SINAN C. SAVAŞKAN (b. 1954) is a composer of orchestral, chamber and other performance arts-related contemporary music. He works and lives in London.
His music has been commissioned, performed and broadcast in over thirty countries by some of the foremost performers of contemporary music, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Harle and Myrha Saxophone Quartet, the Lontano Ensemble, the SEM Orchestra - New York/Petr Kotik, the Balanescu String Quartet, the Gemini Ensemble, the Smith Quartet, Tim Brady, Sydney Alpha Ensemble, Trio Basso/Cologne, Yvar Mikhashoff, MusICA series of the Institute of Contemporary Arts/London, Martin Ball, Contemporary Arts Ensemble/London and Zsolt Nagy, Cambridge New Music Players, Tokyo Alpha Ensemble, and a selection of prominent theatre and ballet companies and directors.
Since the early 1980s, Savaşkan’s music has brought together the two previously unrelated strands of his activities and compositional concerns: an interest in high level organisation and a seemingly contradictory commitment to total spontaneity. Features of his earlier highly structured notated compositions, and his past work as an improvising musician are combined in a constructivist context – largely based on a personal compositional method of tonal/contrapuntal/formal logistics.
Although complex in its structural planning and detail, Savaşkan’s music is considered by many well-known critics to be emotionally highly charged; direct in its expressivity, textural clarity and surface immediacy.
He is Composer in Residence for the Octandre Ensemble, London, and Head of Department for Academic Music at Westminster School where he has instituted an energetic new music programme and taught many gifted composers and instrumentalists.
This project started in 1978. I had at the time had enough of the post-Darmstadt school, the Manchester School, the Music Theatre, and the forever ‘new’ electronic music scene in London. This is mainly because my musical studies coincided with their acceptance in the British higher education system. We were brought up on the scores of Berio, Stockhausen, Kagel, Boulez. After a love affair with all this the gesturality of this whole scene, the mannerisms, and the extended techniques, etc. all started to appear unacceptably cliché ridden. After several years of meddling with integral-serialism, etc. and looking for a way out, I came across the music of Scelsi at a concert at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in January 1978. I instantly knew: this was my ticket to ride! He had found a non-generic modern language.
The very next year I started to work towards a Masters and a PhD project on his music (thinking that it was the product of a supreme mind, soul, research, ‘systems with heart’, etc. etc.). A few years later, having worked out a very complicated modus operandi in order to achieve a ‘long-note’ style myself (I was also heavily influenced by the music of Phil Niblock and Peter Kotik of New York – again, heard at Adrian Jack’s musICA series), I dropped Scelsi. I discovered that it was all entirely intuitive, and the proportional schemes, architectural designs, … that I thought I heard in his scores had no firm foundation! But by then I had committed myself to a lifetime of exploring my own technique and a large number of related projects.
The title is to do with a late-teenage obsession with the Dadaists and Surrealists – and their ability to go beyond ‘sensibility’! The first group of Many stares, … … … was performed by the Lontano Ensemble at the ICA in 1979. There are projected 180 modules. I have only done 20 so far (!) – they are not consecutive. They are always for different ensembles, and they adopt and absorb some of my current concerns into this 30-odd year old project. (And some of them are even very quiet and, ’nice’!)
The surface level of my work of the past 5-6 years has been made up of broad brush strokes, and thick impasto: After many years of worrying about refinement, and other ‘musicianly/composerly’ conceits and superficialities, I now feel comfortable to exercise where my heart has always been (I listened with great interest to my painter father talking to his friends about Abstract Expressionists, and more importantly Colour Field painting when I was around seven!).
Possibly, the essential aim of my work is to transform the mundane into something ‘substantial’; I admire Guston, Barnett Newman, my dear friend composer/poet/painter/singer Chris Newman, Motherwell, Bonnard, Gottlieb, Matisse, Klee… Sinan Savaskan
For large ensemble, Many stares (through semi-nocturnal Zeiss-Blink) – Module 30 was premiered by Octandre Ensemble on 19th October 2014 at Manoukian Music Centre, Westminster School, London.
Click Here to listen to the full work.