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What do you feed a music animal?

The sound of Istanbul avant-garde

We’re entering a door opened by another kind of music thanks to the indirect possibilities of social media: Müzik Hayvanı (Music Animal) transmits the sound of Istanbul’s contemporary and avant-garde music.

If you take a look at the web page of Müzik Hayvanı, you’ll find a manifesto on different aspects of music. An important question here they underline is: “Under which circumstances, does human intelligence shape and create music? What does the music lose during the process?”

Müzik Hayvanı, established in late 2010, was designed as a platform for sharing contemporary and avant-garde music among a group of people who actively produce or simply enjoy it. With time, this special -true to its name  platform became a record label; But differentiated itself from the norm in the music industry by making all the works of musicians collaborating with Müzik Hayvanı available for free download online.

From the first album by Eray Düzgünsoy, titled Şifalı Otlar için Postlüdler (Postludes for Medicinal Herbs), a reference to the Şifalı Otlar Kitabı  (Book of Medicinal Herbs) by the renowned poet İlhan Berk, until today, 12 albums have been made available on Müzik Hayvanı’s online library for download or streaming.

We met with Eray Düzgünsoy, one of the founders of the label. First question: What do you feed Müzik Hayvanı with?

In our debates about how we were going to share the music we create, the answer came from the very name of our project. We saw that when you’re making or listening to music, after a while there is no human conduct in it; the process obtains animal instincts. We feel this state very vividly, especially during gigs. “Man, (s)he is high!” says the audience during some performances, for example. Our name and our attitude are related to this phenomenon. Plus, I should also note that our establishment is totally inspired by the poem Animal inside of me by Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, a well-known Turkish poet.

So, elaborating on this idea where instincts became primarily important, what is the role of the composer?

When you’re listening to music, at a certain point, listeners can feel that the musician goes beyond the composition and also beyond the place where the music is performed. (S)he gets the role of a mediator, connecting the music and the audience with each other. All this process is, to a certain extent, a part of human behaviour. This is the “musical animal”, a realm where you only feel the transition of music.

What are your considerations when selecting works for Müzik Hayvanı?

There are some people who are interested in contemporary and avant-garde music and who are not directly affiliated with record labels. Some of them intentionally chose this; others do not have the means. There are no record labels in Turkey specifically interested in contemporary music. Our recordings are generally released in the form of 20-minute long fragments. The main reason is, in 2012, to use an old-school expression; even a 45 single is too long, especially for this genre of music. Therefore, our independent attitude allows free distribution, while online availability also makes us attractive to followers of contemporary music. With regards to the visual image of the album, we’re always in contact with the composers; if possible, we use photos taken by them. Thus we try to develop the platform in a multidisciplinary fashion.”

An interesting example of this multidisciplinary approach to music is “Electronic Dictionary of Movie Directors” by Serdar Kökçeoğlu, a new work Müzik Hayvanı’s catalogue. In album, director Kökçeoğlu chase up the masters of cinema like Cronenberg, Jodorowsky and Parajanov by sound.

What is the story of this album?

“This10-minute long album by journalist and director Serdar Kökçeoğlu focuses on directors from a director’s point of view.. When he came up with this project for the first time, he said: “I’m neither a musician nor a composer. I’m just a guy who loves and enjoys listening to music and who shoots movies. So, I’ll be really glad if you consider that these compositions are standing in a different place from the works of a mere composer.” This statement unlocked a totally new door for me because we always listened to music from professional composers, if they were the official spokesmen of music. There is no such thing. To follow the trace of directors through another director’s audio perception, that was really stimulating.”

Another release — one that can be considered as a tribute to classical music genius Franz Liszt on his 200th birthday — is Stefan Fricke’s Liszten. In this “audio/auto” performance, you’re in a car roaming between two Liszt Streets in Berlin. While the satnav directs you through this route, the radio plays Liszt. An example of this 38-minute long audio performance:

Müzik Hayvanı is preparing a brand new amalgam of classical and contemporary music: six musicians will deconstruct the works of Beethoven. The album will be released soon. Musicians from Istanbul’s contemporary scene, such as Tolga Tüzün, Alper Maral and Ömer Sarıgedik, are also included in Müzik Hayvanı’s portfolio.

Besides the albums that can be downloaded free from muzikhayvani.com, if you’re among those who want to hold the physical recordings in their hands, the record label runs 150 copies of each release and distributes them in several music stores in Istanbul. None of the albums have a tagged price; in fact they have no price at all.

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