5:02 PM GMT 17/05/2013
A new music venue sponsored by a wealthy benefactor? Yes please. Anna Wood heads to Istanbul for the grand opening of the Borusan Music House.
The Borusan Music House is "trying to build a new audience for a new music," says curator Marcus Hagemann, who has flown into Istanbul from Berlin for the first of his New Series nights here. The Music House is an elegant 19th-century townhouse in Istanbul's Beyoglu district, recently gutted and transformed into a superswank live venue - six floors, two roof terraces, rehearsal rooms and a Michael Jackson-style trapdoor-elevator built specifically to lift a Steinway to the upper floor performance spaces.
The first of the New Series, one crisp Friday night, is a collaboration between Berlin's Ensemble Adapter and local Hezarfen Ensemble - a total of six young musicians who've been workshopping together for tonight's performance. John Cage's delicate, studious 1988 Five - here with voice, harp, cello, flute and marimba - becomes a rowdier, livelier Six when klezmer sounds from the busker outside start drifting through an open window. Twayn, by Jo Kondo for flute and vibraphone, is such a joyful, playful piece that you would be forgiven for laughing out loud with the sheer giddy pleasure and surprise of it (I checked); from 2002, it is the music you might hope to hear if two genius toddlers were possessed by the spirits of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram. Destroy Erase Improve, a composition on film with harp, drum and slide projector, is a more recent piece by Berlin DJ Paul Frick with director Aron Kitzig. The sounds don't quite click together, feeling like a foot in midair or a held breath, and then it all meshes and there's a thrilling section of house music, a four-to-the-floor beat and a harpist plucking a rave siren pulse, before it falls apart again. This classical land-grab of house music - more strange and elegant than anything by Jeremy Deller's Acid Brass, say, or Christian Prommer's Drumlesson - comes up again in the next piece. Karen Tanaka's Techno Etudes 1 & 2, played by Istanbul's brilliant classical-music scholar Müge Hendekli on that in-house Steinway, could create serious cognitive dissonance in an old raver's brain - it >feels> like techno, it sort of sounds like techno, but it's a delicate, frantic piano solo. It's mind-wobblingly good.
Yagiz Zaimoglu and Aydin Dorsay run the Music House with a budget from Borusan Culture & Arts, in turn funded by Borusan Holding, a huge family-run industrial company. Bankrolled with no apparent strings attached, Zaimoglu and Dorsay don't need to make a profit, they just need to keep finding those new audiences for new music. They take it "one concert at a time", but are planning a huge project next year - four composers each writing a piece to be played in a power station, one each in Istanbul, Tallinn, Stockholm and Berlin.
The Saturday night at their Music House is much more sedate than the Friday, an evening of tentative improv from German flute player Mark Lotz and Istanbul band Islak Köpek. Lotz has four flutes and a piccolo laid out like surgical instruments on a table next to him, and he makes animal calls and Rolf Harris-y noises on them; the cellist threads a glowstick through her strings, one sax player is especially tuned into and adoring of Lotz, creating some fleeting and lovely duets, and another man is playing Twilight Zone noises via a Wii controller. There is a talent and adventure and some exquisitely acute listening. It's a good example of what the Music House is doing - they can put on nights of chamber improv for 120 people who sit, rapt, listening to and watching something that they wouldn't find anywhere else in the city (or many other cities).
Istanbul is not short of party people with a soulful disregard for profit-making. At Quit - perhaps the greatest of the many tiny-but-great clubs to be found in the Beyoglu district - the manager tells me there was a night last month where they played nothing but New Model Army songs, all night, celebrating 30 years of the West Yorkshire upstarts. Tonight, though, is Quit's Shaman World Music Club night, which in this case means music from Kocani Orkestar, Schäl Sick Brass Band, the Shukar Collective and a lot of dancing. Later, in the nearby Baykus club, there's a band playing Burning Spear (singing in Turkish, I think), and later still, at Babylon, DJs who are so delighted by their electro set that they are doing synchronised dance routines behind the decks. The man at Quit tells us, grinning, that the key to a great club is "cosiness and sincerity". And could you disagree, even with NMA's Vagabonds blasting in your ear?
Anna Wood has just won the Malcolm Bradbury Prize at the University Of East Anglia
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 3:55 PM GMT 05/12/2011