Alican Camci – [pskh]

Alican Camci’s [pskh] for orchestra is a varicolored exploration of musical transformation. The Chicago-based contemporary Turkish composer was inspired to write this piece by the 2013 protests that occurred in Turkey. He was struck by how people tried to attach -isms and other adjectives to wholly describe the events that in his view may have had no one central spirit to them at all. As such, he used the idea of events transpiring without a center as the central concept of the piece.


Camci executes this design by structuring the piece into a number of panels that explore the possibility of very different end results from similar origins. The first section of the piece features a texture of lyrical glissandi accompanied by trills. These glissandi transform into more discrete melodic lines that proliferate in the woodwinds and the trills become transformed to included metered ritards. As these elements become more prominent the overall effect of the sounds and the textures themselves have transformed to become very different from where they were at the beginning. When it returns to the opening motif of string glissandi at 1’33”, is very striking how different this material is from what it had just transformed into. Once again, a similar process of gradual transformation unfolds from this restatement but to a different result than the last transformation.

In this way, Camci is able to show how the same event can develop into a number of different results. To me, this shows the malleability of protests and political movements. What can start one way can end up as something completely different for better or worse. The same seed of an idea can have vastly different results if the context in which it is taking place is different. Considering how the people, time, location, etc. will never ever be exactly identical, it will always lead to a different result again, for better or worse.

During this time, the material becomes interrupted is at the 46” mark when the texture is reduced to nothing and the piano plays a single staccato note that is echoed by a ricochet bowing in the violin. It also is ornamented by some sharp notes of the woodblock a bit later as well as more piano. These notes are the signal given to the listener of the starkly different section that begins at 2’45”. Those little seeds create the idea of this whole very different section: short notes (pizz, staccato, etc.) that create the backdrop for repeated and held notes. Again, a process of seamless transformation goes underway upon these ideas.

The motifs of this section are transformed by orchestration and motivic density. What begins with largely pizzes from the strings begins to include celesta and trumpet more. There are only a few instances of the repeated notes and long notes at this point, but the balance slowly shifts. As more instances of repeated and long notes occur, the pointillistic texture becomes less robust. By the time the orchestration of these short notes has expanded to the keyboard percussion instruments, the motif is at its end. When it returns at 4’57”, it is once again a spontaneous event that takes the music in a very different direction. The string glissandi that close the piece bring a sudden closure to the events of this music.

To me, this shows once again the malleability of a political movement through transformation even when the initial idea is different. The very sudden ending of the piece really seems like how just as quickly as things may rise and become very active or even tumultuous, they can just as easily lose all momentum and stop. It is an interesting idea to hear in music and creates a satisfyingly anticlimactic end that evokes mixed emotions.

Thoughts on the music? Feel free to comment below.


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