About this Recording
9.70141 - INCE, K.: Music for a Lost Earth (Askin, Ince, Istanbul Modern Music Ensemble)

Kamran Ince (b. 1960)
Music for a Lost Earth


Kamran Ince evokes strong emotions in his Music for a Lost Earth (the ambient music project), but words fail when we attempt to name them. The impetus for this piece came partly from the composer’s sense that the world is in distress and becoming dysfunctional.

“I was questioning everything when I wrote this music”, Ince has written. “My father died later that year. I think things in this world are going down the drain. The environment, our values…the world cannot go on like this. Could we do better in a new world? Here, I am writing music for that new world. What feelings might we have in that new world? How would we be happy? How would we love, be sad, what would we value? The titles of the little movements—seventeen of them, from two to six minutes—are all about that.”

“Usually when I compose, I filter everything through my critical process. I ask where it fits in the vast world of music out there. I typically limit myself to a few ideas. In this project, I wanted to get rid of the filter and welcome the numerous ideas that came to me during the creative process. I let everything come to me. As Jelaleddim Rumi (the great Sufi poet and patron of the Whirling Dervishes) says: ‘Come to me, whosoever you are.’ Thus the varied styles in movements next to each other, with no discrimination. My goal was to experience composition outside the boundaries, to blur lines and see what fresh things might become possible. I hope that the audience will have a similar experience.

Lost Earth came about because I faced delays in writing my opera, The Judgment of Midas, owing to delays in the completion of the libretto. I had been composing for commissions for nearly twenty years and thought this would be a great time to compose something for myself. I also had a concert coming up in Istanbul in April 2007, with my violinist friend Cihat Askin and my ensemble (Istanbul Modern Music Ensemble) there. Out of this came Ambient Music Project, later titled Music for a Lost Earth.”

Mystery shrouds these seventeen enigmatically named vignettes. The musical content at the outset seems so simple: two tones struck on the piano. They linger until they decay. A long silence follows. Such sounds have something to do with loneliness, but a certain kind of intriguing loneliness that is hard to pin down.

Imagine travelling through a desert, all sand and stars and moon on a still night. And there, without explanation or context, stands a chair, placed just so on the sand. Thus the ordinary becomes an object of mystery and contemplation. Kamran’s lonely little chords are like that chair—utterly familiar, utterly strange, utterly ambiguous, and somehow poignant. They prompt a small, unidentifiable heartache. Something is present, but someone is missing.

The static, arresting moment is one aspect of Lost Earth. Earthy vigour is another. Several episodes dance with pounding energy in irregular metres, with Cihat Askin’s solo violin in the lead. Minute inflections make its classification a moving target. Does it rise from gypsy fiddling? Bluegrass? From the Middle Eastern spike-fiddle traditions? Or, with its heavy repetition, from Minimalism? “All aesthetically different musical ideas are welcome”, Ince writes, “serious, light, pop-like, folk-like, spiritual, deep, shallow, grand, old, new. I tapped a website where thousands of Turkish folk-songs are archived.” Thus the music offers constant surprise within the familiar. That is a major theme in the music of Kamran Ince and a major reason his music seizes the ear and mind so tenaciously. Familiarity draws us in; imaginative twists keep us in. A similar strategy informs Ince’s harmony. He uses familiar chords in unfamiliar ways: “My chords hang in the air for their own beauty”, he writes. “They are subject to nothing else, to no hierarchy.”

Kamran has a Cubist’s way of breaking things up and making them strange and alluring. In such episodes as No. 10, “to feel something with (à la Radiohead)”, and No. 16, “to float, but seriously”, it is as if he wrote a traditional chorale and then displaced all the lines, painted them in beautiful pastels and cast some of them in different metres. All the parts are there, but floating free in a dreamy, dizzying, three-dimensional collage.

As wild and intuitive as Lost Earth seems to be, it turns out to be coherent and even taut. Its elements—the earthy dances, the floating worlds, the lonely chords—make strong impressions at first hearing. When they recur through the course of the sixty-minute piece, they are like old friends who have aged or otherwise changed.

Music for a Lost Earth (ambient music project) is for solo violin, piano, harp, flute, bass clarinet, percussion and an accompanying ensemble of violin, viola, cello and double bass.

Tom Strini

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