“We arrange them so we have something to talk about,” he said. “A common subject, a different take on the same thing. These pieces talk to each other.”
A central figure in Dunya’s research and perhaps the real star of this concert is a man named Ali Ufki, a musician in the sultan’s court who lived from 1610 to 1675.
Ufki was Polish and a Protestant who was abducted as a young man by Crimean Tatars, who then sold him to Ottomans.
He had been trained in European music, but rose in the ranks of the Ottoman bureaucracy and eventually became director of the sultan’s palace ensemble.
Ufki notated 1,000 pieces of music, many of which contain both Eastern and Western elements, and eight of which will be played in Dunya’s concert this weekend.
“In the 1990s, there was a dissertation by a Turkish scholar that transcribed all of them,” Labaree said. “This started to attract a great deal of attention.”
The songs include Ufki’s setting for psalms, in a Turkish text, to music he took from the Genevan Psalter, which was compiled by John Calvin, a key theologian in the Protestant reformation.
There are songs from other sources in the concert, but Ufki’s work is unique in its depth of sensitivity to both traditions.
“He embodied something fascinating and mysterious,” Labaree said. “People look at him as being very 21st-century. People find it hopeful. All the rhetoric of the clash of civilizations — I think we all find ourselves drawn to examples which contradict that black and white notion.”
One clash that the concert seeks to mediate is that between musical tastes, with a section of the program designed to help listeners appreciate the two different types of music.
“We take two pieces and put them together, to explain what each side has found irritating in each other’s musical style,” Labaree said.