Alla Turca Around The World is a recording project. This recording will gather the pieces that I’ve been working on almost 15 years. A short documentary about this process including special interviews with the artists collaborating with me will also be added to the project.
Alla Turca Around The World will NOT be available for sale. However, everyone who participated in the creation process will have a copy. My goal is to present my work, leave something after I pass away and add a special recording to my and my dear friends’ archives. The project budget includes only the artists’ and the technical crew’s expenses, the rent for the hall we’ll be conducting the recording, the piano, tuning and publishing expenses of the CD/DVDs with their cover. My artist friends will be donating their work. We are aiming to raise this fund with the participation of our friends who would like to be a part of this process.
Join us and let’s make an album all together!
Some of you already heard some of my pieces. The newest ones are “EGE” a solo piano piece for my wife on the notes E – G – E, my lieds on famous Turkish poet Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı’s poems; “Yağmur”, “Eda”, “Çöküyorum”, and “Bizimkiler”. Finally, “Alla Turca Around The World” for piano and orchestra. Alla Turca Around The World is on the Turkish rythm on 9/8 (2-2-2-3) and throughout the piece the rythm and theme travels through Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
Our deadline to finish the recording is January 2013. The recording sessions will be in Istanbul. Paris and New York. After the recording is done, we are planning to perform this program in a concert in New York.
I started to play the piano at the age of 20. Previously, I was a basketball player and I had to quit my career as a sportsman due to an injury during a game. During my convalescence, I started to practice the piano and slowly transformed my life in the opposite direction. At the beginning, I wasn’t aware of this change at all. Piano was just something I got hung up on, like basketball. Then in the conservatory I met the classical music and the stiff norms around it, as well as the judgements and prejudices. Later, I continued my practices in the guidance of the pianist/composer Huseyin Sermet in Paris. In time, I found myself on stage with internationally acclaimed musicians such as Chen Halevi, Marina Chiche, Natalie Clein, Belcea Quatet. Like they say, there is nothing you can’t do with hard work and determination.
Smashing the rules
It was after I met David Dubal in New York that I realized that I’ve broken the huge norm “You need to start playing the piano when you’re a kid”. The Emmy award winner author of the book “Reflections of The Keyboard, Dubal, told me that I must start my every sentence with “I started to play at the age of 20”. Then, again in New York the Pulitzer prize winner David Del Tredici encouraged me to focus on composing after he took a look at my early compositions. I was 35 years old, after a concert in Istanbul, I was traveling home to New York, at the airport I picked Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı’s poetry book “Age 35”. During the flight, I took the first steps for my Lieder which will be sung by Burak Bilgili in this recording. Turkish composer Mete Sakpinar also have said something similar to David Del Tredici when he saw my little piano pieces 15 years ago. In New York I added couple more solo piano pieces to those; one is the Ballade for my wife “Ege” and the other is the Heybeli Variations on a famous Istanbul Tune. I guess I continue to break the norms with not following the “normal” way of becoming a composer.
Is it Arts or Olympics?
Coming from sports, I find the competition in the arts quite unfair. In sports your score is obvious, you either win or lose. The bleachers either cheer you up or boo. However, in a classical music hall you are greeted by the silence and everything is subjective. “Faster, Higher, Stronger” was the slogan of the Olympics, if I’m not wrong! But the 20th century art world eventually became an olympics where all the musicians compete against each other in order to be more beautiful, more interesting, more unique, just more and more and more… The word “more” reminds me only of quantity. However I’ve always thought that arts would be about quality. I’ve stopped running after quantity when I stopped running after 3 pointers in basketball. However the 21st century’s music business proved me wrong by locking musicians into recording studios. While competing against each other to reach more people, in a race that’s rules are laid down silently, most of the artists sounded to me like some sort of machinery without human character.
21st century turned internet into child’s play, now we can get in touch with masses with one click. Our wish to communicate with masses is eventually changing into looking more local experiences. Recordings don’t reach millions now, not even thousands. The article on Washington Post, January 30th 2010, was about Hillary Hahn’s uncommon appearance on The Tonight Show. The young classical music star’s album was sold less than 500 copies. Legendary pianist Murray Perahia’s recording of Bach Partitas was sold only 189 copies in the US. Nowadays it’s not so hard to be on the Top 10 list for classical music. Sometimes recordings with less than 50 purchases are on those lists nationwide.
History of Turkish Classical Music
In the beginning of the 20th century the young Turkish Republic’s young composers wrote very valuable pieces. Since most of them they were students of master composers in Europe, their works were mostly the examples of the waves of the era. Cemal Resit Rey (who was the teacher of my first piano teacher) was influenced by his classmates Maurice Ravel and his teacher Gabriel Faure, Adnan Saygun, from Vincent D’Indy. Saygun, Ulvi Cemal Erkin (Hüseyin Sermet’s teacher, another grand teacher!), Necil Kazim Akses and many other composers of the time used Anatolian folk themes in their pieces. However, instead of using melodies with simple harmonies which would easily stay in the untrained ears of the Turkish people, they used the forms and the styles of the day.
Yet, being the composers of a young republic that just got out of the war (Turkey) was different than continuing a centuries old tradition (Europe). Our composers had some other pressures on their shoulders, a pressure that we wouldn’t be able to understand this day. They did the best work they could at the time, I salute them all with affection and respect.
The new Classical Music in Turkey
In the second half of the 20th century, there were other causes by Western Classical Musicians in Turkey which were getting on the nerves of the Turkish Classical Musicians. I think there is nothing wrong about having western systems to compose Turkish music; just like we are using the lightbulb created by Edison, we can develop our music by using the western methods and forms. If we start to do so at the point where Ravel or Faure was, that could cause to lose the origins and traditions of Turkis music because Ravel or Faure or D’Indy didn’t just pop-up with the music they composed, it was a result of some centuries of tradition. I am composing music by using the daily subjects of my life, some melodies or poems I like with the easiest forms of western classical music. So I am smashing another rule by using forms which today’s classical musicians would call old fashion. If a Turkish composer believes that he is a descendant of the western classical music tradition, I’d say let’s raise our hats to him. But I think the quality lies on being aware of what you are not and I know that I am not a descendant of the tradition that started more or less with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and still goes through Arvo Part, David Del Tredici, John Adams or Magnus Lindberg. I am after a new music for Turkey that could be valuable for the rest of the world as well.
Just because of these, I am moving forward in my career still with the same “go as you please” attitude which has started in the same way. Like I mentioned in the beginning, we will not sell this recording. But everyone who participated to this project will have a copy of it. This way, we will be creating this album all together and it will be sold out before it is released !
With all my heart, I am against the system that is erasing our identities and uniqueness in order to unify us or give us an “education”. While bearing all the difficulties and the satisfaction coming with this attitude, I insist on walking my own way. Come, take a step with me and let’s make an album altogether. Let Istanbul find a new sound, while Turkish poetry reaches to our ears with the art songs and a Turkish composer makes a room for himself in the Classical Music Literature.