Interview with Guc Basar Gulle: As long as you stay in Groove, you are able to observe yourself and differentiate intellect and soul: Video, Photos


Jazz interview with jazz composer, performer, educator Guc Basar Gulle. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Guc Basar Gulle: – I grew up in İstanbul and I am originally from the east part of  Turkey.  During my childhood, I listened to various traditional Anatolian songs from the recordings that my father brought from Anatolia. That was my first experience with music. After my high school education, I started to learn flamenco and classical guitar. At that time I was in the philosophy department at Boğaziçi University. Because of my Turkish music background after getting philosophy degree, I completed  Turkish music studies at  Istanbul technical university master program in 2004. Then I went to Berklee College of music to study jazz composition between 2004-2006. Between 2007-2009 I  studied Contemporary Composition  at Istanbul Technical University in Advanced Music Studies.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

GBG: – My background has versatile musical sources; Ottoman, Western and Jazz music. I have always been searching for the connection between structural points and surface in music. By means of this approach, I was able to receive what I need to express my own perspective. In this sense trying to find a new musical material turned out to be first creating contextual references then designing musical form from musical materials depending on the references. That’s why in my first album ( Ud-Bass-Percussion trio) after realizing the structural value of rhythmic forms in Ottoman music , I developed forms in my composition on the basis of  variations in rhythmic forms . In my last album I did the same thing. In this time my concern is to apply a  medieval visual art technique to jazz harmony.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

GBG: – Groove means an interaction between rhythm and time. This is my most favorite definition of Groove. Without groove it is impossible to get any expression in music. Without it what you do is making noise not music. Also in any music it has a structural function. Therefore rhythmic exercises in my practice routine are indispensable. Mick Goodrick’s Factorial Book is a great book for rhythmic awareness both in basic music education and improvisation. Especially dividing attacks in beats and creating variations over the same attacks in this book provides a higher resolution in time feeling. In this respect you start to be in the present moment and you are able to focus more on your melodic phrases in improvisation.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

GBG: – Actually in this album I am trying to create a new way of chord progressions. In jazz music there are two kinds of chord progressions; functional and non-functional. In other words there are centric and non-centric chord progressions. What I did is to apply visual art technique “reverse perspective” to jazz harmony. In this progression I changed to point of center to create an open structure rather than a close structure that is the main character of functional and non-functional chord progressions. That’s why in my improvisations I strictly followed chord progressions to present the quality of open structure.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

GBG: – One of the most important problems in a modern world is being lost in huge amount of information. I had the same problem for a long time. I think that the main problem of modern education is to give a lot of information without constructing a context. Therefore people have a lot of difficulties in focusing on what they are doing. This is a general problem for people in modern societies in these days. My solution for this problem is to start from the relationship between structural points and surface in music. That helps me to understand what is necessary for my musical expression. The process of elimination of unnecessary materials is a very useful tool for me to follow the main path.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: <Reverse Perspective>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

GBG: – Reverse Perspective is a consequence of my endeavor to understand Western, Jazz and Ottoman Music. In terms of its content it reflects my own journey in these music cultures , its language is jazz though. It has also a philosophical discourse. Tonal harmony is basically the auditory equivalent of linear perspective. This language, utilized by various composers from Bach to Schoenberg, laid the foundation for Western Music. Even though the tonal language was pushed to limits from the 1900s and on life was still perceived linearly and this made a revolution in art an inevitability. Artistic expression in this context was reduced to medium rather than perspective. In this album, reverse perspective has been used to expand the auditory material that we usually limit with our linear perspective. During the last century, jazz music has become an important international ground for communication. It became its own original language by combining its own historical and social background with the legacy of Western music. This language reached wide audiences by  interacting with all kinds of world music. These have been influential for me in picking the jazz quartet form to present what I am trying to get, after applying a reverse perspective approach to jazz harmony. I am trying to develop an idea of reverse perspective to create variations on the basis of this idea to have more space in my composition forms.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

GBG: – It is the most difficult subject to discuss. But I can say that as long as you stay in Groove, you are able to observe yourself and differentiate intellect and soul. Because only in Groove you can be in the Present Moment and you feel the line between intellect and soul. However to keep the Present Moment live requires lifelong discipline.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

GBG: – If you feel satisfied with what you are doing, soon or later audience will  receive what you are trying to express. So I am always first focusing on what deeply motivated me to get my expression as clear as possible. Then I share what I want to say  audience. The key point in this process is that you have to start with a common denominator between your product and the audience.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

GBG: – In 2009  I was invited to work as an assistant conductor for BBC symphony to perform a concerto for Cello, Turkish Music Ensemble and BBC symphony that was written by Michael Ellison in London I was helping to combine Turkish musicians to Orchestral music and Pascal Rophé, who is a conductor, to Turkish music vibe. Also I gave a seminar concerning Ottoman-Turkish Rhythms for BBC symphony members. That was a very different experience for me. Because I was like a translator for these two sides. I had a chance to observe them from different perspectives and to understand how they perceive the structural elements of music.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

GBG: – As a music pedagogue the first thing I always show the structural connection  between popular music examples and examples from traditional jazz . For example , the similarity between Billie Jean and So What in terms of Groove, harmonic approach and rhythmic phrase fascinated young people. Then they start having an organic relationship with the tradition.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

GBG: – For me the meaning of life resides in the Present Moment. The spirit is always trying to find the way to experience the present moment. Without it the spirit can never be satisfied. If music serves you to be in the present moment , the spirit covers your existence to feel unconditional love  and you become the selfsame. That is the meaning of life.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

GBG: – Less visual oriented productions, more audio oriented productions. Because people get so conditioned visually that they listen to the music unconsciously. So their perception quality of sound is low.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

GBG: – I am listening to Debussy a lot in these days. For me his music is the perfect match of being modern and being authentic

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

GBG: – If your knowledge does not make you feel peace and joy of life, forget about it.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

GBG: – I would want to meet Mozart. Because he is the best composer in terms of creating transformation in music forms. His music on the surface does not sound revolutionary on the other hand structurally there is a tremendous transformation in a silent way. That would be great to observe his daily life from this perspective to see a parallelism between his composition approach and his ordinary life.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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