The Shape of Music Today
Little did I know that a simple dessert savoured in an Istanbul restaurant five years ago would delight concert audiences through its charm through more than just sound. Ever since my composer friend Bora Uymaz has written “Lavender Panna Cotta” inspired by a dessert we ate together in Maya, a lovely place in Karaköy that no longer exists, I have been performing it and telling its story. Last year I made a video with it, which has its recipe and story.
Of all the things I have performed through the years no work of music had such a success with my audience. Maybe it is because none had such a cute story that accompanied it. That makes me think that audiences not only enjoy music but also glimpses of life experiences shared on stage. And not only experiences of the performers but also something to take away and experiement on their own; such as the making of a dessert. You might see what I mean with the help of the video at the of this article.
As performers living in 2020, and with the knowledge that nothing beats the atmosphere of a live performance, we must answer to the needs of people who must surf through an incredible amount of information in their daily lives. It is an enormous volume of pure information one doesn’t necessarily need. So we need to think about the concept of “concert” with this in the back of our “ears”.
This brings about the question of why do people still go to concerts when they have all the music they want at the tip of their fingers through technology? Let us look this way: with all the technological comfort available to us, do we have means to satisfy our need for coziness, for familiarty, for surprise, for the human element through recordings? I do not think so. I suggest people go to concerts for what is not and can never be in the recordings. They go for the contact. For the thrill of art generated in the presence of witnesses. For the uniqueness of that moment.
Sadly, not only our needs change as people but music also has taken a new shape because of technology, by being more available, anywhere, everywhere, as much as we want and as much as we do not want, beyond time and space, through earplugs, through uncontrollable public broadcast in commercial spaces and the list goes on. It is almost like a huge virtual trash site of music as a form of “intrusion”. Recordings are not what they used to be either. Sadly, they have lost their clothing. Remember that the LP’s had these incredible sleeves which were printed art, CD’s were invincible we thought. They had shiny boxes, little booklets, art, information…and a physical presence. Now recorded music is almost invisible. Reduced to its title bar.
So the concert space is the anditode of this. The performer is there, and chooses the repertoire. The audience chooses the concert. The concert wins over all forms of musical dissemination, even the old recordings. They are where stories are told and shared. Is there a story to take from a 16th century composer we did not know? I know there is. Can the life of such a composer be told as a story to make us think today? Yes it can. Can you be inspired by the “Lavender Panna Cotta”, both by the music and its story? Definetely. That makes, in my opinion, the concert going more special than ever. It defies technology. You can still play, talking about art music, in designated spaces, not requiring amplification. It is humble, it is natural…Think of all the tricks behind most recordings; the concert is no doubt the most honest revealing of the musician itself too.
Those questions have been in my mind to a lesser or greater degree in the last 30 years or so that I have been playing in public and not always in elite concert halls, geared up for an audience made of connaisseurs but for people with little exposure to music as well. Nothing impressed them as much as “Lavender Panna Cotta” for which social media (technology not all bad, after all) now serves for connectivity, people asking for the recipe, me sending the youtube link, and receiving pics of lovely tables set for the dessert, to be savoured by people gathered around it and listening to the tune in the background. I am a happy camper for being a facilitator in this heartwarming journey of a tune holding hands with a dessert. And for bonding with my listeners beyond the concert space.
For the curious: “Lavender Panna Cotta” is published on Creighton Collection. It is a dance air (“oyun havasi”) based on the “buselik makam” (Turkish system of organizing scales and melodic progression), a 9/8 which is paired as 2-2-2-3 and with a flair of Scotland! Yes, Scotland. Bora and I had travelled to Scotland to play around the time he composed it. And here is the video, I hope you will enjoy.