Turkish music and the prepared piano are not as far apart as one might think (Mozart tried out some Turkish drum effects with paper on the piano strings back in the day). But now Istanbul-based composer/pianist Erdem Helvacioglu has made the connection even more dramatic and sensuous. “Eleven Short Stories” is a set of nearly a dozen atmospheric vignettes for prepared piano, paying homage to some of his favorite film directors: Kim Ki-Duk, David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Darren Aronofsky, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Steven Soderberg.
The pieces are not aligned with a director but rather suggest particular scenes through titles such as Shattered Snow Globe, Mist on the Windowpane, or Bench at the Park. The music runs the full gamut and shades of emotions you might expect from imaginative art-film. There’s stark, pensive observation, wariness of impending jeopardy, rooting around in a Samuel Beckett-like Unknowable; all with the potential for horror and the need for hope. The notes from the piano – gamelan-like – plop gently like summer raindrops coloring the pavement, or slashing the jugular vein, as needs be. Close your eyes and it all makes sense.
Just as a movie proposes its own cinematic reality, each individual piece has preparations unique to its story and soundworld. The piano strings were strewn and inserted with pencils, erasers, paper, plastic and metal spoons, knives, forks, drumsticks, guitar plectrums and slides, e-bows, metal plates, clapsticks, ear plugs, and paperclips attached to the strings within. Not forgetting a toy train and a 60s fashion magazine.
"Eleven Short Stories is an excellent CD, and I would highly recommend it."
Andrew Lee, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
"...this is some of the most stimulating and provocative music you'll hear."
Richard Marcus, Blogcritics Magazine
"This is an intriguing album that obliterates genre boundaries and often creates music of quiet beauty."
Steve Holtje, Culture Catch Magazine
"The sound capture is perfect, the mood is quiet, and the beauty is palpable. Simple, meticulously-designed music."
Francois Couture, Monsier Delire Magazine
"This album is one of the most rewarding prepared piano releases I have heard in a long time."
Gerald Van Waes, Psychefolk Magazine
"Some of his best work yet."
Tim Rutherford Johnson, The Rambler Magazine
"Normally I am not the biggest lover of modern classical music, but for this lovely solo prepared piano I very gladly make an exception."
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly Magazine
"It's music for a rainy day, a sunny day, a brown study. The suite's titles suggest a series of short stories that make the music a kind of soundtrack for life's experiences. Your life's experiences, if you open yourself up to the music.
An excellent diversion that succeeds on a purely musical level as it forwards sound poetry of rich associations."
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
"Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu embarks on a fascinating project with this recording. Eleven Short Stories is an engaging release for anyone interested in the sound of the new."
Ralph Graves, WTJU Classical Comments
"Helvacioglu's approach here makes for an incredibly pleasant aural experience, yet also intrigues and challenges the listener."
Nick Storring, Exclaim Magazine
"On his album Eleven Short Stories, Erdem Helvacioglu has transformed his piano into the most flexible of instruments, augmenting it with odd implements and making it sing with new tones, telling vivid tales."
Daniel Garrett, The Compulsive Reader
"Helvacioglu liberates both himself and his listeners from genre confines and preconceived notions."
Stephen Fruitman, Avant Music News