In 1994, I entered conservatory auditions in Istanbul and they accepted me to piano department for college. I was 21 years old and I started playing the piano a year before that. So it was a shocking experience for all of us; me, my family, friends, my first piano teacher and the professors at the conservatory. Then I realized that the actual training is way more demanding than it appeared to me before. After all I was an athlete and I was used to extreme challenge. But this was a bit different, this was a challenge to dig deeper in one’s own soul and find meanings for the most abstract form of art which is called music.
There are hundreds of languages and dialects around the world and they can be translated to another spoken language but music is the only language that we have to understand within itself. It was only a feeling at the beginning but throughout the decades, after using many different tools that our brain and body provides I understand it better. Now, after 25 years of living with music, it has more layers than just a feeling. Who knows, maybe I will find even more meanings in music in the future.
In my first years I found a very effective tool to explore the meaning in music and “Scenes From Scores” project was created by the help of this tool. It is based on visualization. One day I was practicing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.7 and the first notes of the second movement “Largo e mesto” sounded like the footsteps of people in a graveyard. The image in my head was clearly graveyard probably because of the “Mesto (sad)” character of the music. And then it sounded like I’m watching a scene and the camera zooms out to show me the entire scene where a devastated father is burying his daughter with the help of his men. And then the next passage sounded to me as if he is in a car, looking out of the window and imagining a beautiful day he spent with his daughter in the past. Then another scene, then another one, and finally I decided to tell about this to a close pianist friend of mine. She loved it and encouraged me to share it with our teacher. She also loved it and then I kept making up scenes for music based on how they sound to me. This game came to a point where friends in conservatory were playing passages to me to ask what it sounds like.
When I was done with school and started my career as a concert pianist and interdisciplinary artist I kept talking about my scenes from scores to people from all walks of life. From children, to great artists, from friends to filmmakers, hoping that one of them will pick it up and we can produce films for these scenes from scores. No professional result came to life until my theater artist wife Ege Maltepe and I decided to create interdisciplinary shows what we call Theatrical Concerts. In 2010 we performed our show called “Drama in Beethoven” and my “Largo e mesto” from Beethoven’s 7th sonata was in the program where we used the audience’s own imagination rather than a film by giving them the lines of my scenes exactly with the passage that they sound like. It was a phenomenal success, people loved it.
(A story on press about our show “Drama in Beethoven”: http://www.nypress.com/striking-a-chord-with-the-younger-generation/)
I tried as much as I can to make sure that they understand that these are not the scenes that lie beyond these great pieces of music, they are not what the composer thought of while composing these pieces and I made it up. In fact for Scenes From Scores I can’t use program music at all. For example if it was Beethoven’s 26th Sonata instead of 7th, the scenes (visualizing) wouldn’t be my own creation because Beethoven already gave us the program of the sonata that it is based on a farewell story. So I kept creating scenes and stories after that moment derived on music that isn’t based on a specific story or program.
When we started making films in 2016 with Ege, she immediately pointed out the fact that now we can create my Scenes From Scores and as many as we want. So we decided to start with Schumann’s Op.23, No.4 which has three voice parts that sound like three lonely souls. They are in Grand Central in New York City at the same time and two of these souls’ ways keep crossing each other but who cannot manage to actually see each other and end their loneliness. It just sounds like that to me.
It will be premiered at Lincoln Center on June 8th, 2018 on the 208th birthday of Robert Schumann and our journey of 100 Scenes From Scores will begin.
June 1st, 2018