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15 Questions to Cem Güney

img  Tobias
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Greetings as well!. I'm fine, thank you. I live in Izmir, the 3rd largest city in Turkey, by the coast of the Aegean sea. Izmir is 600km south of Istanbul.

What's on your schedule right now?
In regards to performing live, there's not much going on right now, mostly due to the slow summer. On the other hand I'm trying to benefit from the free time I have at the moment, doing some reading, listening and studying. The summer heat is rather intimidating, but I'm looking forward to a more productive winter.

How would you describe and rate the Turkish music scene?

A comparative question in my point of view, because a description and rating would involve many angles to approach, making the matter highly debatable. But there are certain aspects, that I think are openly observable; there is not enough demand for music that is experimental in its origin. Because simply, we are not socially and culturally there yet. The root of this matter is deeply linked with the progress of our country's industrialization process. The locomotive of this process relies not on individual creations - lacking the will to experiment, which is essential for creativity - but mostly on import. The import of discrete ideas and concrete goods, is based on the prime concern, which is to profit. One of the aftermaths of this process is that, the production of music in Turkey survives on a highly consumptive economic nature, which is common for countries which have not truly industrialized yet. So to put the long story short I would be quite pessimistic while rating and describing the music scene in Turkey.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?

Neither one. I think I would need to work many more years, and in addition, create original works in a consistent manner to become a part of a certain tradition or movement. It would certainly be a pleasure to be taken into account in either way.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What stimulates you to write music?
The most important factor of my creativity occurs from the pleasure I get in listening to music and the many effects it has on me.

Inspiration, and the challenge that it takes to create something original is what stimulates me to write music. Concepts, techniques, feelings, inspirations and the world of sound are all part of a chain reaction that triggers one another.

How would you describe your method of composing?

I don't have a strict or specific method that I apply in general. I try to think that I'm situated in a horizontal plane with endless possibility's. This approach is my point of departure and it gives me a sense of direction which is a flexible one. The need of a specific method tends to gradually appear in the latter stages as the material and its related structures begin to take shape.

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?
I'm fortunate that I grew up in Boston, USA at a time when I got to experience the craze that came with the birth of breakdance and rap. When I came back to Turkey, I started to play guitar, because I got into loads of rock and heavy metal. Thanks to my family I was already familiar and listening to jazz; after I listened to Miles Davis (having been blown away), I started to play trumpet, and his music in particular gave me the influence to make my own music. In the course of time I listened to all sorts of electronic music but I should point out that after I discovered Janek Schaefer (in an article written after he had given a concert with Philip Jek in I™stanbul), everything changed, as I got into the world of sound art. So all music that I've experienced during my life, which can be considered one of the effects of my cultural background, has inevitably reflected my work, subliminally or openly.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

The relationship is a very firm one. But there is a certain distinction and this lies within the composer's intention. Is the music that is composed a result of sounds we here, going directly to its characteristics, and to the way in which they are produced, or does it originate from the composers dramatic intentions?. I think that the intention brings about the character of the composition, and its property's determines the selection of material (sounds) or the instruments that is to be played.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

Improvisation and composition intervene with each other in so many aspects in organizing sound. They can go hand in hand, because certain compositions are constructed for solely improvisational purposes. But then some compositions arise from improvisations and have to be tamed-automated-for practical reasons, concerning recording necessity's, or it could be because the composition is of a strict conceptual nature and is impossible to play without strict compositional methods. So the decision to make a separation is really a matter of what is required in the process that I happen to be in.

What does the term "new" mean to you in connection with music?
The term "new" evokes music that is fresh, but at the same time genuine and inspirational...if we use "new" as an adjective to music to make it "new music", than as the great American Composer Christian Wolff quotes: "sound comes into its own"; which is I think one of the great descriptions of modern music.

Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
What I could say is rather limited in terms of personal experience because I have never had the opportunity to use multimedia in a performance. I enjoy and admire the works of the many artists that apply multimedia to their works but I don't think that it leads away from the essence of what they want to achieve, because they use such vehicles at the appropriate situation, and when they do in wonderful ways.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?. What's your approach to performing on stage?
What I instantly feel of a good live performance is for the artist to be able to communicate with the listener and this state would be my main approach. What is exciting is that the ways of communication varies from atmosphere to atmosphere.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
First thing that comes to my mind is installations made specially for sound or other types of installations that use sound for their purpose. People that are unfamiliar with non-mainstream forms tend to appreciate the likes of modern electronic music when there is a certain spectacle that they can relate to. If the relation that they have with the installation involves an amount of interaction that could be educational, entertaining, etc. then the situation could effect an audience to dig deeper. I could also think of social and artistic events such as biennial's where a lot of people get together, and where people get to experience non-mainstream forms of music, maybe for their first time. It's also a topic that spans a lot of detail, and could be discussed with many point of views.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
A question that is fun to answer. My program would have a lot of exciting artists. So here's my line-up: @C, Vitor Joaquim, Janek Schaefer, Marc Behrens, Paulo Raposo, Ran Slavin, Keith Rowe, Toshimaru Nakamura, Annette Krebs, many many more and not to forget myself, as it would be a delight to be included to this kind of line-up, :)

Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
No. But I have fun dreaming of a "magnum opus" after listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Spiral" or Earl Brown's "Composition for Tape" or "Polla Ta Dinna" by Iannis Xenakis or Christian Wolff's "123" or "Deserts" by Edgard Varese and I say to myself: " Wow!, it's fun to listen and dream!"

Praxis (Cronica Electronica) 2008


Cem Güney

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