Claire Nowak

From Turkey With Love

Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince has a long association with Milwaukee. Present Music presents an all-Ince show Saturday.

By - Aug 28th, 2014 04:37 pm
Ince by Ince

Ince by Ince

The contemporary classical music of Kamran Ince can capture the conflicting personalities within Turkish culture. Some of the music channels the spiritual, ethereal sounds found in Ottoman courts, while at other times it may exude aggression and power. Equally important to Ince, both modes will be featured in his Present Music concert, “Ince By Ince,” at the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Arts Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Present Music has worked with Ince for over 23 years, commissioning at least 12 works from him in that time. However, Saturday’s show will be a first: five original works, all conducted by Ince, three of which are American premieres. The show will also be recorded for Present Music’s 10th album.

“Milwaukee is one of those places where the stars for me come together,” Ince says.

Two pieces, both American premieres, follow the style of traditional Ottoman court music. “Asumani,” which is Turkish for “according to the skies,” is written primarily for ney, a wooden, flute-like instrument with an airy sound, and cello. “Dreamlines” has a similarly spiritual quality, written in honor of Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, the famous 15th century architect who designed the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

“It opens with a stanza that is attributed to him, in which he’s pretty much saying he’s a tool of God,” Ince says, “and his hand is God’s hand when he’s drawing these great buildings.”

The rest draw inspiration from the dance-like, “rough, in-your-face” Turkish and Balkan folk music, though with varying instrumentation. “Partita” calls for virtuosic violin and percussion, while “Two-Step Passion,” one of Ince’s most internationally popular works, uses an unusual combination of recorders, melodica, violin, cello and piano. Ince will debut a new arrangement that includes more musicians Saturday.

“Zamboturfidir,” another American premiere, was originally commissioned by the Irish Art Council for collaboration between musicians from Dublin and Istanbul. Its nine short movements have a subtle Irish influence, but Ince is careful to not sound too Irish, lest he lose the Turkish melodies that motivate his compositions.

For Ince, the composing process starts with nothing more than an abstract idea or emotion before delving into the energized dances he is known for. “I’ll usually start with a really gut feeling for a piece,” Ince says. “You know, not music, not sounds, not notes, nothing like that, just kind of a gut feeling that you can’t really describe in words. Then I will eventually somehow find the equivalent of that gut feeling in a musical idea and then go from there.”

In some cases, a single mental image is enough to spark an idea for a new piece. One of his currently untitled upcoming works, a cello concerto for a memorial service, draws its emotion from a particularly simple, but striking scenario.

“I have this image facing the (Western Wall in Jerusalem),” Ince says. “I’m imagining a cellist facing that wall and just playing — you know, what would come out.”

But Ince’s Turkish heritage and his exposure to that culture are the core of his work. Since the style is not often considered popular classical music, he aims to create works that can still be relatable to audiences who are less familiar with the genre.

“It’s part of my background, but yet at the same time, I’m writing my music so Milwaukee audiences are somewhat familiar with my language,” Ince reflects, “so they’re gonna get part of where I am, the latest of what I’m doing, and probably more obvious references to Turkish folk music and Ottoman court music.”

The musicians who will eventually perform his work also play a large role in his writing process. Ince takes into account his previous experiences with them, the other music they play and their musical tastes.

The pieces in Saturday’s performance, and the composer’s other works, may get their life from ancient cultures and historical events, but ultimately, they are Ince’s, arising from a passion and sentiment for his profession.

“(When you compose music,) you think about … (who) you are up to that point, everything you’ve experienced and heard and lived, and obviously all those things come into play,” Ince says.

“So it’s like a cut from where I am in my life at that point.”

7:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center for the Arts. Tickets are $15 to $35 and available online or by calling 414-271-0711. Students receive a 50 percent discount

0 thoughts on “Classical: From Turkey With Love”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to see Ince by Ince Saturday night (for which I have tickets) and am curious about the Turkish Bazaar beforehand, not to mention that it will be my first visit to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, and I saw a lecture by the sculptress who created the marble “tree” fireplace sculpture at the entrance (inspired by music and she’s happy that it’s in a venue that plays music) and am eager to see that too. Present Music performances are ALWAYS great and held at so many different venues, which actually makes the experiences more intriguing!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Christina,
    This is Sarah from Present Music. We’re so glad you’re coming to the concert! The Bazaar runs from 6pm until the concert starts and will feature local vendors selling tea and spices, art, jewelery, fair trade goods and more, as well as belly dancers, a henna artist, Middle Eastern food and a number of great raffle items from Present Music. We hope you will join us for the fun!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sarah Warren, the event was more than wonderful! Not only is the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center amazing (with what seems to be acres of mowed grass with a great forest of trees on one side, a lovely bird sculpture as you enter, and beautiful V-shaped lanterns that lit up the center in the night as we were all leaving), but the Bazaar was almost surreal, with two blonde belly dancers dressed in appealing red satin as the sun ran down the sky into night, food and cocktails and lovely gifts that anyone would want to buy, and you could even have your photograph taken with a real Amazon parrot and a bicyclist! Ince By Ince was incredible (and we were told this was Present Music’s first performance at this Center), and experimental not in a far-out way but rather an in-depth/musical meaning sort of way. Ince himself seemed to be dancing wildly during the last piece, or perhaps a mad marionette of the music itself, which everyone appreciated (from audience reactions I heard as people talked to each other on the way out). And I did get to see Susan Falkman’s beautiful fireplace sculpture Streaming, which is breathtaking and took such a long time to create, using heavy power-tools and scraping and polishing hand tools. A magnificent evening, and thank you so much for this valued performance! (The last Present Music event I attended at Thanksgiving with Native American Indians pounding drums at St. John the Evangelist’s, along with the breathtaking and poetic main performance there, was also heavenly, real, and all those who were leaving expressed their awe to each other. I participated in the hand-holding ring around the center of the church, which really did unite people and make them more friendly towards each other!) Thank you, Present Music!

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