“Hasretim” (“My Longing”) is a unique project. In 2010, guitarist-composer Marc Sinan, together with Dresdner Sinfoniker director Markus Rindt, undertook a journey to Anatolia. Sinan’s mother’s family had originally come from the Turkish Black sea coast, so this was a kind of homecoming, as well as a search for musical roots and cultural identity. It was also more than this.
Before setting out, the travelers had asked themselves some fundamental musical-philosophical questions. Such as: why don’t contemporary Turkish composers and players look to their incredibly rich folk traditions for inspiration? As Sinan asks, “Why is there no National School?” Where are the Turkish composers documenting regional music and incorporating it into other musical forms? Where is the language of contemporary music that can trace its roots back to the court music of the sultans, or which has evolved from folk forms?
Over the course of many weeks on their journey from the Black Sea coast to the borders of Armenia, they considered these matters as they located and filmed traditional musicians, attempting to penetrate their music and to document it while it is still with us. In the cities, they observed, the old “singer-songwriter” clubs are simple teahouses today. “It is only seldom that one meets young musicians there such as kemençe player Mesut Kurt from Trabzon or singer Asiye Göl from Ordu. Very few of them are able to make a living with their music, yet they play with great lightness and virtuosity. Their music speaks of restlessness and temperament and bears the footprints of Anatolia’s cultural and ethnic diversity.”
The field recordings incorporated here are powerful and moving performances which, on the DVD, can be experienced both in their original context and integrated into the contemporary music which Sinan – with the aid of arranger-orchestrator-conductor Andrea Molino – subsequently created for the Dresdner Sinfoniker and its guest soloists.
In this two-disc set, the CD features a live performance of the Hasretim project at the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival in 2011, while the DVD includes the premiere performance from Hellerau in 2010. Sinan originally referred to his extended composition – which was awarded the Welthorizont special prize by the German Commission for UNESCO – as a ‘musical installation’: indeed, video and sound projections of the field recordings are ‘installed’ as crucial components of the presentation. At the same time the orchestration makes a case for the timelessness of the local recordings; depending on context they can sound archaic or cutting-edge. As Sinan notes, the compound time signatures commonplace in Turkish traditional music are still a challenge for professional players in the West. And Western improvisers have only latterly begun to deploy, as extended instrumental technique, the circular breathing second nature to Turkish players of the kaval, or the zurna.
The musicians of the field recordings have learned from aural tradition, passing along the sounds and techniques and musical values of their elders, bypassing formal training. In contrast, the Turkish guests in the concert recordings, the musicians augmenting the Dresdner Sinfoniker, are all schooled professionals. With their knowledge of various regional musical idioms as well as familiarity with western notation and music theory their presence provides a bridge to the rawer sounds of the rural players and singers. Ultimately, listeners may find themselves considering not only a juxtaposition of cultures but also the music’s expressive ability to unite players of diverse backgrounds. Or as the Süddeusche Zeitung put it, “Hasretim conveys above all a native warmth. Wherever you focus your attention, whether saz, kemençe, davul, oud, zurna or duduk are in the foreground, everything sounds so wonderfully rounded and earthy (...) Once ethnological curiosity is blended out, anywhere with such music could be home.”
In addition to the Hellerau concert and the field recordings, the DVD also includes background notes on the music, the musicians and the milieu by Marc Sinan and musicologist Martin Greve.