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Tarkovsky Quartet:
Last Stop Before Silence

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Tarkovsky Quartet: Last Stop Before Silence

15.11.2018

Text: Artemis Günebakanlı 

The 15 year-old project of French pianist François Couturier, Tarkovsky Quartet echoes the master director’s work not only with its name but also with the music’s character. The band gave their first concert in Istanbul on the 22nd of October. We met with F. Couturier and Anja Lechner before the show, talking about the influence of Tarkovsky on their music, the importance of silence and our need to slow down.

What makes Tarkovsky’s work so unique that you named the band after him?

F. Couturier: It’s a long story. I created Tarkovsky Quartet 15 years ago. Manfred Eicher from the fantastic label ECM proposed to do my own project. At the beginning it was my project and I am a fan of Andrei Tarkovky’s cinema, I think he’s the greatest filmmaker.

Is Tarkovsky’s cinema a constant source of inspiration for you? 

F. C: In the beginning, Tarkovsky’s cinema was very important for me and for us. He himself had said that a film did not need any music. I didn’t want to make an illustrative music, with the film in front of my eyes. Now we are still named Tarkovsky Quartet but someone who isn’t familiar with Tarkovsky’s cinema can also enjoy this music.

A. Lechner: I know all the films of Tarkovsky and I really love them. I love to see them again and again. For me they change, like listening to music. Usually when you know the film, when you know the story, after the third or fourth time it gets boring but not with Tarkovsky. In the previous two programs we had the son of Tarkovsky with us. He used images from the films of his father. He would project the films in very slow motion, together with our music. He would follow the music and we were watching the images. In this case, I felt different. There is a connection but music is always music and we don’t necessarily need the movies.

There’s so much silence in Tarkovsky’s cinema. What do you think about the place of silence in music?

F.C. It’s a very important question. Our music is not a danceable music, it’s sometimes very slow and sometimes very violent. In Tarkovsky’s cinema too, there are very passionate and dense moments. The definition of ECM is “the most beautiful sound next to silence”. The thing is, we didn’t work while seeing Tarkovsky’s films but his son and the people who love cinema thought that our music reflected his work. This shows that he is somehow present in our music.

Tarkovsky says; “A man writes because he is tormented, he needs to prove the world that he’s worth something”. Do you think there’s a similar motivation behind making music?

A. L: Yes, because we learn this from early childhood. This is the sad part of making music I would say. It’s a kind of work where it’s not important if somebody likes you or not. It’s more about that you have to play music. You need it for yourself. It should be a spiritual thing, a sacred work. But it’s a lifetime of work to get there.

In a world that’s constantly speeding up, you are making a music that’s reflecting Tarkovsky’s desire of slowing down the time. Do you ever feel out of time in your personal lives or the need to slow down?

A. L: Music helps me to slow down. Besides music, it’s really difficult to slow down. I live in the city for instance, Tarkovsky lived in the countryside. I think you need to be in the nature to slow down.

F. C: I live in Paris and our saxophonist Jean-Marc lives in the country. He has two donkeys. In the country he has more activities than I have in the city.

If you could slow down a specific moment and stay in it for a long time, what would it be?

A. L: Travelling to new places, when you like a place or something in the place hits you (and I knew it would happen in Istanbul because it’s my first time here), I would love to have that moment longer. To see everything with innocent eyes and find my own image of a city or a country.

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