Faculty Recital: Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol + the DÜNYA Ensemble

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol and DÜNYA perform a program of classical Ottoman/Turkish music, original jazz compositions, and introduce the SANLIKOL Renaissance 17 - a new digital microtonal keyboard instrument with 17 keys per octave.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here: https://necmusic.edu/live

View the concert program here. Try the dark-mode version, recommended for in-person audiences. 

From Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol

Tonight’s program presents a number of musical styles I regularly perform as a composer/performer fluent in a variety of Western and Ottoman/Turkish music traditions. However, this occasion lining up with the introduction of a new digital microtonal keyboard instrument (with 17 keys per octave) I conceived and designed was completely unintentional. That being said, returning back to Jordan Hall after a three year-long break, I cannot think of a better occasion than this faculty concert for the debut of the Renaissance 17 (R17).
     I first had the idea for the R17 back in 1999 when NEC professor and celebrated composer Daniel Pinkham took us to the Carr Organ room in the Jordan Hall building to demonstrate unequal temperaments that were used during the Renaissance and early Baroque Europe on an organ. Until that moment I did not realize that not only such historical unequal temperaments resembled the classical Turkish music tuning system but also keyboard instruments with split keys were utilized especially in Italy in order to accommodate what we would now consider microtonal flavors. Right there and then I remember thinking “why not create a digital instrument that can switch between a variety of temperaments/tuning systems easily while utilizing all kinds of possible instrument sounds via high quality sample libraries?”

     After starting to secure a number of prestigious grants in recent years, I started becoming encouraged about pursuing this dream more seriously, as a result of which I secured a LAB grant from The Boston Foundation and over the past 2,5 years worked with Jacob Kaeser, an experienced harpsichord/organ luthier who built an amazing keyboard; Sage Radachowsky who designed the electronics; and my dear friend Melanie Howell Brooks who advised on the technical development of the R17.
     Since the R17 was first inspired by early European music, I cannot think of a better way to start this concert than a Baroque organ piece that was intended for an instrument with split keys. The Toccata quarta per l’elevatione by Gregorio Strozzi (1615-1687) is indeed an ideal composition with its slow moving harmonies that fully display the microtonal qualities of this period.
     Music from mid-17th century Naples will be followed by music from the Ottoman court of the 17th century Istanbul in the first part of the program. Ali Ufki (also Wojciech or Albert Bobowski), a Polish Protestant who converted to Islam after being taken prisoner by the Crimean Tartars and sold to the court of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV (1642-1693), soon found a place in the palace ensemble, compiling a vast and detailed collection of Ottoman/Turkish music which dates from the mid-17th century. I have assembled this first suite from Ali Ufki’s collection by selecting a diverse range of pieces with varying rhythmic cycles and modalities that have not been recorded or even heard in our time.
     While the first suite featured never-before performed pieces, the second suite is compiled from what could be considered as the ‘standards’ of the classical Turkish tradition. Even though a few of these pieces may date from 17th (or even possibly earlier) centuries, unlike the previous set, these compositions would be well known amongst the practitioners of this tradition currently and performed on the spot with lots of improvised ornamentations.
     Contrapuntal compositions and arrangements based on makam (main modal concept in the Near and the Middle East) have been an interest of mine for at least two decades by now. The Rast Tevşih achieves polyphony by way of adapting the Sufi zikir where an ostinato praising God creates contrapuntal texture against the main melodic line. EΣاר, on the other hand, is modeled after imitative polyphony from the Renaissance but based on the Nihavend makam. This composition will slowly evolve and start incorporating a groove oriented collective jazz improvisation during which the Continuum Fingerboard, a flat surfaced keyboardless microtonal synthesizer, and the R17 will be featured along with other soloists.
     I wrote the Şedd-i Araban Şarkı dreaming about an instrument like the R17 many years ago. The tuning I will be using for this piece is based on the Şedd-i Araban makam but the harmonic structure as well as the form of the piece follows the jazz tradition. The Hüseyni Jam has been created in the spirit of a jazz jam session and it features harmonies complementing the melody of a microtonal Turkish folk song in the Hüseyni makam which I adapted. This set will end with Can’t put you aside, a piece influenced by makam I wrote back in 1996.
     We will end the entire concert with a light Turkish pop song I wrote in the spirit of the Anatolian Rock/Pop genre popular in Turkey during the 1970s.
--Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol

  • The DÜNYA Ensemble
  • Beth Bahia Cohen, yaylı tanbur
  • Burcu Güleç, voice, percussion
  • James Heazlewood-Dale, double bass
  • Bertram Lehmann, percussion
  • George Lernis, drums, percussion, santur
  • Jerry Sabatini, trumpet, flugel horn
  • Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, Renaissance 17, Continuum Fingerboard, piano, duduk, ney, ud, voice

  2. Gregorio Strozzi | Toccata quarta per l’elevatione

    Tuning: 1/4 Comma Meantone with G-sharp/A-flat and C-sharp/D-flat on split keys.


  4. Instrumental Improvisation | Nişabur Taksim

  5. Solakzade Mehmed | Nişabur Pişrev (instrumental prelude)

  6. Anonymous | Buselik Murabba


    Nice vasf itsün o şuh-i dil-i hoş dem ne disün?
    Misli yok benzedecek hüsn-ü müsellem ne disün?
    Abundant praise this kind hearted beauty, what can be said?

    There is no one like this astonishing beauty, what can be said?

  7. Köroğlu | Merdana nasihat için Türki (“A song of advice to the brave”)


    Söz tutub uludan, dinleyiñ öğüt
    Edebli er erkanından bell’olur
    Listen to advice of the elderly
    A decent man is known by his manners
  8. Perde Kaldırma (modulating improvisation over ostinato)

  9. Anonymous | Nakş-ı Uşşak (a song in Persian)


    Ger şeved ber men müyesser dide ez didar-ı tü...If I appear easily it’ll be to see your face…

  11. Uşşak Taksim

  12. Salih Dede | Uşşak Saz Semaisi (instrumental prelude)

  13. Baba Nevaî | Beyati Yürük Semai (classical song)


    Gül yüzlülerin şevkine gel nuş edelim mey
    İşret edelim yar ile şimdide midir hey

    Let us desire those with faces like roses and drink
    Let us drink with our beloved now

  14. Anonymous | Hüseyni Nefes (Sufi devotional song)


    İptidadan yol sorarsan
    Yol Muhammed Ali’nindir
    Yetmiş iki dil sorarsan
    Dil Muhammed Ali’nindir

    Şah Hatayi
    If you ask for the first of all ways
    The way is the way of Muhammed (and) Ali
    If you were to ask in 72 languages
    The language would be the language of Muhammed (and) Ali

  16. Rast Taksim

  17. Nalburizade (arr. Sanlıkol) | Rast Tevşih (Sufi devotional song)


    Merhaba ey mevlid-i peygamberi

    İbrahim Hakkı Erzurumi
    Welcome, the birth of our prophet
  18. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol | EΣاר☼


    Olmayanlar kaşif-i esrar-ı ders-i men a'ref

    Anlamaz can vermeyi uğrunda ey Şah-ı Necef

    Kainata nur-ı şemsindir veren şan ve şeref

    Neyzen Tevfik Kolaylı
    Those who have not become the discoverers of the mystery of the forbidden lessons
    Cannot understand to perish in your honor o King of Najaf

    It's the illumination of the sun that you are which gives glory and honor to the universe



  20. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol | Şedd-i Araban Şarkı


    Gerçi sen bu leblerinle halk-ı alem canısın
    Sorduğum ayb eyleme billah kimin cananısın? 
    With such lips you are the sweetheart of all
    Don’t think of me as rude but who is your lover?
  21. Anonymous (arr. Sanlıkol) | Hüseyni Jam

  22. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol | Can't put you aside


  24. Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol | Gel gönül gurbete gitme


    Gel gönül gurbete gitme
    Ya gelinir ya gelinmez
    Her dilbere mey(i)l etme
    Ya sevilir ya sevilmez

    Come, let’s not go far from home
    One may come back, or not
    Don’t flirt with all of the beautiful girls
    You may love, or not

    Text adapted by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol from the variants of a poem attributed to Erzurumlu Emrah and Karacaoğlan from Turkey as well as Turkmenistan

  25. Special thanks to The Boston Foundation, Jacob Kaeser, Sage Radachowsky, and Melanie Howell Brooks. I would also like to thank my dear wife, Serap Kantarcı Sanlıkol, for continuing to support me while playing a crucial role as DÜNYA’s chief development officer.

  26. The Musicians

    Beth Bahia Cohen has been playing with Dünya since its inception in 2004 and has been performing Turkish, Greek, and Hungarian music for many years throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. She specializes in bowed string instruments from various cultures and is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music and Tufts University.

    Burcu Güleç completed a  bachelor’s degree in child development as well as a master’s degree from New England Conservatory in contemporary improvisation. As a performer and educator, she works in several genres, including Jazz, Turkish, and Balkan musics.

    James Heazlewood-Dale has performed with some of the world's most prominent jazz musicians including Maria Schneider, Terrence Blanchard, George Garzone, Ernie Watts, James Morrison and Will Vincent. He is currently at Brandeis pursuing his PHD in Musicology.

    Bertram Lehmannteaches drums, Ear Training, and Liberal Arts at Berklee College of Music when he's not busy performing with a variety of Jazz, Latin, and World music ensembles in the New England area and beyond, which also has taken him to far-flung places including India, Ghana, South Korea, Turkey, and Russia.

    Born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus George Lernis is a drummer and world percussionist. George holds a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Jazz Performance and two master’s degrees from Longy Conservatory and the Global Jazz Institute at Berklee. George has performed in venues such as the Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

    Jerry Sabatini earned a master’s degree in Contemporary Improvisation at the New England Conservatory and performs and records often in the US, Europe, and the Middle East with some of the world’s most innovative musicians and bands. Jerry’s influences range from the music of traditional combo, big band, and avant-garde jazz, to Eastern European Roma brass bands, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, European, and American Classical music, as well as American blues, pop, rock, soul, and funk.

    Grammy nominated composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol (DÜNYA, president)holds a master's degree in Jazz Composition and a doctoral degree in Composition from New England Conservatory. He is currently a full-time faculty member at New England Conservatory and is the recipient of a number of awards including the Live Arts Boston Grant from The Boston Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music Grant as well as a South Arts Jazz Road Creative Residency Grant.