The Royal Melancholy
It was during the reign of Abdul Madjid (1839–1861) that the Ottoman sultans became captivated by Western music and abandoned the thousand-year tradition of Eastern court music. It is even said that when he listened to famous musician Tanburi Cemil Bey (1871–1916), Sultan Abdul Hamid II (who reigned from 1876 to 1918), son of Abdoul Madjid (who reigned from 1839 to 1861), could not stand the nostalgia of the music. His valet then interrupted the grand master's taksîm (improvisation) and whispered in his ear that he had caused a Teessür-ü Sahane: a royal melancholy.
There are a number of recurrent themes in Eastern literature and art music: passion and impossible love; the sorrow of being unable to behold one's beloved, often none other than God himself; memories of beauty and loveliness buried in the subconscious; and devotion and loyalty to our Creator.
Unlike the spiritual focus of Eastern music, Western repertoires conjured up the palaces' earthly pleasures and their magnificent celebrations.
I suggested this album title to underline this radical and fundamental philosophical change in the role given to music by our scholars, who have been attuned to Western civilisation since the 19th century
Ney means 'reed' in Persian and is the name often given to all types of flute made from this material. The royal melancholy meditations showcase the most commonly used and popular ney in the Arab, Persian and Turkish worlds where it is always played in their own distinctive aesthetic.
The origins of the ney have been lost in the mists of time. Some Ancient Egyptian tombs depict flutes very similar to the ones seen today in terms of both shape and playing position. The simplicity of this instrument appears to point to its antiquity, so obvious is the idea of cutting a reed to make a flute.
Though basic, the ney has adapted to the musical cultures of various countries. In Ottoman culture, it is seen as art music's main instrument: it is also held dear among Mevlevi disciples, the Whirling Dervishes, who have endowed it with a sacred aura since the writings of Mevlânâ Jalal ad-Din Rumi, the great 18th-century Sufi master to whom they refer.