“Balkan Borderlands” and “Transylvanian Transit”: Cabaretesque Topographies of East European Modernity

Philip V. Bohlman


The concept of the “cabaretesque” grows from my work as both an ethnomusicologist and the artistic director of the cabaret ensemble, The New Budapest Orpheum Society. I employ the cabaretesque theoretically in this paper to examine the ways in which diverse musical repertories from the Eastern Europe cohere in ways that allow us to rethink the ways in which music and geography interact to narrate modern history. Critical to the perspectives opened by theories of the cabaretesque are the musical juxtapositions of lived-in worlds on the stage, turning them inside-out. The boundaries between audience and performer – symbolically between actors and agents in history – blur and disappear. Musical performance becomes a mirror for historical action. Cabaretesque musical repertories are particularly abundant across Eastern Europe. Metaphor emerges from musical border, for example, in the caesurae that form the hemistiches in Balkan epic. The borders of empire – Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Russian – have divided musical genres during the longue durée of encounter. Borders run through sacred music practices, for example, separating eastern and western Christianity no less than eastern and western Ashkenazic Jewish cultures. As my title indicates, Balkan borderlands are also sites of transit, in other words, the mobility that yields the extensive multiculturalism that defines regions, nations, and musics. Borders and transit converge in the cabaretesque practices I have pursued for over two decades.

Sala di musica orientale: Literary Representations of Oriental Salon-Music During the Reign of Selim III (1789-1808)

John Plemmenos


This paper deals with some early instances of salon music in late-18th century Istanbul, as is attested in the Greek literature of the time. As was the case with salon music in other cities of central and Eastern Europe (such as Vienna), this genre was not systematically recorded due to its private nature but was partially described in travelers’ accounts or in works of fiction. One of the main sources of information is the Greek romance collection, ΈρωτοςΑποτελέσματα[Effects of Love], written by an anonymous author, and published in Vienna 1792 (with a second edition in 1809). Two of the three stories of the collection are set in Istanbul whilst the third one takes place in the Russian city of Poltava (where a Phanariot prince with his retinue has been exiled). In these stories the salon (mentioned by the Italian word, sala) is a standard place for social gathering, romantic mating, and music making. The musical performance, as sketched in the collection, has three basic elements (which characterize the oriental culture at large): it is an all-male event (women being reduced to listeners in one story), the music is vocal and monodic (in double rounds), and the guests are the performers themselves. The paper contrasts this type of oriental salon-music to its western counterpart of the time, which uses musical instruments, includes women (both as artists and hostesses), and the performers are not necessarily identified with the guests (professional artists as opposed to noble or bourgeois audience).

Ottoman Elites and Their Musics: Music and Music-Making in the Nineteenth-Century Istanbul

Feza Tansuğ


This article examines the Ottoman elites and their musics in the nineteenth-century, with a focus on modal practice in Istanbul. Western music, definitely adopted in 1826 by Sultan Mahmud II as a substitute for the military music of the Janissaries, was by the end of the century represented not only by military, operatic and salon music, but also by classical and romantic masterworks. Apart from the activities of the imperial orchestra, band and chorus, conducted by Giuseppe Donizetti, brother of the famous opera composer, Callisto Guatelli and others, many Ottoman-Turkish and Levantine soloists had developed a lively musical scene, which was enriched by visiting European artists and Italian operatic ensembles. The first two generations of native composers in the Western idiom had also emerged. In accordance with the Sultan’s directives, measures were taken for the suppression of traditional art music and the promotion of Western music in Istanbul. But a strong reaction immediately set in by the traditional elites: neglect of the traditional art music offended composers like Dede Efendi, who later wrote instrumental and vocal pieces influenced by Western idioms but in various Turkish modes. Some of his compositions lend themselves today well to incorporation into Western music format.

A British Journalist on Modern Romanian Music

Constantin Ardeleanu


This paper will discuss the image of Romanian music as presented by William Beatty-Kingston, a British author who served for many years as a correspondent for The Daily Telegraph in Central and Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Beatty-Kingston visited Romania on several occasions in the 1860s-1880s and witnessed its profound transformation in terms of infrastructure or politics. But he was equally fascinated with Romanian arts and detailed in his volumes his encounters with local music. Beatty-Kingston left us with valuable information about Romanian music, with references to types of melodic airs, their historical roots, instruments used, famous minstrels of the time or the social importance of this profession. This paper will analyse Beatty-Kingston’s accounts and place his musical interest in a larger context related to the artistic heritage of peripheral nations.

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