Composer and saxophone player Tamer Temel continues on his music journey, embellished by sensitivities, that started with “Barcelona” and “Bir Kedi Kara” with his latest album “Serbest Düşüş” (‘Free Fall’) released by A.K. Müzik. Tamer Temel’s knowledge, intuition, creativity and expressive power have the potential to give hope to even the most brokenhearted, angry and sad people who have been brought down by things happening in this country for a while. Please listen, and make others do so as well, to Temel’s “Serbest Düşüş”, then rinse and repeat. Only then you can feel your soul breaking free through the flow of the music. You will also have the end benefit of thinking “No, I am not as alone as I thought”…
Who is the baby on the album cover?
The baby on the cover is my friend Yalım Akın’s son Tibet. Tibet naturally symbolizes what is to come for the next generations.
You worked with Eylül Biçer, Serkan Özyılmaz, Matt Hall and Volkan Öktem. What a great team. Did you get together for the album, or did the album came to being because you got together?
I worked with Eylül and Serkan in my previous album, we have been playing together for a long time. I have been playing with Matt almost since I came to Istanbul. We have a band called “bir şeyler eksik” (“something is missing”) with Volkan, we have started to occasionally play my project after the previous album, usually at Mitanni. So the team didn’t just gather up for the album, we have already been playing together for a long time. I can say that we ‘baked’ the ideas for the pieces during our concerts. They are all musicians that I admire.
Can you tell us about your recording process at MİAM?
We were at Miam for the previous album and for Çağıl’s album. The most important factor here is Can Karadoğan. Can works very diligently and tries to do his best, making our jobs easier; he is almost like the 6th member of the band. He knows what he is doing at the recording table and he also knows how to treat a musician when it comes to moral motivation. So it was inevitable that we recorded at MİAM.
A.K. Müzik is group of great people who support good music and the musician, and I know that they did not hesitate to release this album despite the current conditions. However, do you think the CD format will persevere, or should it, especially when its future looks bleak?
I really don’t know how long the CD format can go on for. The music industry is constantly changing, it sometimes finds different solutions to problems. For example, LPs are getting popular again.
We will see what will happen to CDs together.
Of course, it is a good feeling for us to see the product of our work physically in our hands.
I smiled with admiration before listening to “Panoptikon”. We know that the titles of your pieces embody your creativity, as well as literary and philosophic references. I thought that you referred to Bentham or Foucault in reaction to the moral state of this country. You are right, we are forced to live with a feeling of constant surveillance. However, after I have listened to the piece, I questioned “Is he addressing the governing bodies in the flow of music?” It is almost like you are reenacting a scene where the piano is a prisoner and the saxophone is the prison guard, and the changing tones of the piano are like as if its way of becoming its own guarding to watch out for itself. Then I made a million other stories. It would be the best to hear about Panoptikon in your own words.
Thank you very much for your incredible observation and question.
Yes, I think we have internalized the government’s panopticons and we are doing our own surveillance and auto-censoring without needing the government. This is actually what is wanted of us. This is how a hegemony built, by us being our own panopticons. This is a lengthy subject. There aren’t any intended divisions of roles or symbolizations for the instruments in the piece, but it is good that it is percived as there are. I hope everybody finds their own symbols in the piece. For example, it could feel like an allusion to struggling between states of hope and hopelessness, because the piece starts bright and ends in the dark. However, this kind of struggle is what we face every day.
The titular “Serbest Düşüş” is the second piece of the album. You are such a farsighted man, did you give this title because you foresaw the financial crisis? Joking aside, you usually keep yourself hidden in your pieces, let alone putting yourself in the foreground. But here we listen to your many different tones from the start to the end. What gives the feeling of “Serbest Düşüş” (‘free fall’)? And how should we look for the reflections of this free fall in your music?
There actually isn’t a direct relationship between the pieces and their titles most of the time, and no intent to express the name of the song through music. The idea of free fall isn’t an allusion to the financial crisis but to the social collapse we are experiencing. We are so indifferent to each others’ troubles in these troubling times that we are in an ethical “free fall”, I don’t know whether we will realize our mistakes or lose ourselves in them when we hit the rock bottom.
If I were a new cinematographer, I would use “Dram” as the theme music to a movie for sure. Eylül (Biçer) created such a sinister tension, kudos to him. What do you think is the source of the dramatic effect in this piece?
Thank you so much, this means the piece fulfils its purpose. I think the dramatic effect comes from the fact that the piece was written solely to give that feeling. We worked to make it a dramatic piece with tension and dynamism, by increasing the intensity through the intervals. Eylül understood this and played very well. So did Volkan…
I know that nobody can force you write music for TV shows, but do you write for the movies, or would you consider doing so?
A few friends also told me at my concerts that these pieces feel like film music. This actually made me really happy, because if we can achieve this feeling during the concerts that means that we can give the necessary effects. Barış Diri, a musician friend, offered to work together for a movie score, and I was really happy, of course. I would really like to do something like this to the best of my abilities.
The movie got pushed to next year due to the coup attempt, I hope it doesn’t get cancelled so that we can work on the music. We will see what happens. In short, I would love to make music for the movies. I would want to see the script first though, if there are any kissing scenes that might be against my rules. [Laughing]
“Bencil”(‘selfish’) isn’t played selfishly at all. There is a really fair instrumental distribution. Why did you name it so? As you are aware, I am addressing my questions as if you guys went to the studio, recorded while you improvized, and then decided to make that recording into an album—did the titles come first or did the contents of the piece?
The title of this piece has always been this since its inception. Aside from what it means to me, it is an allusion to one of the most problematic situations; selfishness.
If each of the five members of the band were to be symbolized by a sense, who would be what? How will the answer you give here relate to the piece “Beş Duyu”(‘Five Senses’)?
We played “Beş Duyu” entirely through free improvization, it is a piece that adheres to a written theme at the very end. Free improvization is really hard for me. It is a musical situation that requires the members of the band to have open senses, while they refrain from showing their own talents off. I am really lucky, the band members are very open when it comes to their senses. That’s why the piece is called “Beş Duyu”; it alludes to five people who try to hear and to join the story.
Volkan: Touch and comprehension.
Serkan: Hearing and silence.
Eylül: Smell and questioning.
Matt: Taste (himself and offering it to the others)
Tamer: Sight and calling.
How did the calmest and most peaceful piece in the album transformed into “Koşar Adım”?
The title of the piece signals to the elements in its formation. There is a reference to the chords of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, and despite the fact that the melody is calm and consisting of long sounds, the bass and the drums contrast that by playing in a style that is called “double time”. Therefore the piece becomes “Koşar Adım” (‘double time’).
The last piece surely is dedicated to Sebastiao Salgado. How did you first interact with his photography and how did they influenced you to write this piece?
I was fundamentally influenced by the documentary “The Salt of The Earth”, which focuses on Salgado’s life; I was influenced by his life. I felt like he has seen both heaven and hell. In a way, he seems to have created heaven with his wife after seeing hell. So I named this piece “Salgado’nun Gördüğü”. I don’t think anyone who has seen what Salgado has cannot go on living like before. There are some pieces that change, sometimes contrasting and sometimes answering each other. I wanted these to be a salutation to the big changes Salgado has lived through.
The album is out now. What will follow?
The album is out and that’s that. We will continue on playing, trying to express our ideas through our music, maybe because we don’t know any other way to do so.
I am not asking to start a discussion, but how should the interaction of a musician as an artist should be, how far should it reach, when it comes to what is going on in this country and in the world? I take a look at the social media, some musician friends are very sensitive about it, even occasionally expressing ideas that might become problematic for them, and on the other hand; some keep on posting photos from Bodrum as if those kids have never died, those journalists never imprisoned, or as if the dollar isn’t at an all time high right now. Where should the boundaries start and end?
There are many different ways to express opinions, problems, just as there are many different kind of problems. Some of us can worry about others, and as you put it, some don’t or not in the same way. It is really hard to say something definitive, everybody has their own different priorities and realities. It is easy to blame people, sometimes to a point where people compete about who is more sensitive.
Being political or apolitical is a complex subject. I try to think more on unity and consistence. I ponder on how the ideas we defend or the solutions we come up with could effect our behaviour and ultimately what kind of music we try to create.
As you have said, it is a choice to live while ignoring these events, or to stay silent about them. I don’t think there is a problem-solution if this person lives their entire life in this manner.
The real problem is when people claim to be political and sensitive while not expressing these opinions in their music, or when people talk as if they are making some advanced music that requires so much effort, when we see nothing of this reflecting in their lives. We could talk for hours on this.
These problems and efforts will hardly get us anywhere. The power of music and other fields of the arts to influence societies has long shifted to other areas, maybe to technology or to the social media…
Maybe we are fooling ourselves by trying to express what is problematic for us, but as I said, there doesn’t seem to be any other way. Adorno’s words “Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” applies to us for after Suruç and what happened at the Ankara train station. As I said, keeping silent is a choice, and our choice is not being able to keep silent. I will end my long reply with one of the most beautiful lyrics I have seen for a long time: “Every moment of silence creates another tyrant.”
That sentence alone could be the answer to the question…