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Sound, Science, Islam: Music as Healing in Istanbul

Moon, Steven (2021) Sound, Science, Islam: Music as Healing in Istanbul. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the revival of Ottoman-era musical healing practices in contemporary Turkish biomedical research. Linked at once to physiology, Islamic cosmology, and Galenic medicine, Ottoman music therapy is a network of practices built upon makam: the microtonal harmonic system for structuring musical improvisation/composition in Turkish classical music. In addition to physiological and religious healing, the Ottomans practiced music therapy with individual makam-s, each selected for their associations with the biological processes of the body according to humoral medicine. Currently, cognitive psychologists, nursing PhDs, and physicians study the relationship between makam and the body in order to elucidate how our bodies perceive and react to music. Their goal is to prove that Turkish classical music makam performance can be applied in biomedical settings with measurable physiological effects. Through interviews with these researchers and close analyses of their published studies, I ask, how is the contemporary relationship between Turkish classical music/makam narrated by my interlocutors, and how are these narratives situated within the legacy of Ottoman colonialism in Africa and the slave trade? How do these narratives reflect 19th century Ottoman modernization and early Turkish intellectualism and politics? What can cognitive psychology tell us about sound, the brain, and its effects on the body? How do such studies enact a philosophy of the sound-body relationship? Finally, what material and phenomenological shifts occur between historical contemporary practice, and what do they tell us about musico-medical futures?

Based on fieldwork in Istanbul, Turkey from 2018-2020, this dissertation demonstrates that such revivals of Ottoman practice signal the ongoing negotiation of intersecting Ottoman-Turkish histories and the adoption of European biomedical epistemologies. I argue that studies on cognition, pain, and pregnancy harken historical frameworks of medical practice while making their own epistemological claim to the body through sound practice. Through their work, I argue that my interlocutors raise difficult questions about music as a material-phenomenological practice that encourage a critical reexamination of how we conceive of sound, the body, and medicine in Turkey and elsewhere.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Moon, Stevensrm117@pitt.edusrm1170000-0001-5216-6684
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHelbig, Adriana
Committee MemberAyyagari, Shalini
Committee MemberBloechl, Olivia
Committee MemberGill, Denise
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 April 2021
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 9 March 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 259
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Turkey, Music, Science, Psychology, Obstetrics, Ethnomusicology
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 19:18
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 19:18


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