"Mesut Özgen’s Anatolian Fantasy is a wonderfully unique recording, with his own gorgeous folk inspired compositions acting as an ideal showcase for his expressive and virtuosic guitar playing. Bravo!”
“Mesut has a wide range of musical aesthetics that creates beautiful landscapes of sound. His expression of meters of 5 and 7 with a strong emotional quality pulled me in to his world.”
“It's an absolutely beautiful recording!”
This recording is a sequel to my first recording of folk inspired classical guitar music entitled "Troubadour" (Golden Horn Records), which included works by a number of composers. In this new album, all the music was written by myself.It has been a long journey since I started playing guitar and composing along the way from Turkey to Santa Cruz, California through Cordoba, Spain; New Haven, Connecticut; and Tempe, Arizona, not to mention many other places in the world where I toured and performed.Most of the pieces on this recording are inspired by the Anatolian folk and Turkish classical music, even when there is not any direct quote to a traditional tune. However, when using traditional or traditional-like melodies, I tried to blend them into various modern compositional forms. The use of dissonances mainly had two purposes: in order to create either the microtonal sound of the Turkish music or the programmatic nature of certain passages.I was fortunate to have great musician friends joining me in some of the works: Patrice Maginnis, Bill Coulter, Amy Brodo, Lars Johannesson, Neva Özgen, and Yelda Özgen. I cannot thank them enough for their contribution to this recording. It is not possible for me to have any preference among my compositions, but I do hope that you enjoy listening to these pieces as much as I enjoyed writing and playing them.-Mesut Özgen
Anatolian Fantasy for guitar (1999)
Anatolian Fantasy is my first composition that doesn't include any traditional folk tunes, although I added some folk-like melodies. It was commissioned by and written for guitarist Mark Hilliard-Wilson, who premiered it in Seattle in 2000. I used odd rhythms, harmonics, and ostinato melodic patterns throughout the first section. The middle section, andante sostenuto, is in 9/8 meter with 5+4 grouping. The melody is comprised of long sustained notes at the top and a counter melody is in the bass. The arpeggiated inner voices contribute to the harmony with occasional major and minor second intervals. In the last section, I included some rhythmical patterns that imitate a performance technique used in playing saz, a plucked Turkish folk instrument, and integrated them into idiomatic guitar techniques.
Rumeli Türküsü for two guitars (2005)
"Rumeli türküsü" is a term referring to the light urban style Turkish folk music from Thrace (türkü means Turkish folk song). Songs of this genre are composed within the scales and melodic progression of the classical makam system. Since the 17th century, some of the most distinguished composers of Ottoman classical tradition have written light tunes in the form of türkü, forming a bridge between the élite and popular taste. When incorporating two original Rumeli Türküsü (Gidem Dedim Yârenlerim Darildi and Bulut Gelir Seher ile) into this piece, I used Turkish scholar/composer Yalçin Tura's harmonization techniques as a role model. This piece was written for my dear friend, the wonderful musician and Indian bansuri virtuoso, Deepak Ram. Later I rewrote it for flute and guitar, as well as violin and guitar. Each version presented a different flavor when I performed them with wonderful musicians, such as flutist Kathleen Purcell, Greer Ellison, and violinist Cihat Askin. In this recording, I had the luxury of using two great guitars and recorded one part on a Gil Carnal guitar (heard mainly on the left channel) and the other on a Kenny Hill guitar (right channel), both world- class luthiers and wonderful friends.
Tango Cruz for guitar (2000)
I wrote Tango Cruz for the birthday of my Argentinean friend Cristina Carluccio. Turkish style melodies and ornaments are blended into tango rhythm with a hint of traditional birthday tune in the middle section. The whole piece came out quickly in several hours rather like an improvisation than a longer compositional process, such as it was with Anatolian Fantasy.
Two Spanish Songs for soprano and guitar (2007)
When soprano Jessamine Delancey commissioned me to compose two songs for soprano and guitar, she also provided several poems by Luis Cernuda (1902-1963). After reading the Spanish and English versions, I chose two of them in order to set to music: Dos de noviembre and Hablando a Manona. I was introduced to the world of Cernuda's wonderful poetry through the excellent English translations of Stephen Kessler. Cernuda was a Spanish poet, as well as a university teacher, scholar, and literary critic. He is known as a member of the Generation of '27, a group of Spanish poets and artists including Federico García Lorca. During the Spanish Civil War, Cernuda fled to England, where he began an exile ending up in Mexico. He was never able to go back to Spain until his death. This longing for home, family, and friends was reflected in his poems. I tried to give the same feeling in the music. The beginning of Dos de noviembre uses bell-like harmonics, referring to the first verse of the poem.
Three Turkish Folk Songs (1998)
I had written Three Turkish Folk Songs originally for voice and guitar. Later, I rearranged the voice part for a melody instrument (flute or violin), and also for oboe (or kemenche) and cello, adding more instrumental ornamentation. This three-song set is the earliest recording on this CD, which dates back to 2000 when I got together with my wonderful cousins Neva and Yelda in Istanbul. Turkish folk music is basically monophonic; monodic folk songs are usually accompanied by a saz or a group of saz, a plucked Turkish folk instrument which doubles the melody with some additional drone tones. There is no traditional harmonization of these tunes. I used some tonal harmony, but also added dissonances giving the illusion of quartertones to create a unique sound. Some sections include contrapuntal texture and counter melodies with augmented seconds, which is not uncommon in Turkish folk music. I have also added some not authentic but original ornamenta- tion when playing especially long-sustained notes of the tune.Katip means clerk or scribe in Turkish. A woman is telling about her lover, a katip, young and handsome man who works in a courthouse in old Istanbul. It is one of the most popular traditional songs in Turkey. Aygiz is an Azerbaijani Turkish folk song. A man is longing for his beloved, and watching the roads for her return. He is calling out to her, but she is not responding. He is burning because of her love. Aman Avci tells also a love story, but it is a deer's love for a hunter. She is begging the hunter not to shoot her. This is a light-hearted song as opposed to the sad and melancholic mood of Aygiz.
Vira Sevda for guitar (2003)
I wrote Vira Sevda based on my father Bilge Özgen's song, which was composed in the style of classical Turkish music with lyrics written by Yalçin Benlican. "Vira" means continuous and "sevda" refers to passionate love. The music is in makam (mode) buselik, which is similar to natural minor. After the introduction in 4/4 meter, two types of usul (rhythmic pattern) are used: evfer and duyek. Seven years after I wrote this piece, I rearranged it for flute, clarinet, and guitar in 2010. Then, it made sense to make revisions for the solo version with added material.
Yemen Türküsü for two guitars (1990)
Yemen Türküsü is my first composition and it is based on a folk song from the city of Mus in eastern Turkey. It is about people who were sent to Yemen to fight in a battle against Arabs during the Ottoman Empire. They all died in a place far away from their homeland. The original melody is in 5/8, a common meter in Turkish folk music. I used 5/8, 9/8, and 3/8 meters in different sections. First and third sections use the original tune in its entirety, whereas second and fourth sections are set freely without using any part of the original tune. The beautiful and unique sound of my friend Bill Coulter's steel string guitar with DADGAD tuning made this recording special.
Mavi Yolculuk (Blue Journey) for flute, cello, and guitar (2011)
When Lars Johannesson asked me to write new music for his concert at the Santa Cruz Chamber Players Series, his program theme was an exploration of aquatic inspired music, which made me thought about Mavi Yolculuk, which refers to a special boat trip in the southwest Mediterranean coast of Turkey. I wanted to explore this journey in the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea by invoking various sounds of the sea and the feelings of the travelers using unconventional techniques and traditional Turkish modes (makam) and rhythms (usul) on flute, cello, and guitar.
The term Mavi Yolculuk was first time used by the Turkish author Azra Erhat as the title of her book in 1957, describing her explorative boat trips together with several other intellectuals. Being some of the important writers in Turkish literature, they contributed to the popularity of this particular area of Turkey, which includes now famous touristic destinations Bodrum, Didim, Kusadasi, and Antalya, through their writings. Later, these boat trips developed into an alternative vacation concept and currently have been used for the recreational boating tours along the Turkish Riviera on Turkey's southwestern coast with connotations in tourism and literature.
I used mainly two traditional Turkish makams and usuls in the main sections of the piece: Makam Segah in Usul Curcuna and Makam Hüzzam in Usul Devri Hindi. Between the main sections there are other sections trying to create the various sounds of the sea. I also used a Bektasi sufi hymn (nefes) "Dün gece seyrim içinde" (anonymous tune with words by Kul Himmet) as a unifying short melody in the background. I am thankful to my wonderful cellist friend Amy for agreeing to play some unconventional techniques on her instrument, such as using the bow like a saw to imitate the start of a boat motor at the beginning. If you don't like it, that's my fault, not hers!
For more music excerpts from tracks go to Audio Samples