The Sema Vakf Collection of Turkish Classical Music is one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the United States. This vakf, or trust, is named for the art of engaged listening (sema), and is dedicated to the preservation of classical Turkish music, particularly repertories of court music composed before 1850. Turkish businessman and connoisseur Mr. Altan Ender Güzey (1932-2009) began to send his enormous collection to the Archive of World Music (AWM) in the 1990s, and the cataloging of over one thousand 10-inch audio tape reels, an endeavor started 15 years ago and just recently completed, was a dedicated effort of Rhona Freeman, Cataloging Assistant in the AWM.

Cover image, HOLLIS 001423638
Türk mûzikı̂si nazariyatı ve usûlleri: kudüm velveleleri, by İsmail Hakkı Özkan. One of the music theory books from the collection. Loeb Music: Seeger Room ML345.T8 O94 1984

The collection includes the archive of Ismâil Baha Sürelsan, a Turkish composer and ethnomusicologist, recordings of lessons taught by the singer Allâeddin Yavaşça, musical transcriptions, and performances by numerous accomplished artists. A recent Harvard College Library news story tells more about the history and contents of the Collection.

I wished for the first post highlighting the Archive of World Music to be about the Sema Vakf Collection, so that it could be a place to commemorate the passing of Mr. Altan Ender Güzey this past year, and to express enormous gratitude for his gift of the collection as well as for his discriminating collecting.

Ottoman-Turkish court music=Osmanlı-Türk enderûn mûsıkîsi / Merâl Uğurlu Ensemble
Ottoman-Turkish court music=Osmanlı-Türk enderûn mûsıkîsi / Merâl Uğurlu Ensemble, one of the CDs from the collection. Loeb Music: AWM CD 9160.

Recordings by the group Lalezar constitute part of the Sema Vakf Collection. This video features B. Rehâ Sağbâş and Selmâ Sağbaş of Lalezar playing and improvising Ottoman and Turkish classical music in a concert presented on October 17, 2002 by the Center for the Study of World Religions, the Music Study Group, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Also featured is the Director of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Dr. Virginia Danielson, who provides engaging description of the aesthetic aspects of Turkish classical music.

The collection is available in the Music Library; find more items by browsing the HOLLIS Catalog.

– Donna Guerra