The following is a guest article by Turkish classical pianist AyseDeniz Gokcin.
One day during college, after my Via was stolen, I got a new Apple computer for the first time, which had Garage Band installed in it. I was familiar with Sibelius and notation programs, but never before was it so easy to import midi files, play, record, and edit music. When I felt like I had too much classical music homework and needed a break, I would have fun writing cheesy pop songs with silly lyrics (about love, of course).
After a while, it hit me how backwards I was in my field, to not know anything technological but to press buttons of the keys. I wanted to produce professional songs and work with other artists, yet all I could do was to create 80s sounding songs. I knew it would take me so much time to start learning more advanced computer programs, especially while preparing for exams with huge repertoire. So I decided to do something new, and to merge my skills (to play piano and arrange music for it) with current music once I graduated… Which brought me to where I am now, with the Pink Floyd Classical Album, Piazzolla and Nirvana being my first three releases.
I was brought up as a proper classical pianist as a child… When someone told me to play a pop song, I would tell them to be serious, because they are nowhere near how wonderful classical pieces are. How dare they ask me!
Yet, no one in my class would listen to classical music, let alone their parents. So I could not understand and communicate with them. In fact, the best would be to hang out with their grandparents if I wanted to talk about composers I liked, or music that touched me. Why were kids my age missing out on music that is so beautiful, powerful, passionate, energetic, sophisticated and cultured? Why is it perceived as something boring by people when you mention piano lessons or symphony concerts?
The answers have to do with antiquated performance styles, aggressive or irrelevant teaching methods, absence of spirit in the performances, audience members being elitist, and concert venues not being attractive for youngsters to socialise in.
Thanks to pop culture, social media and more and more interactive performances, this is now changing. There are new classical artists being less formal, more risk taking, and creative. Because the biggest problem of the 20th century was that the education system was so focused and therefore limited, that no performer would compose, and no composer could perform their own music!
How ridiculous to think about this which is still the case in the most important music schools! This was not the same back in the day, when great composers were also magnificent players. Think about Mozart, Paganini, Liszt, Schumann… They were constantly sharing their talents with each other, creating something new, and then performing them! It was a big deal to premiere a new work.
Now it is a big deal when Adele releases her last album. I am not saying this to criticise, but to tell you that the ‘premiering of new music’ is still hugely popular, yet just not in classical music. The hype is still here, evolving with technology. Classical musicians need to re-think about how to combine this life with what they do and how they communicate with other people through music.
Gladly, many are doing arrangements of songs. Through the series “Mozart In The Jungle” becoming more popular, more people are now seeing behind the curtains of these so called “stuck up, boring, elitist musicians”. Who do not deserve those assumptions at all.
Anyway, back to my story, the frustration that emerging from the question “why couldn’t I make people my age listen to what I play” was so strong that after graduating from college I decided to go back to my school years musically, to the days when I would try to connect with my class mates by memorising Pink Floyd or Nirvana songs. I loved them, not just because of the words but because of the social context they came out from and how trends within the young generation were shaped by these songs.
What did Pink Floyd tell me with their songs? That the bad education system doesn’t respect nor address the needs or develop the skills of the individual, that politicians are liars, the music industry is a money machine, and that we are headed in the wrong direction as a world, full of problems. These, of course, would be fixed if people go together and decided to change things. Their songs had hope, and a positive approach to solving these issues. They moved masses with their songs. This is one of the reasons why music is so strong, that people can unite under it and act collectively under its magical sound waves.
Why Nirvana? I was a very emotional teenager… I learned how to identify my feelings with Kurt’s songs, and wrote on my walls about how imperfect the world was. I associated his music with the post-romantics like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. He was edgy, and distorted. I loved that, although it reflected in my mind in a more elegant, classical way. He was not a perfect person – in fact far from it. He was addicted to drugs, was poor until he became famous in a very fast and explosive way, he had other personal issues relating to his family. Yet he was a hugely talented mind, writing the most creative song lyrics, blasting the guitar, shouting as he wanted, not caring about what others thought of him. He also was a feminist, and had very sensitive soul.
When I finished the album with my classical arrangements, I realised that while I thought I was starting something new, I was actually going back in time and discovering who I am as a person through music that speaks to me. New beginnings turn out the best when their ingredients are already within you, laying untouched.
AyseDeniz Gokcin’s Nirvana Project is available to buy from iTunes or buy a signed CD from AyseDeniz’s website with Special thanks to Wildkat Pr. Check them out, they’re awesome. For any direct inquires contact:
Olivia Brown – firstname.lastname@example.org – +44 (0)20 3422 3344