Herbert Meets: Büşra Kayıkçı

Büşra Kayıkçı by nebulozo 

Büşra Kayıkçı is an Istanbul-based composer, pianist and interior architect that has created a gentle world of sounds which have inspired many, making her a household name in the neoclassical world. I was fascinated to understand more about Büşra, how she came to composition and how the many disciplines she practiced were able to live together in her everyday life. When we spoke, I came to realize that these many expressions were all one natural expression of who she was and their easy synthesis was a result of Büşra’s authenticity and knowledge of self. 

Listen to her music here 

What was your journey into classical music?
My parents sent me to a weekend art school when I was 9 and I remember really wanting to learn musical skills, but I wasn’t aware of classical music just yet. Later I discovered the music of Chopin and I remember feeling  captivated by it. During that time, I was also taking ballet classes and we used to warm up with Tchaikovsky every day and I remember that music used to also fill my heart with inspiring images.
Was classical music played at home?
No, and to be honest and my parents are not a big fan of the genre. Music at home was a cultural mixture. Each of my parents come from very different backgrounds – my mother was born in south-east- she has Kurdish/Arabic roots and my father is from the western side. We are a small representation of Turkey’s culture mosaic! But we never interfered with each other on music or any other kind of taste actually. Above everything, I believe they wanted to protect me from this plastic world around us and focus me on works which had soul.
How do you think interior architecture opened up compositional expression for you?
Design made a huge influence on both my musical and artistic expression because until I studied architecture, I had only worked with things that existed and I had never built something myself from scratch. Studying architecture planted the idea of designing or saying new things. Later, after graduating, I discovered Nils Frahm’s and John Cage’s approaches to acoustic piano (prepared piano). Then, the idea of creating my own material and records matched with my architectural background and came together in my mind very naturally. This was actually the re-link back to music after many years.
Do you feel that there is a link between designing and composition? 

Yes of course. The process of composing is based upon the same principles with designing such as, harmony, repetition, rhythm, unity, and many others. When you build a space, you do it with abstract melodical walls through those principles. Imagine yourself listening to music – don’t you travel to a different place with your soul even though your body stays still?  

Büşra Kayıkçı self portrait 

What is your composition process?

Usually I come up with something after long improvisation sessions. I record each piece and save them on my computer. Weeks later, I will go back to them because then the songs have had time to settle and develop in my mind. Other times, which is rarer for me, a melody comes to me suddenly. This always happens after being deeply affected by a book, movie, or a painting.

When you designed your studio, were there specific design decisions you made to make it a fertile environment for your work?

My studio is in one of the most beautiful historical districts of Istanbul, next to the bosphorus called Kuzguncuk. One wall is fully covered with glass and you can watch the full scenery from every corner, so it is already inspiring as it is. And since it is just a one-room studio I wanted to limit the colour options to keep it calm- I call it my grey box (laughs). Even the ceiling is painted grey and then for colour bursts, I hang my abstract watercolour illustrations on the walls.

What do you want your audience to feel when they listen to your music? 
I make the music I want to listen to. I want to keep things simple in all of my routines and I bring the same approach to music. I want my music to be in a harmony with the plainness of everyday life. People say they feel both melancholy and hope in my music. These are exactly the feelings that I am living through.
Did you find any track particularly difficult to release? 
I  think, Doğum/Birth, which was my first release was the hardest to share. Above all, I was nervous about releasing my own material – I was very lonely on this journey at the beginning. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about recordings or mastering and I barely knew people from the music industry since my professional life consisted of only architects. This scared me a lot  but thankfully everything went well in the end. I feel so grateful about how the audience embraced my works with generosity.

Büşra Kayıkçı by nebulozo 

How much of your identity is tied to being an artist?

The interest and passion I have for the arts is a game I have brought from my childhood (pauses) this probably happens naturally when you start from an early age. I was a very calm only-child who used to play quietly in my own private world and in time I think I replaced my toys with music, piano, pens, brushes, books… I never separate arts from my daily life or myself because we grew up together. This is simply what I do to breathe and to live.

What criticism you have faced as artist? 

I have received harsh judgements since the very beginning, sometimes from the people from classical world targeting my choice of style (minimalism), my melodies for their simple nature and sometimes I have received opposition from religious opinions. But in both cases, it is not my focus, I don’t let these kinds of judgements to take me down or stop me from producing every day. What I do is tied to my intuition, it comes from my soul, it is unstoppable.

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by so many composers, architects, painters, but what deeply inspires me is watching a person working with passion and sincerity, you can see them everywhere no matter what the field is. It has a mirror effect on me, whenever I experience this in someone’s practice or output,  I get that same kind of energy and roll up my sleeves.

Can you share a career highlight?  

It was last November when I released my first album Eskizler. But so many things have happened in this very short time that make me feel very blessed. Another highlight was a collaboration I did with New York Theatre Ballet. They used my piece Doğum/Birth for a modern dance project. The choreography was inspired by the story of how the piece was written and Gia Kourlas from The New York Times wrote about it. It was such an honour


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