Filed under: music, the city | Tags: arizona, ezginin gunlugu, istanbul, leaving, music, proust, tucson
As you would remember from some previous entries, I take music as a conveyer of my personal past. Due to my shark-like nature, my past does not only consist of time periods but also different cities. A la recherche de mon temps perdu, music defines eras, therefore geographies. That’s why a song can take me to the museums of Paris, humid mornings of Augusta, beautiful campus of Middlebury College or a drunken festival night on the Bosporus.
In a day or two, I will publish three entries about my visit to Istanbul in December 2011. There, with awe, you will see how Istanbul and the meanings it encompasses in my life are in constant change with time. Although I no longer live in Istanbul, this city still holds such a potent and influential place in my life that, it can change meaning even if I only visit it now.
Due to my horrible experience back in December 2011, I had removed Istanbul from my life for the last four months. I barely thought about the city, had only a couple of Sykpe conversations with my dear friends still residing in that behemoth, and did not listen to a single song that is directly related to the imperial city in my personal universe of signifiers. It was tough, and full of remorse. I had spoken big when I talked about “never leaving Istanbul/Istanbul never leaving me”. My relation with the city came to a point where one side had to sacrifice a lot to reduce the pain resulting from this relationship. Of course, I was the one who had to sacrifice. And I had taken Istanbul out, maybe not completely out, but to an extent never explored before.
But on the day before my trip, on my way back from my first proper camping experience with the spiritual purification bestowed upon me by Mount Lemmon, I inadvertently played “Siyah Gozler” by Ezginin Gunlugu. A song from the very heart of Istanbul, dedicated to my quintessential pain felt for this city. Listen to the song; you will know what I mean.
It started as an “innocent” move to expose my friend some Turkish music. As I was imposing my patch-worked taste in music, I stumbled upon Ezginin Gunlugu and said, “Oh, you will love them. They are quite interesting.” I hit the play button unconsciously, and it took only five seconds to hit me back. All of a sudden, due to the amazing clarinet solo, as we were driving down the mountain, and the fauna was changing from pine trees to cacti, I was surrounded by Istanbul, the city I had removed from my life. I, there, realized I had been successful in exiling Istanbul away, and it was emotionally safe to recall it on such a moment.
Elif Shafak always compares and insistently contrasts Istanbul and Arizona, she calls them “two places on earth that could not be more different.” One time, she however noted, Arizona and Istanbul resemble each other in terms of “huzun”, the concept that is at the same time possible and impossible be translated to “la tristesse” in French, or “melancholia” in English, according to Orhan Pamuk. I agree, in both geographies, a sense of melancholia is omnipresent. Istanbul’s huzun is more consecrated to human interaction and its imperial past, while Arizona’s melancholia is more limited to contrasts, such as sun and shade, different definitions of border, and city’s eclectic architecture juxtaposing a skyscraper and a Mexican cathedral together.
Huzun is both similar and different in Arizona and Istanbul. The Oaks on Ciragan Caddesi and theSaguaro cacti on UA Campus share a common feeling not only in the habitants of Tucson form Istanbul but in a larger sense: just like paradise and hell, they share human.
As I am typing this entry on my way to Istanbul, not back, I am thinking how long will I have to individually struggle to tell people the commonalities of different geographies are much more than their differences. Since the beginning of humankind, some people may not be changing where they live from cradle to grave. But their fixed residual habits are miniscule, especially once compared to the traveling human element in every city’s content. The words we use can be forgotten, or ignored; but the eyes we see cannot be forgotten, or ignored. Especially when their universal humanity is considered.
For me, Ezginin Gunlugu also belongs to Arizona now. And Istanbul does not seem so vicious any more. Especially out of the plane’s window, when the Bosporus’ waters are shining like gold.
Lately, I am doing what I am supposed to do. During Spring Break, I have had the chance to catch up with my research on Turkish cinema. One year ago, I chose a moderate life in the middle of Sonoran desert to a far-below-the-poverty-line life in NYC to study cinema, and whatever it would bring along. It brought more than cinema, and I almost lost my focus between midterms to grade and theoretical discussions. This break has been a comeback; I resumed my cinematic love with a broader perspective in theory, thanks to my advisor.
Bourdieu, Foucault, and any other usual suspects of theoretical framework that a first year grad student is familiar with are great mentors in text to understand the magical world of the movies, there is no doubt to that. However, it is still more about cinema, it is still basically about sitting in a dark room, and looking at bright images larger than you. Oh, and about the subject of this entry: the music of movies, a larger concept than the soundtrack.
On one of those good days of college, I bumped into a classmate, with her earphones on. Keeping in mind that she always knows the best of music, I asked what she was listening to, and she replied: My soundtrack list. She added, “I love listening to soundtracks, don’t you?”
That question brought me back to my middle school years, that we spent together in the same school, without actually getting to know each other. I could recall my soundtrack madness started with Titanic. It then got a vintage depth with My Best Friend’s Wedding, entered into the rock world with Armageddon, got to know jazz with the Talented Mr. Ripley, proudly accepted classical music with Hillary and Jackie, celebrated anger and fear with the Phantom Menace. The turning point was the Hours, though. It was too much sorrow, too much intensity, and too much humanity. I stopped listening to, or let’s put it that way, paying attention to soundtracks because it hurt too much. The moment my friend reminded me the OSTs, I already had Adorno in mind, the philosopher who condemned cineastes for abusing the magic of music to get their images through for the sake of totalitarian influence of the mass culture. I thought I could never get back and make a truce with the music in movies. Even Ferzan Ozpetek could not help.
You may turn your back to music, but you can’t shut the door to its face. It finds its way. The soundtracks stroke back with during my immersion in studying cinema. Text brought me the music. I should tell you, it is an exciting experience. They not only reminded themselves, but also helped me to feel the music of movies, something you sense rather than hear. Soundtracks are not the music we hear during movies, they are means to an end: exploring the music of movies.
I am glad the soundtracks are back to my life, with their awesome gift. Let this video be a celebration to that.
Filed under: music, the city, Uncategorized | Tags: asmalimescit, istanbul, leaving, music, oi va voi, urban life, video
This year I am again away from Istanbul. This time, I am in USA, on a desert, at a university campus, unlike my Paris experience when I was soaked up with an imperial, cosmopolitan, and artistic city. This is Tucson, AZ, and it has definitely a different story.
However, you never know what you will face in an American university. I was aware of the fact that I was going to “do Turkish studies” but I did not expect such revelation. This semester, I am taking a course on Istanbul and its cosmopolitan characteristic, and I am doing its readings while I am listening to Oi Va Voi, a British group who is making “simply put” Jewish music. I have first heard of them out of Babylon’s posters. Then I had the chance to listen to them, and to adore them, and to never quit listening.
Tonight, I have to finish a book on Renaissance Humanists’ view of the Ottomans, but I had to write this entry despite my schedule. Firstly, let’s listen to this moving piece:
OK, what do we see and/or hear here? Like those experiences where you mix your sight with your sense of smell, or where you see a touch, I have heard a view, a view from Istanbul, especially from Beyoglu, more specifically from Asmalimescit. This posh feeling of that particular quartier, this promoted lifestyle, this eclectically pictured image of Asmalimescit are very well imbued in Oi Va Voi’s music. When you listen to them, you travel to Istanbul, hang out with your best friends, have the most fun at the best clubs at town, get drunk, dance, kiss, don’t mind, shout “whatever”, walk clumsily, and have your soup at the end of the night before your taxi picks you up. This song is where I grew up to be a human, this song is what almost all my friends have left for some years abroad, it is our past, it is the subject of our daydreams, it is the soul of our yearn to Istanbul.
On this very day, September 13, 2010, I feel like a Greek Humanist émigré in Italy, holding an ancient text saved from the fall of Constantinople while I am listening to this song. I don’t belong here but people want to learn from me, I am surrounded by stuff constantly reminding me my fallen city, I am reading my own city at a very distant location.
This is sad, I noted, therefore I continued, cried Ilker at the end “Oi Va Voi”.
“The last time OK Go released a new video, Jay-Z was a Mets fan, Barack Obama was being inducted into the United Federation Of Planets, and this song was a number one hit. Or at least it feels that way. Which is why today is such a very, very good day.”
This is how the band announced the release of their new single, simultaneously with their new video, on their official website, the 9th of November. The single and the video are available to buy on iTunes and the single album is also available on stores since the 17th. Those of you who doesn’t regularly listen to OK Go, may remember them from their “the most fun clip ever” video of their hit single “Here It Goes Again”, also known as “The Treadmill Dancing” video. This video, which is available here, has caused a “let’s make a treadmill dancing video ourselves” fashion and resulted on a number of similar videos to appear on media platforms. But, this was not the first of its kind for OK Go, since before that, in 2005, their video clip for “A Million Ways”, which you can watch here, had created the same effect, giving the band its popularity and fame. Video for “A Million Ways”, also known as “The Back Yard Dancing”, was shoot by the band itself without the knowledge of their label, with a budget of nearly 10 dollars(even their camera was a borrowed one). It became a huge internet phenomenon, being the most downloaded music video by August 2006, with over 9 million downloads. On top of that, the band put a video of 180 fans performing the “A Million Ways” dance for a YouTube contest, in their limited edition CD/DVD release of their album “Oh No”. “Here It Goes” video followed that same spirit and has been viewed over 48 million times (only for one instance of the video) and won 2006 YouTube Award in the Most Creative category. It is not hard to see that the fame of the band came with the amazing popularity of their videos rather than their hit songs. After, “Here It Goes”, other singles they have released in 2006 gave them an important number of fans, only to disappear for almost 3 years, until now.
“Skyscrapers” was already released online on May 7, 2009, pre-announcing their upcoming album “Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky”. The first new single “WTF?” (I know. It sounds good) comes with an original video. After watching the video, I can say that having them back feels very good. It’s the good old OK Go-ish creativity we missed.
Three gentlemen from France have put up this flash application called Incrédibox – The Incredible Beatbox. Already got many awards from the web community, this wonderful piece of creativity lets you build your own choir of “little cartoon guys of various heights” talented in few instruments and vocal arts. You’ll spend hours on your computer while playing with those little dudes with huge lips. Vocals, beatboxing and instruments are performed by Paul Malburet, the artist who goes by the name “Incredible Polo”.
Developer of the application is Allan Durand and the graphic designer is Romain Delambily. Well, it is a lot of fun tinkering with the effects and don’t forget to try the shuffle mode which automatically generates a never-ending title.
The application is available in French and English here.
You can also check the blog of the “Incrédibox” team here available only in french at the moment.
Finally, here should be a video of a song performed by Incredible Polo.