Born on 27 March 1871 in Istanbul, Rauf Yekta Bey wrote the first modern account of Turkish classical music available in a Western language (Raouf Yekta Bey, 'La musique turque', in Encyclopedie de la Musique et Dictionnaire du Conservatoire, edited by Albert Lavignac, Première partie, Volume V, pp.2945–3064, Paris, 1922), where he extensively discussed intervals, modes and rhythms. He introduced a modified European notation to express the intervals used in Turkish music and used accidentals to express the microtonal inflections necessary for the modal system. This notational system was the one used for the official publications of the Istanbul Conservatory during the 1920s and 1930s.
Safi Al-Din Al-Urmawi (b. 1216 AD) is one of the most important figures in the history and theory of Middle Eastern music. His contribution in this field is of paramount importance in the chain of works on Arabic music, beginning with Al-Kindi. Al-Urmawi is also credited with inventing two stringed instruments (the nuzha and the mughni, see H.G. Farmer, Studies in Oriental Musical Instruments, First Series, London, 1931). Al-Urmawi was well-educated and gained his reputation initially as a calligrapher, with both Yaq'ut Al-Mustasimi and Shams Al-Din Ahmad Al-Suhrawardi counted amongst his disciples. Only later on in his life did Al-Urmawi become renowned as a musician and gifted lute player, and he gained generous patrons whose support enabled him to lead a luxurious life. Al-Urmawi's two main works, Al-sharafiyyah fi'l-nasab al-ta'lifiyyah and the Kitab al-adwar ensured his long-lasting fame. The earliest known copy of this manuscript is in the Nuruosmaniye Library, Istanbul (MS 3653), dated 633 AH/1235-36 AD.
Throughout the manuscript there are marginal notes signed by Rauf Yekta Bey and a few by Mustafa Zeki Bey, who was professor at the Daruttalim-i Musiki (The Ottoman Conservatory). Rauf Yekta Bey’s marginal notes are mostly in red ink and edit the main text of the Nuruosmaniye copy, writing doğru (correct) in red to the margins of the sections he agreed with and adding corrections next to the sections he disagreed with. This important manuscript is a testament to Rauf Yekta Bey’s knowledge of the previous musical tradition, and his efforts in researching it.
A sixteenth-century compendium of Safi al-Din al-Urmawi including al-Sharafiyyah was sold in these rooms, 6 April 2011, lot 212.
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