taylan susam, composer.

some reviews of my music

the notation in his pieces is radically concentrated, often to just a bit of prose and a field of random numbers or single pitches on staves. He’s interested in some very basic elements of music—intonation, continuity, contrasts between sounds and silences—and this radical concentration is anything but a naive response to those elements.

susam's ‘tombeau’ (2014) begins with sets of four descending chords and […] retains the basic chord while augmenting the surrounding tones, then varies that a little, allowing the sounds to blossom like slow motion footage of a blooming flower, the pattern of petals offering regularity while the time sequence of their unfurling flows from regular to slightly less so. the basic downward trajectory is maintained for the most part, as befits a tombeau. glints of other alternatives appear momentarily before the descent continues, now enhanced with lusher swaddling, some chords so lovely they cause one to shiver. a superb piece.

the modal arc of this piece traverses the entire keyboard, note by isolated note. The meditative questioning of this night music invites an almost existential concentration that immediately settles a restive toronto audience into silence. Egoyan sifts through the babble of the day, holding up a pristine thought up for momentary circumspection, only to let go as her right hand gifts the line of music to her left, and the nocturne journeys further into depths of the piano.

des sons très calmes et très doux se succèdent les uns les autres, entrecoupés de silences aérés et légers, et reviennent de manière minimaliste bien sûr, mais surtout naturelle et sereine. des sons étranges, inattendus, souvent bas, qui frottent, soufflent et raclent des surfaces pas vraiment conventionnelles ou attendues. une matière sonore très bizarre se profile doucement et forme un univers serein et original, un univers méditatif et aéré, profond et intense, malgré le volume toujours très faible de ces interprétations qui ne fait qu’appuyer la sensation de détente et de poésie offerte par cette pièce très délicate.

this music, typical of the wandelweiser collective of composition that susam is a member of, has a wonderful stillness to it, and yet the little islands of soft sounds that do appear, as simple as they are, seem to harbour whole worlds of sound and timbre. The lengthy silences that span out between the clusters seemingly cleansing the ears afresh each time.

each nocturne is about two minutes, soft, tranquil and meditative. in each case i was reminded of the part of hector in les troyens; hector is a ghost who appears to aenée, warning him of impending doom. hector’s greatest energy is upon arrival; the ghost’s highest note is his first, while his lowest is his last, as we see him gradually run out of steam, lower and lower and lower. So too with each of the nocturnes, arcing downwards from the top of the keyboard to the very bottom, one discreet note at a time.

the total seriousness of these pieces [by joseph kudirka and taylan susam] makes them radical, and amazing, i find—though one might say that not all of them worked equally well. maybe it still is the mark of really good ‘new’ art that it is at first difficult to accept, difficult to get, because it seems nothing, or too easy to do. the seriousness convinces me. and it makes you listen in a different way. it creates its own world, in which everything is relevant—that is a statement in itself, also ‘against’ the world. i would almost say that such music states “this is our music” (after ornette coleman).