Composers Corner Podcast: 14. Dimitrie Cantemir


February 2, 2017

Dimitrie Cantemir, ruler of Moldavia (1693, 1710-1711) was a leading figure of the local and global culture at the end of the 17th century - beginning of the 18th century. His interests in art of music enabled him to achieve success as remarkable as in other branches. It would be difficult to overestimate his contribution on the theory and practice of Eastern music so we thought it's very important to dedicate a mix with some of the works we could find from him. Most of the songs are interpreted by Jordi Savall's Hesperion XXI early music ensemble.

Many of his works are a veritable encyclopedia, but he's mostly known for his musical research and compositions in Eastern countries like Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, etc. and the West: France, Germany, Italy etc., rather than in Moldova, the country of origin.

Cantemir's fundamental contribution to musical culture and Islamic science consists of a comprehensive scientific treatise. It includes 450 instrumental tracks - and sema-pesrev (Part 1) and 345 pesrev and his 36-saz sema's (Part 2). He developed a special system of musical notation based on Arabic letters and numbers.

The musical heritage of Cantemir includes works in genres practiced within Turkish society: 28 pesrev (instrumental song that opens major compositions, a kind of overture), 10 sema (instrumental variables), 2 beste (a vocal concert piece), 2 adjem tarab's (piece of entertainment) and three arias of which the most popular are Air Cantemir and Dervishes Aria. Cantemir shows a special attachment for instrumental music because such sympathy is generally specific of the spirituality of Islamic civilization. As noted himself, "Persian and Turkish nations ... enjoy music beyond measure."

In line with its humanistic education and the European Enlightenment ideas, Cantemir supports the concept of civilization, which directly connects social progress to prosperity, morality development, the arts and education system. In the turkish world, the first "music school" appears in the sixteenth century. Music was one of the main components of the educational process. The Ottoman music is ascribed particular importance in moral and civic formation of the individual, spiritual culture in the process of building a harmonious mood, to promote social ideals of the era.

Through all his accomplishments in the composers field, performing arts and musical didactic, Cantemir left an indelible impression on his contemporaries' consciousness, imposing his personality in the Oriental culture. If we consider the real contribution of the musician in the field of sound art theory and practice, we can say with honour that his name and work has a special place in the classical Turkish music pantheon and in the worldwide, timeless Outernational scene.


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