Turgut Erçetin (b. 1983, Istanbul) has recently completed his doctoral degree at Stanford University where he studied composition with Prof. Brian Ferneyhough as his advisor and computer music with Chris Chafe. Erçetin’s works engage with the issues of sound, not as sonic colors but as concepts that are perceived at various degrees of complexities resulting from composed acoustics. Most of his researches and works, therefore, are involved with psychoacoustics as well as computer aided compositional process. His solo, chamber and electro-acoustic works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe with notable performances at MaerzMusik (Berlin), Gaudeamus Festival (Utrecht), Manifeste (Paris), Sweet Thunder (San Francisco) and many other festivals. He has collaborated with renowned ensembles such as The Arditti Quartet, The JACK Quartet, Sonar Quartett, Ensemble Adapter, ELISION Ensemble and soloists such as Seth Josel and Severine Ballon. His future projects include a new piece for two guitars, which will be premiered at Schloss Solitude during the 2014-2015 season. Additional studies include the summer course of Centre Acanthes in 2012, with workshops led by Phillipe Manoury, Luca Francesconi and Thierry De Mey as well as a research on Brian Ferneyhough’s “La Terre est un Homme”, which was conducted at Paul-Sacher Stiftung in Basel. He has been recently selected as a composer in residency for Grame Centre National de Création Musicale (Lyon) for 2016.
What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?
I was introduced to Western Classical Music as a listener and a learner by the time I was a child. Consequently, the soundscape of my childhood created a unique bond with this music, particularly through Mahler and later period expressionists. And all the basis for what I later realized as my goals have partly stemmed from the questions that occupied my mind during those days. Not only these questions helped me to look deeper into the works of these particular composers, but they also expanded my understanding as to the point of other musical genres to which I was introduced in later years. And rock music was definitely one of them. I guess, as a guitar player, engaging with rock music was simply inevitable for me. Like most of the guitar players, I was, too, an admirer of Jimi Hendrix; and what appealed to me the most in his music was the way in which he could reflect the relation between the “intuitive” and the “analytical”. Looking back from today, I can say that the arresting aspect in Mahler’s music was not too dissimilar for me – although the outcome is totally different from Hendrix needless to say. Spatial means, ranging from quotations to harmonic space in Mahler’s music, and the way in which they relate to the form as well as to the polyphonic figuration directed me to focus on this somewhat Bergsonian relationship. I guess these are the earliest moments I can recall when I first started to think on formulating the peculiarities of this musical relationship, which has been one of the main issues I have been engaging in my works.
Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work? Has this changed over time?
In addition to the above, I am sure there are more. Especially if the concept of “intuition” is considered as a conveying medium in the sense that it reflects collective memory, and therefore historical aspects, to some extent. Because of this very reason, it is hard to enumerate individual composer names.
Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process? What other technology, if any, do you use?
The degree of accuracy, which yields to formulate certain structural aspects in my music, necessitates the use of computer as to the point of pre-compositional process. Having said that, using computers in this way does not necessarily inhibit the “composition” itself. The purpose of the computational process is to advance and analyze the materials I work with and instrument them according to the needs that are determined by the craft. I believe there is a difference between the term “craft” and what we define as “composition”. To me, the former highlights the ways in which the musical tools are designed, whereas the latter mostly emphasizes the ways in which these tools are used. The software I use varies according to the project I work on. Recently, I have been engaging mostly with MATLAB, SuperCollider and SMS as well as PWGL and IRCAM products such as Audiosculpt.
Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip.
The research behind Resonances was driven by the following two questions pertaining to the acoustic peculiarities of wind instruments: (1) Is it possible to design an algorithmic system to formulate various degrees of polyphonic correlations, which would yield multiple formal relations as a function of acoustic distinctiveness?; (2) If so, how perceptible would the resulting polyphony be? Focusing on the deviation degrees of acoustic properties, Resonances views the instruments as complex acoustic mechanisms. I represent the complexity of each instrument in a matrix, the inputs of which are various acoustic measurements of a wind instrument. An algorithm operates on these matrices to generate new matrices. Then, the output matrices are plotted in a multidimensional space through which various geometric relations (in terms of deviational scaling) are devised to formulate formal structures. A brief paper which discusses the details of this algorithmic process can be directly requested from the composer.