Tarabya Cultural Academy The Sound of the Wind on the Bosporus

Mark Andre collects the sound of the wind on the Bosporus.
Mark Andre collects the sound of the wind on the Bosporus. | Photo: Christian Klier

Tarabya Cultural Academy in Istanbul promotes exchange between German and Turkish artists under the curatorial direction of the Goethe-Institut. It is run by the German Embassy Ankara and is also part of the cultural work of the Turkish Embassy. The residency programme addresses cultural professionals from all fields and aims to offer them inspiration and a platform for encounters. The grant holders can live and work for up to ten months in the historic mansion on the European shore of the Bosporus. The composer of modern classical music Mark Andre is also a grantee at Tarabya. In our interview, the German-French Berlin resident told us what his collaboration with local musicians means to him, how he detects sound shadows at Hagia Sophia and why the wind on the Bosporus carries very special tones.

Mr Andre, what did you look forward to the most when you learned you’d received the invitation to Tarabya Cultural Academy?
Mark Andre Mark Andre | © Karin Schander I was once at the Goethe-Institut in Istanbul for five weeks in 2007 for a project called Into Istanbul with the Ensemble Modern and the Siemens Arts Program. Tarabya Academy did not exist yet. Following the project, though, I realized that Istanbul is an incredibly special city in which I would like to work more intensively. The composer Wolfgang Rihm suggested me for the scholarship to the Cultural Academy. He was one of the judges who decide the scholarship recipients.
You have been in Istanbul since July 2015. How have your work and the sounds of the city converged since then?
One of the projects I worked on here is called S3. It will be premiered on 24 January in Berlin. It is a piece for piano and electronics with sounds that I recorded at the Hagia Sophia and Sirceci railway station. All of the sound situations come from locations that I consider in-between spaces. This city embodies transitions between continents, between cultures and religions. The “S” in the title also stands for Schwelle (threshold).
For another project, a composition for vocal soloists, I worked with wind recordings from Tarabya. There is so much wind there, and it embodies very different types of sounds. I combine the recordings with an element from the gospels to give them a metaphysical level. John 3:8: “The wind goes where its pleasure takes it, and the sound of it comes to your ears, but you are unable to say where it comes from and where it goes: so it is with everyone whose birth is from the Spirit.” In the piece I want to create an association between sounds of the wind in Tarabya with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The reference to the Trinity provides the title of the piece, 3.
You have lived in Paris, Stuttgart and Berlin. What impresses you the most about Istanbul?
Metaphysical themes play an important role for the compositions of Mark Andre. Metaphysical themes play an important role for the compositions of Mark Andre. | Photo: Manu Theobald In this city, which I find incredibly noisy, people deal with time, sound and noises quite differently than in Berlin. For instance, the muezzins who call for prayer five times a day: I hear the scales, the micro-intervals, and it seems very strange. But for the local people it is as familiar as major or minor to us. I think it is remarkable to reflect and to understand the other perspective.

Did the city change your work?
My music is very quiet and fragile. Here, I go even more inward. Not in the sense of withdrawing or protecting myself, though. I am actually opening my ears even more, I want to hear everything. And that opens spaces inside me. The traces of sound that I am detecting develop even more intensely, perhaps, because people have to listen carefully. Although it usually is so loud.
Tarabya Cultural Academy Tarabya Cultural Academy | Photo: Sedat Mehder But what especially influences my work in Istanbul is the city as a huge transitional space between religions. Until the mid-15th century, it was, for example, an important city for Christianity. You can still see the traces of that lost age. I trace the sound shadows in the streets, on the squares.
I am interested in how the city sounds, how the people sound and what traces they leave behind. The Hagia Sophia, for example, sounds very strongly. So many people have been there with all their hopes, and their shadows remain. I want to capture these moods and sound situations.
Have you been able to collaborate with Turkish musicians?

Yes and I enjoy it the most! I am working with the Hezarfen Ensemble. Many of the musicians belong to the opera orchestra or teach at universities. We already began rehearsals and our collaboration is an incredible enrichment for me. They are all excellent musicians, but my music is very new to them.
Here, modern music is seen largely as a crossover between hip-hop, pop and electronic music, but there is no scene as such for modern classical music. Therefore, for the musicians this collaboration is also a process of getting to know unknown sounds and types of sounds. I try to speak with all of the members of the ensemble before we rehearse, sometime in English, sometimes with the help of interpreters. And I feel a great sensitivity for the music I make among them.
Katrin Baumer asked the questions.