in Prose": Betty Ween Music Project
An Interview with Gulus GULCUGIL
by Raife POLAT
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.
We knew Betty Ween in Roxy Music
Contest. Then it disappeared or stopped the activities.
Now it's getting restructured...
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.
not to withdraw from the contest....
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.
you say it turned out to be, do you mean in the musical
sense or only as a name?
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.
him to become our producer and he accepted.
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?
Well, in fact we intend to publish it in a foreign country.
Because in Turkey there are not much listeners of that
I don't agree. Most people got used to this kind of
music. But the producers are not interested.
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.
think there will be some other musicians to contribute
except from the permanent staff.
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
there a deadline to complete the album?
The infrastructure will be completed until February.
I think the album itself will be ready in May.
We hope so. But everything is subject to change in Turkey.
Let's hope that it would be ready.
I havenít yet used lots of things I collected.
Everything changes too fast.
suppose that each of you also have individual studies.
Could we have a word about them?
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.
that mean there is no aim for an album with your acoustic
Not just now. It would serve to develop my capabilities.
what do you say?
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.
talk a little bit about the concept; about ìTales
in Proseî. Why do you prefer working in the framework
of a concept?
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.
you become a storyteller then?
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. .
word is yours...
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.
ABOUT: "Tales in Prose"
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.
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
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.
by Emel Uresin.
Photography by Sahan Nuhoglu