Turkish music and the prepared piano are not as far apart as one might think (Mozart tried out some Turkish drum effects with paper on the piano strings back in the day). But now Istanbul-based composer/pianist Erdem Helvacioglu has made the connection even more dramatic and sensuous. “Eleven Short Stories” is a set of nearly a dozen atmospheric vignettes for prepared piano, paying homage to some of his favorite film directors: Kim Ki-Duk, David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Darren Aronofsky, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Steven Soderberg.
The pieces are not aligned with a director but rather suggest particular scenes through titles such as Shattered Snow Globe, Mist on the Windowpane, or Bench at the Park. The music runs the full gamut and shades of emotions you might expect from imaginative art-film. There’s stark, pensive observation, wariness of impending jeopardy, rooting around in a Samuel Beckett-like Unknowable; all with the potential for horror and the need for hope. The notes from the piano – gamelan-like – plop gently like summer raindrops coloring the pavement, or slashing the jugular vein, as needs be. Close your eyes and it all makes sense.
Just as a movie proposes its own cinematic reality, each individual piece has preparations unique to its story and soundworld. The piano strings were strewn and inserted with pencils, erasers, paper, plastic and metal spoons, knives, forks, drumsticks, guitar plectrums and slides, e-bows, metal plates, clapsticks, ear plugs, and paperclips attached to the strings within. Not forgetting a toy train and a 60s fashion magazine.
Erdem Helvacioglu (b. 1975) is one of the most renowned contemporary composers of his generation in Turkey. His music has been called “revolutionary,” “groundbreaking,” “emotionally evocative soundscapes with remarkable beauty,” “uncommonly deep, intelligent, and beautiful cinematic compositions”, “luscious and unique,” and “completely arresting and disarmingly beautiful.” Erdem has received awards from the Luigi Russolo, MUSICA NOVA, Insulae Electronicae Electroacoustic Music Competitions. He has been commissioned by numerous entities, from the 2006 World Soccer Championship to the Bang on a Can-All Stars. He is also actively involved in composing for films, multimedia productions, contemporary dance and theatre. He won the “Best Original Soundtrack” award in the 2006 Mostramundo Film Festival, and his film scores have been heard at Cannes, Sarajevo, Locarno, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Sydney film festivals.