Mark Lotz & Islak Köpek
Istanbul improv sessions may 4th
Mark Alban Lotz: piccolo, c-, alto-, bass flutes, prepared flute
Şevket Akıncı: guitar
Kevin W. Davis: cello
Korhan Erel: laptop, controllers
Robert Reigle: tenor saxophone
Volkan Terzioğlu: tenor saxophone
1 We (4:29)
2 Mouths (5:36)
3 Mouthtrap (3:42)
4 Stop (5:15)
5 Throat (1:47)
6 Us (4:26)
7 Scared (3:05)
8 Talking (3:05)
9 Down (2:48)
10 Short (1:40)
11 Sacred (2:46)
12 Mouthstrap (4:25)
13 Diamond (1:30)
14 Our (4:03)
15 Mouthwater (2:46)
total playing time: 51:58
Recorded by Ergin Özler & Taylan Özdemir, may 4, 2010
at Deneyevi, Istanbul/ Turkey
Mixed and mastered by Micha de Kanter
Produced by Mark Alban Lotz
Tracks 1 by Davis/ Reigle/ Lotz, 2, 6, 10, 14 by Islak Köpek/ Lotz, 3, 5, 12,15 by Erel/ Lotz, 4 by Terzioğlu/ Reigle/ Lotz, 7 by Terzioğlu/ Lotz, 8 by Davis/ Lotz, 9 by Erel/ Akıncı/ Lotz, 11 by Reigle/ Lotz and 13 by Akıncı/ Lotz
All compositions © BUMA
listening to the sounds contained here got this writer thinking about cosmic matters—specifically, the recorded music aboard voyager 1, earth’s message-in-a-bottle to the galaxy, launched in 1977. i have the idea whoever hears that music after voyager starts passing through planetary systems in 40,000 years will think bach, a balinese gamelan, senegalese drumming, chuck berry, navajo and bulgarian and australian aboriginal singing, peruvian pipes, stravinsky and beethoven all sound pretty much alike: that earth sound, arranged for large and small band.
it’s an interconnected world, after all. musicians north and south of the sahara, from south and west asia and southern europe have checked out each other’s music for millennia. consider: west african musicians drummed military signals on a spanish battlefield before 1100, thanks to moors who’d already cribbed melismatic singing from the visigoths. such musico-electrical currents arced the gibraltar straits: a flashpoint. one thing led to another: those african drum codes helped inspire european military bands. musicians are naturally curious and often quick learners, given to borrowing any sound that catches their ears, and using it to their own ends. there are enough similarities among far-flung musics to make recombination practical.
early transcultural jams are apt to be improvised, even if it’s just me trying to grasp your language by playing a tin-eared version of it, or it’s the two of us layering one style/syntax/sound over another. improvisation is a way to begin communicating. for all the misty eyes that the ending of spielberg’s close encounters inspires, who notes the centrality of call-and-response interplay to that particular cross-cultural meet? (maybe composer john williams remembered feeding piano chords to stan getz in the ’50s.) that ending also reminds us that, to make real trans-cultural music, somebody has to travel first, if only to meet new colleagues at the straits: those places where ideas leap a cultural gap.
so it goes with the tri-nationals at this gathering in istanbul by the bosporus, where european and asian currents arc, between mark alban lotz, german flute player who had a globe-trotting thailand-to-uganda childhood (thanks to musicologist dad rainer lotz) before settling in holland, and the members of istanbul’s improvisers’ ensemble ıslak köpek, two of them american expats. (only one remains: saxophonist robert reigle, musicologist who arrived in turkey via papua new guinea.)
mark alban says, “i wanted to make a cd with them because of their concept of collective improvisation. it’s very disciplined with a lot of space, although they don’t shy away from more traditional, masculine kinds of free jazz.” first they all played together as a unit, then broke the ensemble down into duos and trios. “within these smaller settings,
not only is communication easier, but also you get more into the essence.” all the music here was made in real time, instant-composed, though some beginnings and endings were trimmed, to zero in on essential moments.
indeed the duos bring into focus the quirks and character traits of his fellows. reigle’s brawny plosives and reed-bending split-tones on “sacred” contrast with fellow tenor volkan terzioğlu’s more granular approach on “scared”—his rapid pad-clack articulation and sudden turns. guitarist şevket akıncı likes fast change-ups too, shunting among spiky attacks, pensive chording, crablike melodies and string-scribbling interjections. he also conscientiously varies his dynamics, like cellist kevin davis, whose swooping arco work on “talking” mirrors lotz’s multiphonic flute whoops.
on the four tracks for all hands, the sextet often gravitates toward a sustained drone on one or several long tones, echo of sounds heard ’round the world and down the ages, from south asian tambouras to australian didgeridoos to la monte young’s eternal hums. ancient footprints are everywhere, and you can really hear them sounding here. consider the long road that led to the development of akıncı’s electric guitar, involving the turkish kopuz, egyptian oud and european lute, or how india’s bowed fiddles eventually led to davis’s cello (via the byzantine lyre), and persian and turkish zurnas to the saxophone.
and then there are flutes, among the oldest and most universal of wind instruments. some of the earliest yet found were unearthed in germany, made 35,000 years ago from a vulture’s wing bone: that gets flight and migration into the lineage of improvised music early. the use of ancient tools to transform bone into instrument echoes in the scraping sound lotz gets on “scared,” just as he sometimes evokes the sound of wind blowing through hollow reeds that likely inspired flutes in the first place. but the old pipe stays current, on four dense/sleek colloquies between mark alban’s flutes and korhan erel’s laptop, with its (post)modern sonic sheen and percussive properties. erel’s use of sampled toy piano on “mouthstrap” reminds us of one more place where music-making begins: childhood.
we won’t go so far as to suggest these improvisations recapitulate the history of earthbound music-making. but taking the long view does put voyager’s 40,000 year mission in perspective. when some alien intelligence does find that spacecraft’s golden record, and decodes the directions for playing it with the enclosed stylus, it’s only a matter of time before some galactic musician digging blind willie johnson’s slide guitar will place their tendrils on their trusty xhju!yrg#jka, and try to join in. so it begins, again. and when interplanetary troubadours show up to play voyager’s music back to the six-fingered, big-domed future denizens of this planet, our descendants may listen to long-forgotten mozart and louis armstrong and think, yeah, that sounds like earth music all right. --Kevin Whitehead, author of why jazz/ a concise guide (oxford, 2011)