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Winter 2002: 8th issue - **2nd Anniversary**

"Tales in Prose": Betty Ween Music Project
An Interview with Gulus GULCUGIL

by Raife POLAT

There are a number of young people producing serious music in Turkey. We know their existence either through some alternative song contests or "usually- through poorly registered demos. But there are times that we cannot believe what we hear.  Betty Ween is one of those much more creative, much more pleasant works. Gülüs Gülcügil is the nucleus of this project, which is not at all brand new and is open to all other forms. Betty Ween was developed over electronic structures, improved with the contribution of several musicians and now, for the first time, focused on a concrete aim; it is on its way towards recording an album with the inclusion of Aykut Sahlanan into the nucleus. And here is a moment of break.

Gulus Gulcugil

We knew Betty Ween in Roxy Music Contest. Then it disappeared or stopped the activities. Now it's getting restructured...

GULUS: Betty Ween existed long before the Roxy contest. In the beginning it was a purely Belgian group, considering that I am of Belgian nationality too. We were supposed to participate in Roxy, but somehow my musical partner couldn't come to Turkey at that particular date. I had to form a new group in a hurry and participated in the contest after an incredibly hectic preparation period of six days.

Just not to withdraw from the contest....

Not to withdraw from the contest and to live the experience and also to try Betty Ween in Turkey. As a matter of fact, everything went on well in spite of difficulties. For me it is a wonderful memory. But of course, this was not a permanent group of Betty Ween. When I came back to Turkey I formed another group and planned to participate in H2000. Unfortunately it didnít work. Then fantastically I have met with Aykut. Our joint project should not necessarily be Betty Ween. But somehow it turned out to be. Now it is an obvious project and its way is clear.

When you say it turned out to be, do you mean in the musical sense or only as a name?

GULUS: It turned out to be Betty Ween as a project. Let me explain: Betty Ween has a story. It is a personality that comes and goes in between two different worlds. And no matter what, if the music and lyrics are on line with this personality, then it ñunavoidably- becomes Betty Ween.

Aykut, let's talk about you. I know Gülüs  a little, but I donít have any idea about you. What is the meaning of Betty Ween from your point of view?

AYKUT: I am doing the arrangements and composition. We have three different ways of working: either I do the composition over Gülüsís lyrics trying to catch up her mood, or Gülüs writes lyrics over my composition, filling in the gaps, or else we come together and create something in common where I work as an engineer.



There is an electronic and an acoustic Betty Ween. What kind of a sound you try to find out in this electronic Betty Ween?

AYKUT: I have studied classical piano for a long time. Later on I have completely changed direction and started to work on electronic music. When I say electronic, I mean the style, which is called electro-acoustic. I have been working on this since two years. There is a ìconcreteî style in Betty Ween; electro-acoustic is a French school. What Iím trying to do is to bring together a more harmonious style and techno through this concrete sound. The electronic part is a result of synthesizers.

You are working in ITU (Istanbul Technical University). If I'm not mistaken, you have a co-operation with Pieter Snapper who does the co-production. How did you know him and how do you work together?

AYKUT: I am doing my master thesis at the Engineering Section of the ITU and attending to composition lessons. Pieter Snapper is my professor of composition. We know each other since two years. After having met with Gülüs, I mentioned to him about our efforts and he listened two compositions I had made. He liked them. Then we thought on using the studios of ITU. I completely believe in his quality of music and have confidence in his views. I proposed him to become our producer and he accepted.

Let's say that the albumís done. What will you do? Will you start knocking all the doors as the unchangeable fate of all musicians of this kind in Turkey?

AYKUT: Well, in fact we intend to publish it in a foreign country. Because in Turkey there are not much listeners of that kind.

No, I don't agree. Most people got used to this kind of music. But the producers are not interested.

AYKUT: Yes, even the foreign companies are producing songs close to Turkish music. Therefore we will try some contacts out of Turkey. If they are not positive, then weíll try our chance here.

I think there will be some other musicians to contribute except from the permanent staff.

GULUS: We have some visiting musicians. There might be one or two surprising names. We havenít asked them yet. Nothing is impossible. There will be a quartet of strings. We might also consider including some foreign musicians.

Is there a deadline to complete the album?

AYKUT: The infrastructure will be completed until February. I think the album itself will be ready in May.

GULUS: We hope so. But everything is subject to change in Turkey. Let's hope that it would be ready.

AYKUT: I havenít yet used lots of things I collected. Everything changes too fast.

I suppose that each of you also have individual studies. Could we have a word about them?

GULUS: Betty Ween is a concept capable of improving in a larger understanding. For this reason I am working on another project. This acoustic project will be materialized through a concert, most probably in February. In any case, its basic aim is to give a concert; there will be some covers in the repertory. Its staff is exactly how I wanted; it has cellist and a tabla player.

Does that mean there is no aim for an album with your acoustic band?

GULUS: Not just now. It would serve to develop my capabilities.

Aykut, what do you say?

AYKUT: So far I usually worked on my own. I made synthesizer programs and composed at the same time. I participated in a few music contests. Iíve got a few awards in a contest called Hal#305;c#305; MIDI Contest. I have been producing the advertisement jingles since two years. I am doing electro-acoustic music in the academic sense.

Let's talk a little bit about the concept; about ìTales in Proseî. Why do you prefer working in the framework of a concept?

GULUS: Although musicality is extremely important for me, I always consider an album as a whole, which includes a study of lyrics, a visual study, and perhaps, hopefully, a study of a clip. I would like seeing them all as an entire body. It's not only composition of music. Betty Ween is genuinely a world in itself. In my view Betty Ween is the woman of  21st Century. It's a little split, a little schizophrenic character, an outcome of contradictions of different cultures and problems of modern society. This fact of dual personality might be observed in its sounds and lyrics. That's what Betty Ween is. And "Tales in Prose" are stories of its own accord. They came out without thinking.

Will you become a storyteller then?

GULUS: Yes.  I think that when people will listen to those stories, they will have difficulties in guessing the age of Betty Ween. Is she a child or is she a woman? It's hard to say. A personality who has interesting views, who is able to go from extreme sufferings to greatest joys of a child. .

Last word is yours...

AYKUT: My main target for the sound of "Tales in Prose" is to make it original. Secondly I wish to be able to bring together everything I learned so far. How successful it will be?  We'll see when it will be ready. Nothing should be overdone. If there is drum-n-bass, it should be in the exact place. There should be no exaggeration. And it will be a beautiful study.

MORE ABOUT: "Tales in Prose"

"Tales in Prose" is the name of an album being fully realized by two young Turkish musicians, Aykut Sahlanan and Gulus Gulcugil. It would be somewhat defective to present their project as a simple bunch of songs, as the musical work is only a part (okay, a big part) of a whole artwork including the graphic design and all the literary stuff, all-embracing the world of an imaginary character called Betty Ween.

Betty Ween's most evident characteristic is her being living in two different worlds at the same time. This may remind you of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland, but Betty Ween is a grown-up person. She has to struggle with fairies and tough realities at the same time.

The creation of a persona to serve a story may also make you think of other projects like David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, but Betty Ween is a stage name that Gülüs intends to use in every work she's involved in.

When it comes to the multi-dimentional side of the work, the project can be compared to Pink Floyd's The Wall, Nick Cave's Murder Ballads or the works of Laurie Anderson. Now, musically talking, listening to the excerpt on their web site (www.members.tripod.com/bettyween), their sound is certainly closer to the latter. Gulus's voice is smooth and playful. To accompany her voice, Aykut Sahlanan explains that he mostly used Debussy-like harmonies that he combined with Philip Glass' and Steve Reich's concepts of rhythm, staying as simple as possible and away from usual musical cliches.


Translation by Emel Uresin.
Photography by Sahan Nuhoglu

Raife POLAT's "ANTIPOPULER" web site: www.antipopuler.com
This issue dedicated to such distinguished poet & composer as (alphabetical order):
Nazim HIKMET & Ilhan MIMAROGLU

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