A subtle interaction between the human mind, muscle and matter produces music. Over the centuries, these interactions change, as instruments come and go out of favor and the role of music and musicians evolve. A well-documented tradition like Turkish art music (or Ottoman classic music) exhibits a bewildering variety of innovations over its 500 year history. Walter Feldman’s augmented and revised version of his 1996 work tracks these innovations and shows how this art form has both preserved its heritage and renewed it.

Travelers to Turkey often return with a ceramic plate or tile as a souvenir of their sojourn, many of these have designs based on or inspired by the ceramics from Iznik (the ancient Nicaea, across the Marmara from Istanbul), a major center of production between the 15th and 17th centuries, a history probably unknown to most of the buyers.

Once upon a time, many of the largest cities in what was at the time called the “Near East” enjoyed the benefits of the presence of thriving Jewish communities. Constantinople, Aleppo and Baghdad were just a few cities with tens of thousands of Jews that have since dwindled down to almost a handful. In award-winning Elizabeth Graver’s new novel, Kantika, she writes about her grandmother’s Sephardic family from Constantinople. At the end of the book, she states that she decided to use family photos and real names to keep parts of her story true all while using creative license with ancillary details. 

Peter Constantine is one of the most prominent—and diverse—contemporary translators. He has published English translations from Russian, German, French, Italian, Modern and Ancient Greek, Albanian, Dutch and Slovene, winning numerous awards for his translations of Machiavelli, Babel, and Thomas Mann. It’s only now that he’s come out with a novel, The Purchased Bride, based on the story of how his paternal grandparents met. It comes as no surprise then that language is an important part of this story.

The core of the Ottomans’ political culture could never be replicated. Based on military slaves, forcibly recruited from non-Muslim subjects, a harem full of nubile captives hoping to become sultanas, an emperor who had to murder his brothers to secure his throne, and a pliant clergy that reconciled these extra-legal practices with religion, the “Eternal State”, devlet-e ebetmüdat, ruled over immense territories and numberless peoples for 600 years.