Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Turkish troops heading for Iraq?

On occasion, Turks appear to be a remarkably complacent people. Their top general publicly asks for permission to cross over into Iraq; their Prime Minister publicly warns that Turkey's patience is at the breaking point; their UN representative is to present a dossier probably justifying an incursion; and a military build-up continues on the Iraqi border. Some 80,000 Turkish troops have been amassed opposite the newly-empowered peshmerga, and all that happens in the Turkish press is some short discussion on an extra few tanks being sent to the border. Turkey may be about to send troops into the most volatile area in the world, and a deafening silence reigns in the Turkish press. There is no discussion at all about the objectives, methods and time frame of such an action.

Darcy does not claim to know all about Turkey, but he has lived here long enough to pick up the language (more importantly, be able to use a modified QWERTY keyboard), delve into its political and social past, and to get that all-important feel for the country. Yet he confesses himself to be quite at sea on this particular matter. In the absence of knowledge, speculation must arise. The following is such, and is open to correction.

Hypothesis 1: The Turkish media considers such an incursion into Iraq to be "a quarrel in a far-away country" in which their readers, listeners and viewers have little interest. Darcy considers this to be unlikely.

Hypothesis 2: The Turkish government and army have no intention to send troops into Iraq. (Therefore the media does not consider the current events to be important enough to note.) The present build-up is to put pressure on all factions in Iraq to address Turkey's demands. Darcy does not quite understand what this would accomplish. Iraq is hardly a country nowadays; instead it is a mass of violently conflicting interests. A uniform reply is therefore out of the question. Given that this hypothesis is unlikely to bear fruit, Darcy does not believe it to be valid.

Hypothesis 3: Turkey is truly preparing to invade Iraq. After all, the Turks seem to be on a diplomatic offensive that would render such an incursion more palatable to the world, and diplomatic powder is limited. Indeed these diplomatic forays appears to be bearing fruit in the form of implicit approval. The statement by the US Defence Secretary that "The Turks have a genuine concern with Kurdish terrorism that takes place on Turkish soil. So one can understand their frustration and unhappiness over this." and from the German Foreign Minister that "[T]he Turkish government naturally wants to protect its own people and that there is therefore a need to take action against terrorist activity." are certainly a world away from disapproval. Indeed, the recent move by the Americans to hand over the policing of Northern Iraq to the Kurds ahead of schedule may be a pre-emptive move to prevent Turkish and US soldiers from facing each other on the field. Of course the US and the EU will still kick up a fuss, but the international groundwork seems to have been laid. And considering that the US has some 160-170,000 troops to cover most of Iraq, 80,000 (at present) Turkish soldiers make a credible force for a relatively small slice of territory in the north. Darcy finds this to be quite credible.

Where, then, is the discussion of the pros and cons of such an operation? Has it happened in the past and Darcy has missed it? Or is there such consensus on this subject that a discussion is not needed? And why are Iran and Turkey shelling northern Iraq at the same time?

Hypothesis 4: Darcy is talking arrant nonsense.

Darcy is confident that a straight military encounter between the Turkish army and the peshmerga would be lopsided. Turkey is not a great military power - it does not have the ability to project power around the world - but it certainly possesses the ability to confront the peshmerga next door. (Some parallels have been drawn with the recent Israeli incursion into Lebanon; Darcy believes the dynamics of a broad front versus a narrow render such a comparison meaningless). Yet the peshmerga are said to number 80-175,000. He doubts that 80,000 Turkish troops (even with air superiority) would be enough brusquely to brush them aside. And that is assuming that the peshmerga would indeed be happy to fight the Turks, instead of disappearing into the mountains. And what of the potential security repercussions within Turkey?

Darcy considers these to be all valid questions. But where is the public debate?

Link added: Megalommatis

An ongoing discussion in the comments section of one of Darcy's articles having referenced a certain site, Darcy could not resist taking a look. He found the site, but more importantly, found one of the world's least-PC authors, a man by the grand name of Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis. Darcy is a sucker for exotic names and he also likes to be non-PC (though not as much as this gentleman). M.S.M. blogs on a plethora of subjects, with sulphurous titles such as: "Vicious, Tenebrous Allies: Racist European ‘Professors’ and Abyssinian Tyrants", "Fareed Zakaria’s Ulcerous Hatred for Democracy, Turkey and Islam", "Islamic Extremist Propaganda by the Economist". (Darcy does not know whether M.S.M. is John Knox re-incarnated.)

Love it or loathe it, this site looks to one where the articles will always generate a strong reaction. And as Darcy subscribes to other outré blogs such as Gateway Pundit, he is quite happy to add M.S.M.'s writings to the list he will visit frequently.

Monday, 4 June 2007

A Higher Power moves apples

Darcy has long believed the assertion by many Christian evangelists (and Muslims) that the so-called theory of evolution is wrong. After all, this theory may perhaps explain the symptoms, but does not answer the prime question: why would evolution exist at all? Darcy is unimpressed by such second-rate antics. He is pleased to have read another article in a serious newspaper which has completely changed another part of his worldview (that based on Newton and Einstein), and is pleased to share part of the article here.

"Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics...

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power." "

The complete article can be found at this reputable source.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Appreciating Turkish music

Most westerners have difficulty with classical Turkish music, as does Darcy. But instead of closing our ears to it, it might be worth considering why this is the case. Darcy is happy to share his first impressions with the readers of this blog.

First, Turkish music is heterophonic. Turkish choral pieces invariably move in unison. Indeed, composers often only write one voice line; individual voices will transpose up or down by an octave. This is highly unusual in Western music. Though older western music will often be homophonic, this differs from heterophonic in that the interval is not a full octave.

Second, Turkish music does not use equal temperament. Western musicians long ago decided to forgo just intonation in favour of a compromise which allowed quick key changes. Thus was born equal temperament. Whatever the key used, the notes on the chromatic scale will be the same. This means that dependent on the key, most of the notes played will actually be off very slightly. Every western ear is therefore subliminally aware of a slight oddness in Turkish music - though the oddness is actually in the western system.

Third, Turkish music is microtonal. The western scale is split into 12 (the chromatic scale): C, C sharp, D, D sharp, E, F, F sharp, G, G sharp, A, A sharp, B. In western music, an example of a whole tone scale is: C, D, E, F sharp, G sharp, A sharp. At worst, the whole tones are divided into two, giving us the sharps and flats. In Turkish music by contrast a whole tone may be split into 9 "commas". (Fortunately, not all of the commas are used; Turkish music uses only 53 notes.) Not only does it mean that a C sharp for example does not exist in Turkish music (that would be 4.5 commas above C), but it creates huge problems for the western ear.

Not surprisingly, these three factors combine to create major problems in appreciating Turkish music. However, Turkish music also uses makam; "the concept used to codify phenomena of scale structure, interval structure, and melodic characteristics that underlie composition and improvisation". The makams give the piece part of its underlying structure. And the makam is accompanied by an usul, a formal melodic rhythmic cycle. While this makes Turkish music incredibly complicated, it adds to structural uniformity. And the human brain (hence ear) is appreciative of structure; hence, Turkish music is easier on the ear than the jagged dodecaphony of Schoenberg and his ilk.

While this may appear as a ray of hope for us, let us immediately remember that there are theoretically thousands of makams, though only about 100 - apparently - have been developed into musical settings. Which is the most popular, Darcy does not know. But a search of the net gives a great number in the Hicaz and Nihavend modes. Darcy is pleased to give a glimpse of the exotic key signature of the Hicaz (above) but also notes that the Nihavend (below) is essentially B flat major with microtones.

There is no moral to this story. Remembering an evening spent with a girlfriend listening to Korean classical music, by the end of which Darcy had developed a severe headache, he does not recommend that you listen to classical Turkish music in its hundred modes to develop a taste for it. But at least he hopes that the above will provide some understanding as to why you may not like it.

(Darcy is a poor musician; he welcomes informed comment.)

Friday, 1 June 2007

Link added: TrulySecular

The list of Darcy's most-visited blogs keeps expanding. Today he added TrulySecular, a sentiment he shares. The site is blogged from India, which probably has more religions than any country other than the United States.

Turkey: a den of violence and crime?

A few years back, before Darcy moved to Turkey but at a time when he was a regular visitor, he mentioned to an American acquaintance of his that she might perhaps like to visit Turkey. "Oh, no!" she cried, "I never go to places like that." Places like what, Darcy wondered. What was Turkey missing? True, bagels are hard to come by, bacon is well-nigh impossible to find, and the opera is third-rate, but surely there were compensations for such deprivations?

Darcy enquired politely as to the reasons for her immediate and absolute reaction. "Too dangerous," she breathed, her bosom heaving with fright. Now, Darcy has long had the ability to keep a straight face. In fact, in a game of cards with James Baker and Peter Carington, Darcy would not give much away. But he was hard pressed at that instant. For the lady in question was not only an American, but lived in New York. Which city, as everybody knows, though perhaps not as louche as in the past, is hardly the safest in the world. (New Yorkers might disagree, but they are a peculiar bunch withal.) Unfortunately, Darcy was not all that familiar with Turkey himself; he certainly had no facts and his surprise was due only to his impressions of life in Turkey. He therefore mumbled something and went his way.

Turkey has too many submachine guns in the hands of the police and gendarmerie? Maybe. But Turkey a dangerous place? Not quite. Or it does not seem that way to Darcy, despite comments by some Turkish and expat acquaintances that Istanbul was exceptionally dangerous. Especially certain parts. Which said expats and Turks probably never visited, but Darcy did. He saw poverty and poor paving, but nothing that worried him.

Darcy was therefore pleased to happen upon a site which he can use to illustrate certain points. If such educated know-nothings as his previous American acquaintance chance upon this site or Darcy's blog, they might learn something to their edification. The site in question is http://www.nationmaster.com. According to the data collected by this site from the Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 - 2000 (Darcy notes the data are out of date, but advises any readers to be patient: crime statistics do not change overnight), the following is a comparison of the crime rates for various offences in certain countries. These countries have been selected by Darcy with an eye to his international readership (over 200 visits in a fortnight - breathtaking). The worst countries in that particular survey are also given. Not all countries provide statistics for all crimes, so some will be missing from some of the lists. (Few of the surveys have more than 55 respondent countries.)


1. South Africa.....................12.08 per 1,000 people
6. United States.....................7.57 " " "
8. United Kingdom................7.46 " " "
weighted average.................2.50 " " "
25. France.............................1.76 " " "
33. Turkey.............................0.77 " " "


1. Colombia..........................0.618 per 1,000 people
weighted average.................0.100 " " "
24. United States..................0.043 " " "
34. Turkey............................0.023 " " " (2000)
41. France.............................0.017 " " "
47. United Kingdom..............0.014 " " "


1. South Africa.....................1.195 per 1,000 people
9. United States...................0.301 " " "
13. United Kingdom.............0.142 " " "
15. France............................0.139 " " "
weighted average................0.100 " " "
53. Turkey...........................0.018 " " "


1. Spain.................................12.33 per 1,000 people
8. United Kingdom..................1.57 " " "
11. United States......................1.39 " " "
weighted average...................1.00 " " "
38. France..............................0.40 " " "
59. Turkey..............................0.02 " " "

Now Darcy is fully aware that statistics may be miscompiled and are often abused and can definitely mislead. However, the differences between the crime rates in Turkey and other, supposedly safe countries, is too great to dismiss as a statistical fluke. (The incidence of robberies, however, seems absurdly low.) Nor are these figures particularly surprising to anyone who has lived in Turkey. Darcy has never felt threatened in Turkey. Granted, he is physically a fine figure of a man, but Darcy would not venture out into the streets of New York at night unless there were plenty of people around. A 3 am stroll in Istanbul - anywhere in Istanbul? Darcy would be up for it, were he not sleeping.

In the one instance - murders - where Turkey appears to be a more dangerous place than Europe, Darcy wonders whether the deaths in the south east of the country or, say, the bus stop in Ankara a few days ago are being classed as terrorist killings or plain murders.

Turkey is not Heaven on Earth - as Darcy well knows and as the Turks themselves state incessantly. Yet it is certainly not a dangerous place. The moral of the story is two-fold. Turkey's bad rep strikes again, and that perhaps there is something to be said for submachine guns prominently displayed. Darcy wonders whether other bloggers in Turkey would agree?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Thanksgiving and fancy

When Darcy is tired of stupidity, ignorance or even of life, he rises, places a certain CD is its player and presses the button. He then reflects on the extraordinary life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Darcy is not a particularly religious man. But listening to Mozart is a religious experience for him. Darcy did not always feel this way; his first favourite composer was Wagner (whom he still likes very much) and he then progressed to Mahler. But Mozart soon overwhelmed him. Darcy dates his conversion to when he heard Mozart’s first symphony – the one he composed at the age of eight in London, to while away the time while his father lay sick. This is a trifling work, but at the same time it is incredible. It holds up well against the mature works of all but the first rank of eighteenth century composers. Astounding.

In the minuscule part of his brain that is not occupied listening to the music, Darcy often ponders three questions. First, the inherent unfairness of life. Second, the bravery of genius. And third, what would have happened if Mozart had lived a normal span. To put this into perspective, Darcy noted down a list of first and second rate composers who were either a) born before 1700 and died after 1750 or b) were born between 1700 and 1800. (For those interested, the sample is: G.P. Telemann, Rameau, J.S. Bach, Handel, D. Scarlatti, Porpora, Tartini, Hasse, G.B.Sammartini, Pergolesi, Gluck, C.P.E. Bach, J. Stamic, L. Mozart, Goldberg, Piccinni, J. Haydn, J.C. Bach, M. Haydn, Paisiello, Grétry, Boccherini, K. Stamic, Cimarosa, Salieri, Clementi, Mozart, Cherubini, Beethoven, Spontini, Hummel, Paganini, Auber, Spohr, v. Weber, Meyerbeer, Hérold, Rossini, Schubert, Donizetti, and Halévy). In this sample of 41 composers, only Pergolesi, Goldberg and Schubert died at a younger age than Mozart. The average longevity of these composers is 65 years. The standard deviation of the sample is 17 years. Mozart's age at death of 35 is nearly two standard deviations below the mean! (Darcy also notes that Mozart's father died at the age of 68 and his sister at 78.)

Darcy believes that the composer of whom - among a host of others - Haydn said "I have often been flattered by my friends with having some genius, but he was much my superior", Beethoven exclaimed "That's Mozart saying 'here's what I could do, if only you had ears to hear' ", Rossini gushed "He is the only musician who had as much knowledge as genius, and as much genius as knowledge", and whose name was perhaps the last thing to pass Mahler's lips would have certainly given us more to be thankful had he not been untimely ripped from us.

Using the mean and s.d. of this sample, Darcy has extended his fanciful digression into what would have happened if Mozart had lived beyond 1791. Without any need to go to the extreme (one standard deviation above the mean, implying that Mozart would die in 1838 at the age of 82), the following strives to give some idea of the environment in which he would have lived.

One standard deviation below the mean
(1792 - 1804)

If he had survived to 48, Mozart would have additionally lived through: the murders of Gustav III of Sweden and Tsar Paul I; the storming of the Tuileries; the abolition of the French monarchy; the executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; the death of Leopold II (the penultimate Holy Roman Emperor); the second and third partitions of Poland; the start and the end of the Terror; the start and end of the French Revolutionary Wars; the Consulate and Empire in France; the start of the Napoleonic wars; the Code Napoléon; Paganini's debut as performer; the introduction of metric units; the first silk top hats; the invention of the voltaic pile, electrolysis, the Jacquard loom, the first steamboat, the first steam locomotive; the discovery of infrared and ultraviolet radiation, morphine and the first asteroids; and the deaths of Piccinni, K. Stamic, and Cimarosa.

In music, the period 1793-1804 would have seen Haydn complete the 12 London symphonies (Mozart would most probably have followed him to London in 1794) and publish the "Emperor" Quartet, "The Creation" and "The Seasons", Cherubini stage "Medée", Beethoven, the sonatas for Piano, Opus 27 and Opus 28 ("Moonlight" and "Pastoral"), the sonata for Violin, Opus 47 ("Kreutzer"), and symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Opus 55 ("Eroica"). J.N. Forkel would publish his "Life of Johann Sebastian Bach".

At the mean
(1805 - 1821)

If he had survived to 65, Mozart would also have witnessed: the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papal States; the restoration of the monarchy in France; the serial declarations of independence in Latin America; the start of the Greek War of Independence; the partial and temporary resurrection of Poland; the partial autonomy of Serbia; the cessions of Finland, Bessarabia and Norway; the abolition of the slave trade in England; the battles of Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram, Borodino and Waterloo; the Congress of Vienna; the introduction of the Austrian Civil Code; the two abdications of Napoléon; the first Oktoberfest; the Great Comet of 1811; the Year Without a Summer; the publication of Philosophie Zoologique and Frankenstein; the invention of the stethoscope; the discovery of the Venus de Milo; and the deaths of J. Haydn, Grétry, and Paisiello.

In music, the period 1805-1821 would have seen Beethoven complete "Fidelio", the sonata for piano, Opus 53 ("Appassionata"), symphonies No. 5 (Opus 67), No. 6 ("Pastoral" - Opus 68), No. 7 (Opus 92) and No. 8 (Opus 93), Spontini stage "La Vestale", Rossini stage "Tancredi", "L'Italiana in Algeri" and "Barbiere di Siviglia", Schubert compose "Der Erlkönig", Spohr stage "Faust" and Hummel finish the concertos for piano, No. 2 and No. 3.

What might Mozart have written?

The projection of Mozart's creative work in 1791-1804 is made simple by the fact that he was expected in London in 1794. Therefore, the mid-years of this decade would probably have emphasised further symphonies as well as a few piano concertos.
Knowing his luck, the British public would probably have pined for Haydn instead, and Mozart would have had to return to a continent in revolution. The death of Cimarosa would have left him as the European composer par excellence of opera buffa, and it is not altogether unlikely that a series of Italo-German singspiel-cum-operas would have ensued. Back in Vienna, Mozart would have admired Haydn's new oratorios and probably had another one of his revelations after listening to the Beethoven sonatas. After 1805, Mozart might have felt the onset of old age. The fires might have burned as brilliantly as ever, but the vessel would have become weaker. However, Darcy believes that he would have taken on the challenge of Beethoven's later symphonies and quartets while refining further the medium of opera, egged on by the upstart Rossini. Finally, a splendid requiem for Papa Haydn could have been expected. His final works would probably have been some of the most shocking sonatas ever composed.

Darcy does not believe that Mozart would have entered a dry phase, unable to fit the stirrings of Romanticism into his music. His reasoning is simple: almost from birth, Mozart thrived on variety. As a young child, he was exposed to almost every manner of composition then known. Unlike Haydn, who spent most of his life cloistered with the Esterhazy family, Mozart was not forced to be innovative. Instead, he became a musical chameleon, but one supremely adept at forcibly evolving his experience to a higher level than the music to which he had been exposed. Probably the best evidence for this comes in his symphony No. 41, "Jupiter". This is unlike many previous Mozart symphonies. Though old techniques such as fugue are employed (brilliantly), the symphony has a level of thematic development that is beyond Beethoven at 35. Darcy believes it would be silly to assume that the composer of "the greatest orchestral work of the world which preceded the French Revolution" would suddenly become mute. Instead he would probably have soaked in the newer works by Beethoven, Cherubini, Haydn, Hummel, Rossini, Schubert, Spohr and Spontini - liking much of what he heard, being inspired by some and hating other parts, but learning all the while.

Inspired by Beethoven and Hummel, Mozart would have composed symphonies in the 1800s and 1810s that would dwarf those of the 1780s and 1790s just as surely as they dwarfed his symphonies of the 1760s and 1770s. In concertos, Beethoven would have been a distant competitor, though in sonatas and quartets, he would have been formidable. It is not impossible to imagine a similar relationship here between Beethoven and Mozart as existed between Mozart and Haydn. In opera, Mozart would surely have been unmatched. A cursory glance at the programming for the 2007-2008 season at the Royal Opera House reveals more works by Mozart than anyone else; at the Metropolitan he is second to Verdi. Darcy believes that Mozart's later operas would have made Mozart the greatest opera composer who ever lived, without even the need to acknowledge competition from Verdi or Wagner.

It is worth remembering that the current, sixth edition of the Köchel catalogue lists over 630 works by Mozart, composed over a period of 30 years. Even assuming that his works after 1791 became twice as complex or long, and further assuming a halving of his productivity after 1811 when he would have turned 55, we can project something like a further 260 works over this period. Assuming that the 260 would have been broken down roughly in line with his compositions prior to 1791, we can assume that we would now cherish a further 9 operas, 19 symphonies, 22 sonatas, 11 concertos for piano, 9 concertos for other instruments, 10 quartets and 7 religious works, in addition to some 175 smaller pieces.

Mozart could have died at the age of 65 in 1821, surrounded by his wife and children (and quite possibly grandchildren), not wealthy but not poor, mourned by millions. Unfortunately for us, God's Beloved died 30 years too early. Yet let us be grateful that we have any Mozart in our collective memory. The world would be a poorer place today had he not lived. Of how many people can that be said?