Turkish makam music was at its origins, an orally transmitted, learned and performed tradition. The passage to written music started a hot debate that caused a sharp division among musicians, between the defenders of the mesk system and those who are for writing both the contemporary works and the older ones. We analyze this apparently technical issue as a sign of modernization in Turkey. The rising need to write music and to consume written music have been considered, in our view, as explicit manifestations of modern attitudes related to rationalization and standardization. We stress that the evolution of the Turkish makam music reveals a series of indications for situating modernization in Turkey.