The war against the Ottoman Empire was one of the most important political issues in the German-speaking lands throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. However, the idea of an imminent threat from the Turks dates back to the fourteenth century and was since then a vital element in the propaganda of the political and spiritual elites. Although the Ottoman troops posed a real threat, especially to the South-East of the Holy Roman Empire, the exaggerated depiction of the size of the Turkish army was a vital element of the propagandistic literature. This phenomenon has received some attention from various scholars inside and outside of musicology. Reviewing some key sources from the mid-sixteenth century, the first part of my paper will underline the role of music in the construction of an omnipresent anti-Turkish ideology.
Polemic literature was not the only way Western musical life encountered Turkish influences. Focusing mainly on dance, the second half of this talk investigates the curiosity of German sixteenth-century aristocracy about the cultural practices of their heathen enemies. This field seems to be somewhat of a blank spot, since musicological literature focused mainly on the seventeenth and eighteenth century concerning the musical interactions between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Thus, this paper is about the tension between the massive promotion of anti-Ottoman stereotypes and the interest in foreign influences in early modern musical life and dance culture.