Eleven Short Stories

Eleven Short Stories

Prepared piano goes to the cinema
Erdem Helvacioglu
Erdem Helvacioglu
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
prepared piano

Istanbul, Turkey

Release Date: 
Mar 27, 2012
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

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.

Erdem Helvacioglu (b. 1975) is one of the most renowned contemporary composers of his generation in Turkey. His music has been called “revolutionary,” “groundbreaking,” “emotionally evocative soundscapes with remarkable beauty,” “uncommonly deep, intelligent, and beautiful cinematic compositions”, “luscious and unique,” and “completely arresting and disarmingly beautiful.” Erdem has received awards from the Luigi Russolo, MUSICA NOVA, Insulae Electronicae Electroacoustic Music Competitions. He has been commissioned by numerous entities, from the 2006 World Soccer Championship to the Bang on a Can-All Stars. He is also actively involved in composing for films, multimedia productions, contemporary dance and theatre. He won the “Best Original Soundtrack” award in the 2006 Mostramundo Film Festival, and his film scores have been heard at Cannes, Sarajevo, Locarno, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Sydney film festivals.


"Erdem Helvacioğlu’s prepared piano is electronic, quasi-minimalistic, and highly accessible. … [I]t is abundantly clear that Helvacıoğlu has a remarkable ear, and he makes it easy to forget that all these sounds are generated from a piano. Every sound, every nuance serves the music, and nothing ever feels forced or hollow; his background in electroacoustic music most likely contributed to these highly successful preparations … Eleven Short Stories is an excellent CD, and I would highly recommend it." [FULL ARTICLE]
Andrew Lee 

"The prepared treatments naturally allow for a wide range of atmospheric textures and effects to enter into Eleven Short Stories, which thereby deepens the connection to cinematic evocation all the more … Helvacioglu remains a composer above all else, and as such his melodic voice can't help but come through. That's never more true than when an affecting degree of melancholy seeps into 'Have Not Been Here in Forty Years,' and memorable too is 'Shattered Snow Globe,' which evokes an image of snow gently falling on a fresh winter's day." [FULL ARTICLE]

"Helvacioglu's pieces here are very concerned with sound … and the sparely deployed sounds have plenty of room to be appreciated. This space and his careful recording combine to create a sort of sonic halo around his music’s events. Those events come in a wide variety of manifestations, from meditatively tuneful pieces such as 'Will I Ever See You Again' (which does get grittier near the end) to 'Trapped in the Labyrinth,' a series of percussive noises … [A]n intriguing album that obliterates genre boundaries and often creates music of quiet beauty." [FULL ARTICLE]
Steve Holtje

"[A] meditation on sound color, a soundscape for the instrument with evocatively quiescent soundings that relate to the Satie-Cage-Crumb exotic-lyrical lineage, as the work nicely establishes Helvacioglu's contribution to that general line of musical thinking … It's music for a rainy day, a sunny day, a brown study … An excellent diversion that succeeds on a purely musical level as it forwards sound poetry of rich associations." [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards 

"Helvacioglu in Eleven Short Stories makes a dramatic and sensuous connection between Turkish music and prepared piano … a set of nearly a dozen atmospheric vignettes for prepared piano paying homage to some of his favorite film directors." 

"Helvacioglu sounds right at home … sculpting miniature soundscapes in covert homage to the work of various film directors … [T]he pieces are predominately dramatic, open-ended queries rather than driving, percussive assertions. Patiently meandering melodic motives speak through the preparations, conjuring an array of soft plucks, bell tones, faint buzzing and metallic flurries. These radiant surfaces, though, are punctuated textures ― peculiar resonances, wooden clicks and slams, choked, glassy scrapes and distant clangs … Not unlike Ryuichi Sakamoto's recent penchant for tidy and subtle experimentalism, Helvacioglu's approach here makes for an incredibly pleasant aural experience, yet also intrigues and challenges the listener." [FULL ARTICLE]
Nick Storring 

SADIBEY “I felt myself on an interesting journey.” —Ali Ulvi Uyanik

BLOGCRITICS “Not being able to rely on the usual comfortable clues you've come to expect from musical compositions, you find yourself paying close attention to each note and its relationship to the ones around it. As a result, without realizing it, you become much more invested in the piece and your reactions are based on what you're actually hearing, not what you've been conditioned to hear. … [E]ach song creates a short movie in our head, made up of a series of images and accompanying emotions. [T]his is some of the most stimulating and provocative music you'll hear.” —Richard Marcus