Music in Early Twentieth-Century Istanbul

Reconsidering the Role of Private Music Schools

  • Onur Öner independent scholar
Keywords: Late Ottoman Istanbul, music schools, musicians, bureaucracy, biography


This study addresses the social history of music in early twentieth-century Ottoman Istanbul. The paper argues that private music schools were at the center of transformations in music and that their history is profoundly related to the political crises the Ottoman state experienced after the turn of the twentieth century. More precisely, by approaching the Ottoman bureaucracy from a musical perspective, the paper tries to link the reorganization of the Ottoman bureaucracy in 1909 with the emergence of private music schools in Istanbul. To explore the process, the paper follows some official functionaries’ career paths to explain their concentration in these schools. In contrast to conventional historiography, the aim is to emphasise that out of the political crises, private music schools emerged as a new ground in music. By paying limited attention to musical aspects, the study will mainly address the social roles these schools occupied in Ottoman urban life. They were practically social organizations, whose members pursued common goals. Collective action, such a fundamental shift of mindset on the part of the musicians, facilitated the advancement of the status of musicians in Ottoman urban society and decreased uncertainty about the future of the profession. Moreover, the institutional identity provided by the schools changed the place of women in music by increasing their visibility as music teachers and performers.


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How to Cite
Öner, O. (2021). Music in Early Twentieth-Century Istanbul: Reconsidering the Role of Private Music Schools. Archiv orientální, 89(1), 63-84.
Research Article