Composing music for emotional perception:
Murat Evgin

Composing music for emotional perception: Murat Evgin


Creating music for series and films for a long time, Murat Eving will share his experiences starting with “Sahra” series and extending to NETFLIX America at his talk, Music and Visuality,   on 28 March at Akbank Sanat. Before the session, Evgin answered some of our questions.

Interview: Cem Kayıran
Translation: Yetkin Nural

Before you start working for a series or a film, what sort of connections are you trying to build with the scenario? What would be some of the must-have details for you to create sound for a visual structure?

With series, when I am asked to make music, the scenario is usually also being written at the same time. So we start with briefs. I like to listen to the story and the characters from the director, that is how I come up with musical ideas. Later on, as the scenario arrives,  I get the opportunity to dive into the story more. I think one thing that I can count as a “must” is to have the director talk to me about the world he/she wants to build, not in musical terms, but as two friends talking. In the end, a film score generally serves to the world and the story that the director wants to convey. I need to understand the director very clearly so I can build on what he/she is creating.

Before the television series, “Sahra”, have you ever took part in a project that has visual and audio sides?

Before “ Sahra”, I had done some music for television game shows. I also received cinema education in both Marmara and New York Universities. But of course, it is very different to learn about something and to actually do it. When I was doing music for “Sahra”, I was in my 20’s, and just beginning to work in this field. I remember being very nervous because unlike America, in Turkey this job is a “one man show” because of budget limitations.  You compose the music, do the orchestration, sometimes play the instrument, put music into notes, even do the sound editing on the footage at times. It was very challenging. But “Sahra” opened up many doors for me, helped me build a career in this field. Even though 14 years has passed since it was on television, I am very glad that it is still remembered and listened to.

How would you describe the creative process for “Sahra”’s music?

Since the series were going to take place both in Morocco and Turkey, I thought the music should reflect both countries. Also, since the series was an adaptation of American show “Revenge”, the music should have also reflect this feeling. So I did a demo for “Sahra”, and it was approved, and then I started to create music for the show. When the crew went to Morocco, they brought back some Moroccan music. I remember listening to but not liking them so much.

At the time, we were working with VHS. Every episode was delivered to me in VHS, I would then convert it to Mpeg to transfer it to my computer. The advancements of the last decade are incredible when you think about it. Later on we switched to CD-ROM format, and now all the footage is transferred online, and I make the music to transfer it back to the producers.

In my latest project for NETFLIX America, “Myths & Monsters”, we never sat down face to face with the producers in a meeting, everything was done via e-mail. In the past people needed to move to Los Angeles to take part in big projects, and now, because of technology, you can work from anywhere.

Most of your music work is for series. In countries like Turkey, series are very popular and when we look at platforms like Spotify, we see that music that has been featured in any series makes it to the top of the charts. What do you think about series as a platform to introduce and share your music?

For any music to reach to the masses, being featured in mass communication mediums. I am one of the first independent musicians in Turkey, and not having any major record company on my back ha s been very challenging. Especially when it comes to having your music videos shown in music channels or played on the radio. Media is always in the palm of several major record companies. It is like that around the world as well. Also, my music isn’t mainstream, which was a part of the problem.

Working for series and having television shows being interested in my music, helped me to introduce my music to much larger audiences. Many of my songs with videos, which we couldn’t get channels to broadcast, found a beautiful place in the stories  of series like “İlk Tek Son Aşkımsın”, “Şehit”, “Özledim”, “Sahra”, “Arka Sokaklar” etc. and became popular. What I am trying to say is, to be able to reach mass audiences, you need support. I think the saying that “if the work is good, it will find its place” is somewhat lacking. I believe if you do good work and if it gets supported, then it will find it’s place.

As a listener, can you tell us a few of the film music that have inspired you, and why?

“Love Story”, because it is one of the classics we hear all the time from our elders and because of the success of the film’s music that even surpassed the film itself. “Hababam Sınıfı” from Melih Kibar because of the different feelings it invoke when played slow and fast. And “Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım” from Cahit Berkay because he created a universal film music from Anatolian tunes. Also, a film from my childhood, I have always associated Atilla Özdermiroğlu’s music for “Muhsin Bey” with “loneliness”.

A lot of producers can come up to you and ask for a grand film music like “Love Story”. But I think every film is a unique creation and it is wrong to define the music you want for a film through another film’s music. Both melodically and as a success criteria.

If you would pick a film to recreate its soundtrack, what would be the film and your new perspective?

I would like to make music for Çağan Irmak’s “My Father and Son”. And instead of large orchestrations, I would compose for a small orchestra or even single instruments. Because of Hollywood, large orchestra music for films is a worldwide trend, in fact it is just one style.

What would be your first advice for musicians and composers from younger generations, who are interested in film music composition?

There are a lot of talented musicians in Turkey but for film and series music you have to know and be interested in cinema as well. Some of the elements of film music comes from opera. For example having themes for characters or spaces is a Wagnerian tradition. I always hear this from producers: “They did an excellent job doing our music but when it came down to matching the music to the scenes, we failed.” I think it is much better to compose music tied to scenes and details of the scenes, instead of composing music just to put on the scene.

You were a guest of Akbank Short Film Festival a couple of years ago as well. Can you tell us your insights about the festival? What should the audience expect from your talk this year?

Akbank’s consistent contribution and support of cinema, music and arts is very commendable. As part of the audience, I have learnt a lot and met talented people, from both national and international backgrounds. Akbank Short Film Festival has always been a important platform where I develop myself.

Art’s best quality is sharing and being able to find out about other artists’’ perspectives.  This is how you make progress and learn to think outside the box. This year in my talk session I will try to explore the relationship between sound and image, my experience in working for both Turkish series and NETFLIX America, as well as the business side of things. And of course, I will try to answer all the questions from the audience.

What are the upcoming projects of Murat Evgin? What kind of surprises are in store for us?

I will finish a British four-episode docudrama named “The Stuarts, A Bloody Reign”. This is the project that excites me the most so far, besides NETFLIX America. 

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