Yektan Türkyilmaz: Polyphony on Record: A Century of Struggle over Imperial Sounds

This project explores the postimperial competition over the musical heritage of early music recordings in the broader Ottoman world. Sound recording was a historical breakthrough on a par with the development of the printing press in the 15th century. The emergence of sound recording technology coincided with upheavals and transformations in the world of empires of the early 20th century. The rapid spread of the technology at this historical juncture helped form national identities and contributed to the circulation of new and defiant political ideas and cultural forms – recordings included folk and classical music, comic monologues, satire, political drama, propaganda, (military) marches, and other genres. Within this framework, Türkyilmaz traces how policy makers, musicians and archivists/record collectors employed diverse strategies and patterns of recording, producing and marketing as well as claiming, representing, preserving and performing the common musical heritage. To do so, he comparatively investigates processes, stages and periods of memory making and archiving practices around the early sound recording repertoire (1900-1922). Combining archival and library research with ethnographic techniques, this project aims at mapping the shifting and competing representations of imperial memory in urban soundscapes at the juncture of debates on East vs. West, national vs. alien, local vs. global, and authentic vs. contaminated, over the past turbulent century of the region.

Yektan Türkyilmaz received his PhD from the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He has taught courses at the University of Cyprus, Sabancı University, Istanbul Bilgi University, Duke University, and the California State Universities addressing debates around the notions of collective violence, memory making and reconciliation, and the politics of music. He is working on his book manuscript based on his dissertation, “Rethinking Genocide: Violence and Victimhood in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1915”, addressing the conflict in Eastern Anatolia in the early 20th century and the memory politics surrounding it. He has been a 2014/15 EUME Fellow and returned as a EUME Fellow for the academic years 2017/18 and 2018/19, associated with Freie Universität Berlin, Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Arbeitsbereich Neuere Geschichte (Prof. Dr. Oliver Janz).


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