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Timucin Sahin: Fretless and Fearless

By Published: July 14, 2010
AAJ: Even though it's tough to make things work as an avant-garde musician, do you feel that jazz needs people like you, and others, to help push the music forward? To innovate and challenge the listener to take new chances and to prevent jazz from becoming a dated music.

TS: I think any kind of art form, especially an improvised art form like jazz which evolves throughout the years, should maintain its forward moving mentality. If it stops, if composers and performers stop looking for new influences, new directions and new sounds, which might signal the end of the art form. Guys like Ben Monder
Ben Monder
Ben Monder
for example, are really pushing the music forward, which is great for the genre.

When I first visited New York things were a bit more traditional, but I think today's younger generation of jazz musicians is more open to new music, especially modern classical and world music. Even though there are a lot of people who like the traditional aspects of jazz, I think that there are enough people out there who really enjoy the newness of the music, the challenge of listening to innovative composers and performers that the music will keep moving forward into new and exciting territory.

AAJ: Even though your music is harmonically and melodically "out," there is always a strong rhythmic component to it that helps tie everything together. How important is rhythm to you as an avant-garde composer and performer?

TS: I think it's the most important thing. Everything I play and everything I write has some sort of rhythmic thought behind it. I've always been attracted to composers that use rhythm as a strong function of their writing, whether it's jazz, or classical, or any genre. Even though we are experimenting with the harmony and melody, my music seems to always have a pulse, or implied pulse, to it. When I'm writing, I think about rhythm as being just as important as my choice of instruments, form or timber. They're all related, but rhythm seems to stand out to me for some reason as being an important aspect in my compositional approach.

AAJ: You also play a rather unique instrument, the seven-string fretless guitar. How did you first become interested in that instrument and decide to use it in your performances?

TS: I started playing it back in '99, when I was studying chromatic music such as ragas. I was playing with an Indian violin player and the embellishments, ornaments and emotional context of the music we were playing inspired me to take the frets off of my guitar, off my regular six string. After a while it became a big part of my playing, so I had the double-neck six, fretted, and seven string fretless guitar made, which has now become my main instrument.

I was commissioned to write a piece for cello a few years back and I really fell in love with the sound and timbre of that instrument. After finishing the piece I decided to experiment with different tunings on the guitar, and now I have it set up as basically a cello with extra strings. Not only does that give me extra harmonic choices, different sound structures, but it enables me to express the emotional content of my music in a different way.

The instrument is very personal to me and I can't replace it, which is also a bit of a challenge because it's so unique I can't really replace it. It's a bit of a challenge to play, because of feedback that occurs sometimes and having to switch between each neck, but I really love playing it. To me, it's the instrument that allows me to properly express the sounds that I hear in my head in a performance situation.

Selected Discography

Timuçin Şahin, Bafa (Between the Lines, 2009)

Timuçin Şahin Trio, Window for My Breath (Kalan Muzik, 2005)

Timuçin Şahin, Slick Road (Self Produced, 2003)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Sahin Kocan

Page 2: Cem Turer

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