Konya down-time

In Konya, there wasn't much for an Istanbul person to do outside the Mevlana performances, which went on for a week. One day, Aka and I and some musician friends were chatting in a hotel room and I asked Aka if some transpositions were terribly difficult. A good ney player should be able to transpose at the wish of a vocal soloist who is to be accompanied. The ney player normally has only six finger holes and a thumb hole, with embouchure and partial holing gymnastics to find as many as two dozen or more discrete pitches per octave. Aka said, "Try me."

I tried concocting what I imagined to be progressively more difficult transpositions, such as naming a composition in makam Evcara, with lots of sharps, and transposing it up a step and a half, or down three comas. Effortlessly and without hesitation, Aka aced all my challenges without breaking a sweat.

On my wanderings about the historical city of Konyaclick for larger image another day, I found Karatay Medresesi, a lovingly restored Selšuk period theological school building (right) (Click for larger image). The stunning acoustics and domed architecture seemed ideal for a once-in-a-lifetime recording. The leading tanbur player of Turkey, Necdet Yaşar, was also sitting around the hotel, and Konya resident Arif Bišer was a fine ney player. At concerts, broadcasts, and Mevlevi rituals, musicians always followed a prescribed program. On this day though, Aka, Necdet, and Arif agreed to play a short program of their own choosing at Karatay. The acoustics and historical atmosphere, the artistic freedom of the performers, and the feeling of suspension in time made the performance at Karatay one of my favorite recordings in Turkey.

Karatay (brief excerpt)

This and other recordings I made of Aka are deposited in the Signell Collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.


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last revised 21 September 2008