Music is the soundtrack of our lives. It moves us, stirs our imagination, and exists as a universal language in a space where words alone often fail. This is true of music all over the world, and on the evening of October 8, the atmosphere in Lady Eaton College was filled with the memories and soul-touching sounds of Istanbul.
The event presented itself as just one in a series of concerts being planned to celebrate Lady Eaton College’s 45th birthday. Although Trent University does not have an official music program, the building has hosted many great musical acts over the years.
As Michael Eamon, the principal of LEC said, “Our College is a place where students on campus come together to practice and appreciate music.”
Andrew Downing is the artistic mastermind behind many of the original pieces that were played throughout the night. Downing is an award-winning double bass player, cellist, composer, and educator based in Toronto.
In the spring of 2013, during the time of the “Gezi Park” protests and ensuing violence, Downing was in Istanbul studying centuries-old Ottoman/Turkish ‘Makam’ music, and collaborating with fellow oud-playing musician, Güç Başar Gülle. Downing was greatly moved by his experience of living in a time of unease, and witnessing protests and police intervention in the city streets of Istanbul.
“It was a very emotional time,” he told the audience.
It is this personal history that informs much of his recent work in Anahtar, and as a result, the series of compositions played each came with a unique story. Standing in front of the red Turkish flag, Downing spoke with the familiarity of memory as he addressed the eager crowd and shared his fondness for a particular market located in Istanbul.
As the low, silky sounds spiced by the pluck of strings and hot pulse of the drum ebbed throughout the room, audience members were transported to a place of energetic hustle and lively exchange. Many listeners in the room closed their eyes, totally absorbed by the sounds.
In contrast, the third piece played was not based on a location, but rather an event. Downing described one local man who, as a form of non-aggressive protest, positioned himself before a Turkish flag and resolved to stare at it all day long.
“The police were confused, unsure of what he was trying to do,” Downing recalled. “So they came over and searched him. But they didn’t find anything on his person except a sandwich, and eventually left the man alone. People got wind of this and joined him to show support, be in solidarity, and really, I think just to be together.”
The tempo of this composition was much faster, louder, and chaotic, but structured and demanding of our attention. It portrayed the protester perfectly, and it was in this piece that Downing’s skillful ear as a composer shone through the strongest.
Also present that evening were musicians Peter Lutek on the clarinet, and Debashis Sinha supplying the percussion. Lutek’s sweet, high tunes added a harmonious unity to the blend of instruments, while Sinha’s hands never stopped their powerful rise and fall pattern of keeping beat. The four men always remained in faultless sync with one another, and you could tell by the way they swayed to the songs that both were passionate about their musical contributions.
In the future, the group is scheduled to play selections from Anahtar in Toronto, Hamilton, and Waterloo.