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Notes from Composers
Sei Solo 2020

CD 1 Cello Works

Passage to Ghostland, by İdil Özkan. performed by Poyraz Baltacıgil.


When I got the commission to write a solo piece for cello, a three note motivic idea kept coming back at me; two earthy bass notes followed by an otherworldy harmonic one, a lonely sound swinging between worlds. It was the sound of my father, who was suffering from dementia. He was in a care home when the corona outbreak started and I was overwhelmed with the sense of loneliness I imagined him to be feeling; one of physical and emotional nature bestowed upon him by corona at the care home away from all his loved ones and a spiritual one from his illness, which rubbed him of words, speech, memories and possibly a meaningful sense of self. 

“Passage to Ghostland” is about my father, its about his confusing regression into dementia, his being tugged back and forth between a foggy version of now and oblivion. The piece begins with the three note motive, hesitant, undecided in between worlds, continues into vivid memories, romantic phrases which cut and repeat like a broken record, surfacing and fading without coming to a full meaning. The piece does not develop but glides from one section to next and ends rather unexpectedly, like his death on July 19th, 2020 from a minor infection. 

Some Melodies, by Can Kazaz,  performed by Gökhan Bağcı

I titled my composition ‘Some Melodies’ after some unfinished melodies that bore resemblance to one another. I also incorporated my reflections from baroque and renaissance musical passages that I have loved to study and listen to over the years. During the time that I was involved in academia, I was more focused on texture and ‘noise’ in my compositions. But in this piece, as my title suggests, I preferred to bring the melodic elements to the foreground. On the other hand, I tried carefully to refrain from composing a baroque replica. Resemblances have been made between the emergence of the renaissance which took place a century following the plague of the middle ages, and this pandemic period that we are living through now in 2020/21. There are questions whether or not history is repeating itself. For me, it seems clear that a paradigm shift is just waiting for a spark. When the commissioning request came from Klasik Keyifler to write a piece with reference to ‘Sei Solo’, I felt that it overlapped with my personal agenda. After taking a break from this style of writing, I found it very valuable to be able to produce new output in this field without being bound by specific ‘schools’ or other fixed expectations. 

Galanterie Redux, by Alican Çamcı, performed by Dorukhan Doruk

Historically, the eclectic influences of and sources for Johann Sebastian Bach’s music have been overlooked by critics and fans alike, instead suggesting that it spoke a divine truth, existing beyond its place and time. Musicologist Susan McClary claims that this is due to a desire to see 

Bach’s music (and contemporaneous “texts” of the Enlightenment) as somehow possessing a “universal rationality, objectivity, and truth,” at the expense of locating it within “the social values of the emergent bourgeoisie.” Its context erased, Bach’s music attains a status “above 1 

ideology”–the subtlest form of bourgeois ideology itself. Today, a similar mystification of artificial intelligence in the cultural sphere forecloses possible understandings of human-machine interactions, with conclusions ranging from a depoliticized utopian vision to a catastrophic view of the future. However contrasting they may be, such views assign a certain finitude to this historical moment, severed from its context. The “profound” statements and sentiments about how AI will affect the human condition veils the various material effects of intelligent machines and their ramifications in daily life. In galanterie redux, a series of computer-generated melodic fragments act as a metaphor for this reification. A machine learning algorithm uses the fifth movements of each of Bach’s six cello suites (referred to as galanteries, these are the only “nonstandard” movements of the suites) as its training set. Based on the musical information extracted from this corpus, the algorithm creates new music, which serves as the source material for the piece. In particular, I focus on 

passages that sound slightly bizarre: isolated fragments that modulate unexpectedly, are cut short immaturely, or are incorrect syntactically. In galanterie redux, these isolated segments are presented through a filter of distortion, creating hollowed-out, blurry snapshots from a Bachmachine. The melodies are rendered bodiless; like silhouettes floating in between silences. 

Latent, Aida Shirazi, performed by Dorukhan Doruk

latent is inspired by a piece that belongs to the Iranian classical music repertoire title as Nahoft. The English translation of the Persian word 'nahoft(eh)' is 'latent, concealed, hidden.' While composing latent, I was interested in exploring some of the techniques of târ, the traditional Iranian plucked instrument. In my work, there are several pizzicato passages played with the guitar plectrum. The obsessively repeated notes of the piece are also directly related to the melodic and motivic structure of Nahoft. I decided to transform these repeated passages timbrally and combine them with other layers of sounds, such as prolonged bowed notes and microtonal fluctuations. The melodic fragments are often revealed in a fragile and short-lived manner. Though, towards the end of the piece, a full-fledged improvisatory section emerges. What was 'latent' once, reveals itself, take a life of its own, and eventually disappears. I composed latent in 2018. For the Sei Solo project, I had the opportunity to revisit and rework it with a greater focus on its timbral subtleties and improvisatory character. 

Anamnesis, by Cengiz Hakkı Eren, performed by Poyraz Baltacıgil

Anamnesis was commissioned by Klasik Keyifler Music Association, for the Sei Solo 2020 project, initiated by Ellen Jewett and Onur Türkmen.The focal point of the work is J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite no:5, the Prelude. References to Bach’s own work are quite concealed throughout the first two movements; they are mainly manifested through generalized gestures, the most memorable of which is perhaps the growing of an interval from the prelude.The third movement is key in that references to Bach become more tangible, albeit still somewhat concealed under scracth tones, detuned intervals and harmonics.These specific techniques symbolize some kind of a struggle; they are like barriers that push down the Bach element.The fourth movement is when the Bach references dissipate and what remains are fragmented residues from the initial gestures of the work.

THIS FEELING OF DEJA VU, by Senay Uğurlu, performed by Gökhan Bağcı

With ongoing pandemic, Klasik Keyifler, without any hesitation, reached out to us, composers and performers from around the world to realize this project named as “Sei Solo”. Sei Solo is mostly known as Bach’s solo pieces for violin and cello but also this name has different definitions in different languages like in Italian Sei Solo means “You are alone” and in German, it can take a meaning of “Be alone”. During this quarantine, the whole humanity was exposed to idea of accepting to be alone, hence “Sei Solo” name gained a meaning as a project through its definition. Even though during quarantine time, I was never alone, still after some time I started to feel lonely and deprived from being alone that led me to experience some déjà vu through specific occasions. As it was already known déjà vu means a feeling of having already experienced the present situation. Eventually I lost my sense of time perception and I felt like we were stuck in a persistent loop or an endless illusion. When I was composing this music, the intention was creating a “déjà vu” phenomenon without using any direct quotations but also benefit audible references from J.S.Bach Prelude of C minor Cello Suite.

CD 2 Violin Works

non-whispering, by Mert Kocadayı, performed by Muhammedjan Sharipov

Talks to myself during a period of silence... My voice echoes in my head, my voice on the phone out loud, while I scream in my head, my whispering barely hits the empty wall. Sound of everything I listen fills up my room, just as my inner voice does it the same way. An endless stream of consciousness and a catalogue of loneliness. 

The Economic Offering, by Mert Moralı, performed by Kerem Tuncer

“We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society if this goes on for another several months, (…) “As the president said, the mortality rate is so low. Do we have to shut down the entire country for this? I think we can get back to work.” Dan Patrick - Lieutenant Governor of Texas. As another individual who is effected by the recent events in the world, I wanted to have my humble reaction to those who are keen on offering people to capitalism. In my reaction, I was loosely inspired by the theme of ‘The Musical Offering’ by Johann Sebastian Bach. 

5 Fragments for vocalizing violinist, Camilo Mendez, performed by Ayşen Ulucan

The nature of my work is intimately related to my interest in different artistic and scientific disciplines. The creative impulse behind each of my works is often the result of attending a lecture, a concert or an exhibition, and sometimes is a direct reaction to something I listened to on the radio or read in a book or an essay. I composed 5 Fragments for vocalizing violinist as an invitation by Ellen Jewett and Klasik Keyifler to participate in their project Sei Solo – Be Alone 2020. The project was inspired by a series of works for solo violin composed by Bach in 1720 (Sei Solo Violino senza Basso accompagnato) to commemorate their 300 years of existence. I was commissioned to compose a work for solo violin and I was paired with violinist Ayşen Ulucan, with whom I have collaborated to develop the materials of my fragments. My work is inspired by Bach’s Partita BWV 1002 in B minor, specifically the Doubles and the polyphonic texture. After each movement of the Partita Bach included a double, which are variations of the movements. With this idea in my I composed my fragments. Conceptually my work is a collection of variations that can be performed in any order, but as if they are a single movement. In order to reinforce the idea of polyphony; the instrumental texture is enhanced using the voice of the violinist to produce an independent vocal texture. Ayşen sings and produces percussive sounds that interact with the instrumental textures she is playing on the violin. These fragments are not only a celebration of Bach’s work. I have paid tribute to other influences: John Cage and Johnny Cash. I translated their names into pitches (B-A-C-B, C-A-G-E and C-A-E flat-B) and structure the sections of the fragments around them. 

nearby, by Engin Dağlık, performed by Muhammedjan Sharipov

commisioned by Klasik Keyifler Music Association for “Sei Solo-2020” project written for Muhammedjan Sharipov 

Just before starting to compose Nearby; luckily, I was reading Bilge Karasu's "A Long Day's Evening". There is a line from a long passage in which Karasu uses aural images in a way that they captured my imagination for this piece.  “. . .this distant-sounding murmur might be from a brook nearby.”  The spatial and poetic aspects of that line triggered me to compose a song-like piece like an "air" as if sounding somewhere Nearby.

Ephemeral Qualia, by Can Bilir, performed by Kerem Tuncer

“What is it like to be…” listening as a tree? I believe there will not be a definitive answer to Thomas Nagel’s renowned question until we evolve into something else. Probably in that new life form, we won’t listen and compose the way we do today. When we face with this reality, we stop chasing the nature in the outside and we return back to our inner selves, being alone (Sei Solo). Representations of being alone in introspective states in art cause anthropocentric reductions such as in most stories, all other–than–human persons are anthropomorphized or taken as objects as the unknowable, carrying simple traits of human appearances and manners or classified in terms of the non-actant. Sense of place reduces into a space, time reduces into durations of moments, sensorial experiences reduce into arts, and sound reduces into music and so on. These are artifacts that for sure belong to human nature, particularly in terms of the nature of social imaginaries, more than any projection of nature in the individual level. Immanent abstraction is a concept that summarizes this particular view in art, and Ephemeral Qualia as an Auditory Immanent Abstraction is not the first instance that I have engaged with in response to the idea of epiphenomenalism. However, Ephemeral Qualia is the first named embodiment of immanent abstraction that came into existence; it maintains that qualia via sound composition affects both nature and reality. This new work is connected to the previous works that I composed in the past five years, in terms of the motives of materialism and sentience. An immanent abstraction, like the life itself, is a singular multiplicity, a nonlinear oxymoron. However, this paradox doesn’t belong to a collection of pure universals of life; life and naturing nature (natura naturans) actively shapes whatever is in its present and potential. The abstraction comes later than the immanence. In an immanent abstraction such as Ephemeral Qualia, we don’t know if this teleology matters or not. But ephemerality is the key concept for experiencing immanence. 

What makes an ocean? by Didem Çoşkunseven, performed by  Ayşen Ulucan

The piece I composed for my dear friend Ayşen Ulucan titled ‘What makes an ocean?’ started to brew in my mind in the spring of 2020 when we were all locked down in quarantine.  At the time, I was participating in a project named  “Sonic Postcards’ launched by the ‘New Gates Trio’ based in France, and I was working on a short piece lasting for just 30 seconds. When the invitation came to contribute to this project that took its inspiration the concept around ‘Sei Solo’ from Bach’s manuscript, I felt that it corresponded  to that current period when I was occupying myself on the importance and the meaning of co-operation between the composer and the performer. This invitation to collaborate felt like a medicine and helped to ease my pessimism. I add this piece now as one more ‘Sonic Postcard’ in my series.

“His name ought not to be Bach [German for “brook”], but Ocean, because of his infinite and inexhaustible wealth of combinations and harmonies.” - Ludwig van Beethoven, Vienna 1822

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