Turgut Erçetin – String Quartet No.1 “December”

Turgut Erçetin’s first string quartet is a powerhouse to say the least. Erçetin manages to create a piece that is intuitive and approachable through the elegant complexity of his musical systems. He hides the deep complexity beneath the sounds giving the result of a piece that sounds more simple than it actually is. I think the idea of making a piece fairly easy to understand by listening but extremely difficult to analyze the governing systems by looking at the page is a sign of truly great craftsmanship.

The piece is dedicated to the thirty people in prison on Dec. 19, 2000 in Turkey, his home country, who died during ” Operation Back to Life” where those protesting a system the government was in the process of implementing that would put political prisoners in isolated cells were brutally attacked in order to make them stop. Erçetin has taken the idea of a cell and implemented into the set up of the ensemble who form a square-like cell around the audience. I would love to hear this piece performed live to get a better grasp of the spatial aspects of this score because I’m sure it would only add more depth to this already stellar piece.

The timbres of this piece are chilly and strangely beautiful. The sounds of the strings playing in extremely high natural harmonics mix with feedback from the transponders placed on the instruments to create sounds that seem to float in the air around you even through headphones (which makes me even more interested in the live experience of this piece). The fluttering highly rhythmic lines contrast sections of long notes and feedback impeccably.

This is a piece that has so much depth and detail in the score between the electronic instructions, the rhythms, the harmonies, and timbre parameters that I will need to spend more time studying and digesting what is happening here.  This is one of the most interesting pieces I have listened to in some time, so I am looking forward to hearing more of Erçetin’s music and studying this score in greater detail in the future.

Enjoy the music!

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