Composer, music researcher (B. September 7th, 1907, Izmir – D. January 6th, 1991, Istanbul). His full name was Ahmet Adnan Saygun. His father was writer Celal Saygun, who was a mathematician from a well-established family of Izmir, that even knew religious knowledge such that he could be an imam. At the same time, Celal Bey was the manager of the National Cinema of which the income was given to National Library. Ahmet Adnan learnt the first religious information from his father, took the first music lessons from Ismail Zühtü. At the age of three he learnt to read, at the age of four he began to elementary school in the Ittihat ve Terakki Mektebi in Izmir. While he attended Izmir Ittihat ve Terakki Idadisi (High School) he took theory lessons from Ismail Zühtü, piano lessons from Rosati and Tevfik Bey. In 1922 he became the student of Macar Tevfik Bey. In 1925, he created a big “Musiki Lügati” (T.N. Dictionary of Music) by translating music-related articles from the French La Grande Encyclopedie. In 1926, after having taken an examination in Ankara Musiki Muallim Mektebi (Ankara Music Teachers' College), he was appointed as a music teacher to Izmir Erkek Lisesi (T.N. Izmir Boy’s High School), he was a public servant at the National Library as well.
Ahmet Adnan Bey, who was sent to Paris on a state scholarship in 1928, was interested in composers Bach, Beethoven and Wagner the most. He studied composition with Vincent d'Indy in Paris, fugue and harmony with Eugene Bozzel, counterpoint with Paul le Flem, organ with Amedee Gastone, Gregorian Chant, and Souberbilelle. He also composed his orchestral work named “Op 1 Divertissement” when he was in Paris. That composition of his won an award in a composition contest in Paris in 1931 and was performed in Paris and Warsaw. Thus, that work became the third Turkish orchestral work that was performed abroad after the two works of Cemal Reşit Rey performed in Paris in 1925.
During Ahmet Adnan’s student years in Paris, visiting the museums, galleries, churches, and concerts filled his all time. He began to play the organ after piano. Thus, he was acquainted with the music of the church that was the foundation of Christian culture. Thus, he knew well the church music which was the basis of Christian culture. He was interested in plastic arts in addition to music. Halil Dikmen, Refik Epikman and Hamit Görele, who were Turkish painters that were studying in Paris in those years, became his close friends. Burhan Toprak, with whom Ahmet Adnan Bey established friendship with previously in Turkey, and his common interest was Yunus Emre. In Paris they talked and discussed about a two-volume book regarding Yunus Emre that was written by Burhan Toprak.
As soon as Adnan Bey returned to Turkey in 1931, he was appointed as music teacher at Ankara Musiki Muallim Mektebi. After he returned to Turkey, he also continued his works as a composer, ethnomusicologist, and composition teacher. He was one of the prominent musicians in the construction of polyphonic music, which was led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the founding years of the new Republic of Turkey.
He took a great opportunity in the preparation days of welcoming the Persian Shah, who was going to visit Turkey in 1934. The libretto that was written by Münir Hayri Egeli was composed by Saygun within a month, which was a very short time. This opera was expressing the birth of Turkish nation and the brotherhood of Persian and Turkish nations that was based on old history. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who witnessed the delay of the rehearsals, discharged Zeki Üngör from the conductorship of the Presidential Orchestra and assigned young musician Adnan Saygun in Zeki Üngör’s position.
As well as teaching and conductorship, Saygun did researches and reviews on Turkish Folk Music. He carried out works for opening ethnomusicology divisions in state conservatories. However, despite those works were supported by Ataturk, they couldn’t be realized by relevant institutions. In 1934 he composed “Taşbebek” opera also at Ataturk’s request. In this opera, he told the birth of the person of the new Republic. Later, Saygun, who fell from favor and was pushed into complete loneliness after Atatürk's death in 1938, was willing to do small duty assignments.
Saygun, who went to Istanbul for treatment of the sickness in his ear, returned to teaching in Istanbul Municipal Conservatory in 1936 and remained in this position until 1939. Then he entered into a period of inactivity that was going to last until his famous masterpiece “Yunus Emre Oratorio” was performed. In Ankara there was a work of founding a new conservatory. However, these studies were pursued by the supporters of the concept of universal music, not the ones who supported the idea of cultural nationality that Saygun agreed with. Adnan Saygun accompanied Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Bela Bartok in his Anatolian trip in1936. The compilation of studies around Osmaniye in particular was published with the name “Bela Bartok's Folk Music Research in Turkey" in English language by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1976. Saygun was appointed as the inspector of Halkevleri (Community Center) in 1939.
Saygun, who got married twice, had an interesting story of meeting her first wife. In 1938, women’s chamber orchestra of Budapest that consisted of eight people, came to Ankara to give a concert, returned to Hungary with five people. The three soloists of the orchestra; Salayi Iren, Lili and Nanasi decided to stay in Turkey due to Nazi oppression in their country. All three of them graduated from the high virtuosity section of Academy of Music. Salayi İren (Nilüfer Saygun) was virtuosa of singing, Lili (Mm. Statzer) was a violin virtuoso and Nanasi was a piano virtuoso. All three of them had great marriages and lived happy lives in their new country. Nanasi married to a pharmaceutical industrialist, Lili married to a famous Austrian pianist and pedagogue Ferdi Statzer and İren married to Adnan Saygun (1940).
Saygun’s hundreds of compositions were performed in concerts abroad. He had 75 compositions in Classical Western Music that were given opus numbers. He published articles regarding discipline and education of music, translation of music texts, the Western music publishing, and Community Centers and music. Between 1946 and 1982 he presented declarations by attending to six music congresses abroad. He published seven book translations and a book of declarations. “Yunus Emre Oratorio”, which he completed in 1942, was performed in Ankara in 1946 and obtained great success. This oratorio, which was deemed as his most significant work, was performed later in Paris and in New York in 1958 for the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations under the direction of famous conductor Leopold Stokowski.
With his composition "Yunus Emre Oratorio", A. Adnan Saygun carried the deep-seated sounds of Turkey extending from traditional to national, to Europe and America, under the umbrella of United Nations, and later to the five different languages in which the work was going to be translated. In addition to his around 30 principal compositions that he composed since 1930 until 1989, he had music-related books that were published. He was the first artist who was given the title of State Artist in Turkey (1971). The artist died of pancreatic cancer on January 6th, 1991.
Türk Halk Musıkisinde Pentatonizm (1936), Gençliğe Şarkılar (for Community Center and schools, 1937), Rize - Artvin - Kars Havalisi Türkü - Saz ve Oyunlar Hakkında Bazı Malumat (1937), Halk Türküleri: Yedi Karadeniz Türküsü ve Bir Horon (1938), Halkevlerinde Musıki (1940), Yalan (Art Talks, 1945), Karacaoğlan: Yeni Bilgiler - Bir Rivayet - Melodiler (1952), Lise Müzik Kitabı I-II-III (with Halil Badi Yönetken, 1955), Musıki Temel Bilgisi I (1958), Mod Öncesi Ezgilerin Sınıflandırılması (1960), Musıki Temel Bilgisi II (1962), Musıki Temel Bilgisi III (1964), Musıki Temel Bilgisi IV (1966), Toplu Solfej I (1967), Töresel Musıki (1967), Toplu Solfej II (1968), Bela Bartok’s Folk Music Research in Turkey (Budapest 1976), Atatürk ve Musıki: O’nunla Birlikte O’ndan Sonra (1982).
REFERENCE: Gönül Paçacı / Cumhuriyetin Sesleri (1999), TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, (Emre Arıca / Adnan Saygun: Doğu Batı Arası Müzik Köprüsü (2001), Uğraş Ozan Yarman / Türk Musikisi ve Çokseslilik (2001), Vural Sözer / Müzik Ansiklopedik Sözlük (2005), Seta Kürkçüoğlu / Adnan Saygun ve Kerem Operası (MSÜ Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi SBE Yüksek Lisans Tezi, 2006), İhsan Işık / Resimli ve Metin Örnekli Türkiye Edebiyatçılar ve Kültür Adamları Ansiklopedisi (2006, gen. 2. bas. 2007) - Ünlü Sanatçılar (Türkiye Ünlüleri Ansiklopedisi, C. 5, 2013) - Encyclopedia of Turkey’s Famous People (2013), İlke Boran - Kıvılcım Yıldız Şenürkmez / Kültürel Tarih Işığında Çok Sesli Batı Müziği (2010).