If Nadezhda von Meck hadn’t opened up her summer house in Kamenka to her penpal Tchaikovsky, if the Prince of Köthen wasn’t generous to Mozart, if the female French writer who went with the pen name of George Sand hadn’t handed Chopin the keys to her house and her heart, and if similar things hadn’t happened; the classical music archives today would be thin folders instead. So, the relationship between the patron and the composer is vital to the survival of music for centuries.
However, things are a bit different today. A king, count or a merchant doesn’t directly become a musician’s patron anymore. Instead, there are institutions and foundations and the various forms of scholarships they provide. There are scholarships for instruments, for education, or even for touring… However, the most popular still possibly is “residence scholarships” which are modelled after the centuries-old methods. In other words, the scholarship that gives the opportunity to become a “resident artist”. This is a golden opportunity, because if you think on it; you are given the opportunity to write new music while not having to worry about the dilly dally of daily life. Moreover, you can create new projects with other musicians from different disciplines in the same space. You also present your creations through concerts which are specifically organized for you. Especially if you walk on the path of contemporary music, a genre that isn’t popular, and are chosen among thousands of artists who applied; it is the chance of a lifetime.
What if I told you that there is such a residence camp in Istanbul? Indeed. And now it gives the opportunity for Turkish musicians to participate in projects even though it is currently only open to those coming from Germany. Its name is Tarabya Kültür Akademisi (Tarabya Cultural Academy). It was built by architect Armin Wegner between 1885-1887 and it is now used as the summer residence of the German Embassy and has been active for 7 years. It is curated by Goethe-Institut. Its aim is to give the painters, sculptors, poets, writers and musicians hailing from Germany the chance to feed on the culture of Istanbul to produce individual and collective works of art.
What concerns us is this part: There are three great modern jazz musicians among this year’s residents: vocalist and electonics guru Jacobien Vlasman, alto saxophonist Angelika Niescier and drummer Christian Thomé. You might be hearing these names more often lately, right? This isn’t a coincidence, because they don’t want to miss out on jam sessions while they are in Istanbul and arrange special project evenings to meet Turkish jazz musicians. To tell you the truth, the XJAZZ Festival meeting possibly was the most special among them all. Of course, that X sign isn’t meaningless. It symbolizes meeting and multiplication. It is the X of new sound ecosystems formed by musicians.
I had the opportunity to meet and feel the creative methods of these three musicians at Borusan Music House on the 12th of April. I will make a humble suggestion to my young vocalist friends at this point: You should not be satisfied by merely listening to jazz classics, mainstream jazz musicians or famous stars. Hunt down different and interesting concerts from monthly program schedules and festival lists. There are things to learn from every single vocal technique similar to how one learns from every instrument. Of course, this is a matter of choice. But put this variety of materials to the mental drawer. One day might come that would allow you to instantaneously use it!
To focus on the concert; these three great German musicians were accompanied by three great musicians to utilize that X sign well. Tenor saxophonist Engin Recepoğulları, composer Sabri Tuluğ Tırpan (who frequents Graz as a musical instructor), and double bass player Volkan Hürsever. The band’s name is Tarabya Ensemble. And of course, it was founded by drummer Christian Thomé, who is known for his melodic, sensational and rich style.
The compositions occasionally took us to a tour in Grand Bazaar, and threw us into the rhythmic excitement of the never-ending honks of Istanbul’s traffic jam. They even sometimes left us with our thoughts through Jacobien’s uncanny muses.
The musicians in the band actually worked together in groups of two. They brought small x signs on the stage with their experience. But they made a big rehearsal the day before the concert for this bigger X meeting. The fresh smell of the rehearsal could be sensed during the concert. They followed what was written with intense focus, while sharing the one-time joy of freedom together. However, I had a hard time differentiating between what was written and what was collective improvization due to the fact that I was listening to the pieces for the first time ever. I watched the index fingers of Angelika and Jacobien while they signed to each other to figure it out. They directed the flow of the pieces like this while underlining the free spaces in a way that everybody can understand.
I had the opportunity to chat with Tuluğ Tırpan after the concert. Tırpan shared his opinions about the concert: “European music keeps leaning more and more towards written music. The improvizations became transitions that lead to the written parts. It is especially exciting to create collective improvizations in such genres, and we experienced a rather colorful and pleasant concert.”
After relaying Tuluğ Tırpan’s words, I am now going to proceed to writing about my hopes and closing argument. I hope that more of our musicians can get the chance to be a part of this academic program as organized by Goethe-Institut. I hope they even get the chance to participate in a similar residence program in Germany. This way, as Turkish jazz musicians, they can experience the luxury that Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky experienced. And the aorta of Turkish jazz gets stronger.