How is Turkish music different from western music?
The main difference between the tonal systems of western and Turkish music above all lies in the structure of the tone-series. Western music has been based on the tempered system for more than three centuries. It is a tonal system that includes 12 equal semitones. As opposed to that, the tonal system of Turkish music includes 24 tones that are placed at unequal lengths.
The second important feature of differentiation between the musical systems of the two music cultures is the structure of the tones in the tone-series.In the western diatonic scale, the distance between two tones that constitute one major second is divided with a semitone. It is placed on the ideal half of this distance and represents the semitones in the tone-series. The distance between this semitone and the neighboring semitones is 4.5 Pythagorean commas. The harmonic structure, i.e the polyphony of western music is based upon this arrangement of tones.
The essential feature of Turkish music is in the existence of so-called microtones. Namely, in Turkish music, the distance in one major second is divided into nine equal segments, called Pythagorean commas.
The tone-series in both systems differ in their definition. In Turkish music, the tone-series present a sequence of 8 tones composed of one tetrachord and one pentachord (or vice versa) named cheshni which means "taste" (cheshni = taste). The combination of different tetrachords and pentachords enables the creation of a great number of tone-series or makams. The employment of these tone-series in accordance to specific rules yields the formation of makams - the basis of Turkish music (makam = music tone, melody). Theoretically, hundreds of makams can be formed. Within the opus of Turkish music, over 500 makams are used. Nevertheless, about a hundred of them have a wider use in practice.
In western music, scales are named according to the nota initialis of the tone-series, regardless of their direction of movement.The names of makams vary depending on the height of the nota initialis, but also on the direction of movement of the melody line, called seyir (Seyir = the movement of the tone-series which produces the makam). The movements can be: 1. ascending, 2. descending, or 3. descending -ascending. In fact, the movement - which is of great importance, is not a fixed scheme but a melodic pattern which finalises the form of the composition.
Therefore, one of the distinguishing features of Turkish music is that two makams having identical tonal structure are considered to be different depending on the typical melodic movement. For instance, the Husseyni and Muhajjer makams, in spite of their identical tone-series, are regarded as different because of their opposite direction of movement. The tone-series of the first makam is ascending, whereas the second is descending, which explains why these makams bear different names.