fret system in question has been used in Turkish music for decades. However, studies conducted by researchers in the 21st century, which we discussed under the title of “related studies,” show that there are differences between this system used in Turkish music education and their performances. Furthermore, in the system, the fact that the frets in some semitone and whole-tone intervals are not in the other semitone and whole-tone intervals and the emergence of non-system tones by the transposition of special fourths, which are of great importance in Turkish music, to some frets are also among the reasons leading to the questioning of the system.
For these reasons, Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek’s tone system was discussed in our study and examined in two different ways. Our study does not claim to introduce a new tone system but attempts to follow the path of Arel to show all the frets that can be obtained in this tone system. This study has been conducted not because we believe that the Turkish music tone system can be determined in this way, but because we want to discover and show the end of the path that we think has been left incomplete.
Accordingly, Arel’s chain of fourths was discussed first. The new frets emerging through continuing the cycle completed in the twelfth step from where it was left were noted and continued until the “do” tone, which is the beginning tone of the cycle in the fifty-third step, was regained. Since the same data were obtained by maintaining the fifths instead of the fourths, the chain of fifths was not included additionally.
Afterward, the process of the transposition of special fourths, which is the second way in which Arel provided his system, was discussed. The fourths transposed to the tones of a single scale by Arel were transposed to all the frets in the system, and the resulting frets were noted. In the next step, the fourths were also transposed to the new frets noted, and the transposition process was completed when it became clear that no new fret would emerge. Thus, the same conclusion was reached both by maintaining the chain of fourths and by the transposition of special fourths to all the frets. As a result of the study, by using different methods, it was once again demonstrated that the 24-fret system in question is insufficient to express Turkish music fully.
The said system leaves an incomplete impression both in terms of the repetition number of the chain of fourths/fifths and the transposition of special fourths and fifths. The chain was completed before all the frets used in practice were determined. On the other hand, Arel regards the frets that emerge only by the transposition of special fourths, the importance of which he emphasizes, to a certain scale as sufficient. His transpositions are not based on the Çargâh scale, which he accepts as the main scale, but on a scale called ‘Kürdîli Çargâh.’ Thus, by transposing the Uşşak fifth to the Kürdî fret instead of Bûselik, he both proves the Dik Bûselik fret obtained with the chain of fourths and prevents the non-system “Do#1” fret, which will emerge with a Hicaz fourth to be written on the Bûselik fret. Furthermore, as seen from the various technical analysis studies that we shared in the “related studies” section, the frets that are present in performance but not in Arel’s system are needed.
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