Project Description

The CMO project is carried out collaboratively across three locations: Münster and Bonn (both in Germany) and Istanbul (Turkey). Each center deals with a specific aspect of the project. The central research task – the transcription and critical editing of nineteenth-century sources of Ottoman music – is carried out at the Institute for Musicology at the University of Münster. Project support and digital publication of the edition is undertaken jointly by associates based at the Max Weber Foundation in Bonn and the Orient-Institute in Istanbul.

The first phase of the project is dedicated to the critical editing of key sources of Ottoman music written in Hampartsum (Tr. Hamparsum) notation1. These sources fill a major lacuna in the history of music in the Ottoman Empire. While critical editions of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ottoman notated sources have been published in recent years, and the repertoire as it existed in the twentieth century is amply documented, there has so far been no attempt to produce a critical edition of the large corpus of nineteenth-century music manuscripts. By making these sources available to the international academic and musical communities, the CMO project will provide new insights into the historical development of Ottoman music, allowing researchers to analyze in detail the process of transition from early to contemporary musical practices. Moreover, the CMO edition will make available to performers both new versions of well-known compositions and neglected or forgotten repertoire. In this way, a new chapter in Ottoman music studies will be opened, which will contribute to increased historical awareness and stylistic diversification of the Ottoman repertoire, as well as to the growing interest in historically informed performance.

The editing process is made up of several complementary stages. Firstly, descriptive and detailed codicological information about each manuscript is gathered. Secondly, individual musical works are catalogued and concordances or variants in other manuscript and printed sources are identified. Thirdly, in conjunction with an analysis of the available concordances, individual works are transcribed into staff notation with an accompanying critical commentary, taking into account the historical development of musical parameters such as mode (makâm) and rhythmic cycle (usûl). The transcription system used for Hampartsum notation has been developed by the CMO team on the basis of a wide range of existing and original scholarship, and allows for the precise reconstruction of the original notation. The transcription of these sources into staff notation will make a large and valuable corpus of Ottoman music accessible to musicians and researchers for the first time.

During the second phase of the 12-year project, selected manuscript sources of Ottoman music written in European staff notation will be transcribed and critically edited, with due consideration given to their historical context. These manuscripts notably include documentation of improvised musical materials (taksîm), which by definition are normally inaccessible to historical research. In addition, they reflect the increasing use of staff notation in the context of the commercialization of Ottoman music during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and thus can be considered in parallel with the culture of music printing and gramophone recordings that flourished during this transitional period.

Besides a large corpus of instrumental works, the sources contain hundreds of vocal pieces with both melodic and textual dimensions. In parallel with the critical edition of music manuscripts, the CMO project will therefore publish editions of the accompanying song texts in collaboration with the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Münster. This will enable the reconstruction of Ottoman sung poetry from the nineteenth century, which will be transcribed and edited according to the latest research methods in Middle Eastern philological and literary studies, while the works of Ottoman poets and lyricists found in the music manuscripts will be systematically documented. By making available a sizable corpus of song lyrics, situating them in their proper historical and cultural context, and approaching Ottoman poetry through the lens of musical performance, the CMO project will contribute to new directions in the study of Ottoman literature.

The CMO edition will thus provide, firstly, historically and textually accurate transcriptions of the available repertoire of Ottoman music as it was documented during the nineteenth century, primarily in Istanbul. These transcriptions, which reflect the original sources as closely as possible rather than being revised according to present-day performance practices, will be made freely available to scholars as well as to musicians interested in historical performance practice. Secondly, the CMO project will publish critically edited texts from the corpus of Ottoman vocal music, following as faithfully as possible the original arrangement and orthography of the music manuscript sources, rather than the conventions of purely text-based anthologies. The CMO edition will thereby provide unique documentation of Ottoman poetry in its performative aspect.

A further innovative aim of the project is to approach the nineteenth-century repertoire of Ottoman art music with an awareness of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment of the region and period. The material published by the CMO project is of central importance not only for the history of music in Turkey, but also amongst the Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Arab communities of the Ottoman Empire, and is furthermore relevant for the history of music in other urban centers of the region such as Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo. This culturally and geographically flexible approach can contribute to the de-nationalization of music studies both within and in relation to the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean.

General support for the technical infrastructure of the CMO project, as well as digital publication of the edition and other research outcomes, is undertaken by the Max Weber Foundation – German Institutes of Humanities Abroad (Bonn).

In this regard, musical transcriptions will be fully digitized, taking into account the special notational requirements of the musics of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. The data will be stored in a variety of formats in order to provide access to the edition in both graphic (human readable) and semantic (machine readable) forms, both of which will be widely compatible and platform-independent. Additionally, metadata for the manuscripts will be entered into the CMO online catalogues, which already comprises a large database of theoretical and practical materials related to Ottoman music, including many printed sources from the twentieth century. The CMO edition will thus be accessible both in the form of integral editions of single manuscripts, as well as through the search function of the general catalogue, allowing scholars and musicians to use the CMO edition according to their own requirements. 

The edition and metadata will be published on the internet platform, and will additionally be integrated into RISM (Répertoire International des Sources Musicale), there is also a cooperation with Musiconn. Furthermore, besides the source catalogues themselves and the editions of music and lyrics, digital images of Ottoman musical materials in the public domain, and those which are authorized for publication by the holding libraries, will be published under a creative commons licence on Printed editions of single manuscripts will also be available as book-on-demand publications.

The Orient-Institute Istanbul, part of the Max Weber Foundation, is responsible for on-site project management, liaison with Turkish libraries, institutions and researchers, and organization of the CMO online catalogues. The latter duty involves the identification, cataloguing and data entry of manuscript and printed sources of Ottoman music, and the digitization of these materials when possible. This will contribute towards the construction of a dual database that includes both historical printed music sources from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as manuscript sources from the same period.

In co-operation with, the Orient-Institute Istanbul is responsible for overall technical supervision of the CMO edition. It will administer the online publication of the edition, construction and maintenance of the web portal and digital infrastructure of the project, open-access provision for the edition and the source catalogues, and print-on-demand publication.

1 Concerning different transliteration systems and variant spellings see "A Note on Terms and Transliteration"  Publications.