Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul

Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul

Nation and Community in the Era of Reform
Erol, Merih
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/07/2015
Format: Hardback 12 b&w illus., 8 audio
ISBN: 978-0-253-01833-5
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During the late Ottoman period (1856–1922), a time of contestation about imperial policy toward minority groups, music helped the Ottoman Greeks in Istanbul define themselves as a distinct cultural group. A part of the largest non-Muslim minority within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire, the Greek Orthodox educated elite engaged in heated discussions about their cultural identity, Byzantine heritage, and prospects for the future, at the heart of which were debates about the place of traditional liturgical music in a community that was confronting modernity and westernization. Merih Erol draws on archival evidence from ecclesiastical and lay sources dealing with understandings of Byzantine music and history, forms of religious chanting, the life stories of individual cantors, and other popular and scholarly sources of the period. Audio examples keyed to the text are available online.

Author Bio

Merih Erol is senior fellow at Koç University’sResearch Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Istanbul.In 2014, she was Onassis Foundation Visiting Faculty in the Department of History at Boaziçi University, Istanbul. Previously, she was a visiting scholar at Harvard and Princeton Universities, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, and the Center for Advanced Study, Sofia.


Merih Erol’s careful examination of the prominent church cantors of this period, their opinions on Byzantine, Ottoman and European musics as well as their relationship with both the Patriarchate and wealthy Greeks of Istanbul presents a detailed picture of a community trying to define their national identity during a transition. . . . Her study is unique and detailed, and her call to pluralism is timely.

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Table of Contents

1. The City’s Greek Orthodox: An Overview
2. Liturgical Music and the Middle Class
3. Confronting the Musical Past
4. The Music Debate and Tradition
5. Music and National Identity
6. Singing and Political Allegiance

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