Cenk Ergun's "Proximity"

In May, So Percussion is featured on Cenk Ergun’s latest release Nana performing Proximity, a ravishingly beautiful piece made of metal sounds that he wrote for us in 2009.  

We’ve known Cenk for years – he and Jason attended Eastman together – and this project gestated very slowly.  It represents a unique vision that could only be Cenk’s music.

On Wednesday, May 14, Cenk releases Nana on Carrier Records. We also have a release party at the So Percussion Studio.  So Percussion, Cenk, Grey Mcmurray, and Jeff Snyder will perform.

Wednesday, May 14 – 8pm
20 Grand Ave #205
Brooklyn, NY 11205

In this post, I have included some excerpts from Proximity, as well as a couple of questions that I asked him about his work.  
I’ve always liked Cenk’s music, and I trust him, so I enjoyed working on the project.  But sometimes I had a hard time wrapping my ears around what this piece was about.  Undoubtedly, this stemmed in part from having a click track in my ear and being consumed with my local tasks during the piece. When I heard the final mix of the recording, I had my “eureka” moment.  
I’ve come to believe it’s one of the most stunning pieces of music anybody has written for us.

I asked Cenk a bit about his music:  

Me: I wouldn’t normally interrogate you about how your Turkish background influences your music, but you specifically mentioned to me that Proximity features that influence. Can you tell me more about that?

Cenk: “Traditional Turkish music is monophonic. Melodies are played by a large variety of instruments in unison or at octaves, and always in rhythmic unison. Instruments like the saz, ud, ney, kanun are impossible to tune perfectly together and thus create a unique sonority when playing in unison. This sonority is the impetus for Proximity and is clearly audible especially in the opening minutes. Another influence present on the opening was Japanese Taiko drumming. I remember when I finally felt ready to puts notes down on paper after months of preparation – I was at a Kodo concert. It was their concentration and the focus on the music – the intensity of the moment – I decided I wanted to begin the piece that way.”

Me: How would you describe your aesthetic briefly to somebody who is just getting to know your music?

Cenk: “Always experimental in spirit. All sounds in any combination. No sounds in one combination. A dedication to simple, clear, unified shapes in time. A focus on individual sounds rather than the relationship among them. Interest in time, memory, perception. Interest in instruments and instrumentalists. Listening.

I love the highly amplified sounds of quietly played instruments. These sounds do not have the harsh quality of loud playing, and yet because they are amplified they are loud enough to reveal all their detail to the ear. This is why Proximity is scored for amplified percussion quartet. It’s a relatively loud piece produced by amplified quiet playing. The pitch content in my works is usually extremely limited. I like to focus on a specific, limited set of pitches for long spans of time – as my goal is always to establish a single sound texture and maintain it for as long as possible with minimum variation. Regardless of the tuning method I’m using, or the length of the piece, I often find that by the end of a piece I’ve used only about 7-8 different pitches as well as their siblings at different octaves. The first 8 minutes of Proximity is only 3 pitches, played at several different octaves on several different instruments.”

The last part of Proximity consists of the elemental sound of tam-tams, the ultimate vibrating metal. In a way, Proximity is Cenk’s “Construction in Metal,” although his voice is wholly his own: indebted to Cage, Feldman, and many others, but totally unique. I find that the frenetic activity found through Proximity – and especially at the end – steers the sounds away from ritual or cultural assignment.   The steady hum of the tam-tams grows and accumulates mass, but the molecules continue to vibrate.  

Proximity may be one of the most successful realizations of something we’ve long cherished: percussion as the vast world of things that vibrate, piercing an inner emotional core with sound.  






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