Nirvana Project: A Classic-Rock Mashup In An Abandoned Crematorium

AyseDeniz Gokcin (c) cortesy of Erik Odelberg
AyseDeniz Gokcin (c) cortesy of Erik Odelberg
Photo of Dolores Rauter
13 January 2017

Don’t think that classical pianists can be rock stars? Think again. The outstanding, explosive and inspirational young artist AyseDeniz Gokcin just might change your mind. On June 30, the Turkish pianist gave a concert at the silent green Kulturquartier in Berlin, to promote her newest album – Nirvana Project.

We are sitting in the concert hall – an old abandoned crematorium – waiting for AyseDeniz to enter the stage. There is an excitement in the air about which direction this concert will take. It is promoted as a crossover between classical music and grunge, leaving much room for speculations. Classical music can be so restricted by rules, so calculated and perfectionist. Nirvana’s grunge is the complete opposite; it’s all about pushing borders, and breaking the rules. Will AyseDeniz manage to put it into a classical frame without taming it? Without suffocating it?

We don’t have to wait long for the answer. The audience breaks into applause as AyseDeniz enters the stage. She takes her place by the piano, and as she starts playing her first piece – a dark, elegant and seductive interpretation of Nirvana’s Something in the way – we are thrown into a musical world which we’ve never visited before.

Throughout the concert, AyseDeniz takes us through a wide range of emotions. She picks from all sorts of musical genres – pop, rock, jazz, blues – breaks them up into their basic elements and then fuses them with everything from Gregorian chant to Chopin, Prokofiev and Beethoven. She puts things together with such clarity, like an alchemist turning raw material into gold. The result is groovy, agitating, irritating and genius.

AyseDeniz Gokcin in concert | Courtesy of Erik Odelberg

AyseDeniz uses subtle prerecorded sounds and beats to cradle us into different dark atmospheres. At times her compositions are filled with so much seriousness and pain that it makes your skin crawl. But, we never sink too deep. In her arrangements, there is always something new waiting around the corner, always some shed of light to balance it up.

This woman really knows how to take advantage of her classical schooling and to integrate all the drama, all the twists and turns of classical composing to make her interpretations unexpected and exciting. She’s performing with a playfulness that seems to permeate her entire being. She uses the piano in all possible ways – playing the clavier, plucking and muting the strings, hammering the lid – to channel her explosive ideas through the instrument. And as she stomps rhythms against the floor, her glittery sneakers sparkle in the spotlights. There’s no way to categorize AyseDeniz. She’s a truly original artist, thriving on the inspiration she gets from whatever comes by.

As the concert ends the audience is ecstatic. They reward her with a thunderous applause that puts a warm and honest smile on her face. Nevertheless, it appears as if she can’t wait to get back to her piano and play. That she can’t wait to find new ways of expressing herself.

Well, surely she will. And we will definitely hear more of her in the future.

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