With their debut release, entitled The Fluid Score, Çeşni Trio (pronounced Chesh-ni) aims to take listeners on a transportive musical journey through various Eastern modal traditions. Recorded in a manner that allows the trio to fully explore all the qualities each member can provide to the music, the album’s seven tracks highlight the trio’s instrumental capabilities as it comfortably navigates odd-metered landscapes and introspective textural works. Five tracks are original pieces written by members of the trio, and two are arrangements and developments of folk songs from central Anatolia. The Fluid Score invites listeners to wander with the Trio and explore all the diverse flavors on offer in contemporary modal music.
1. Anatolian Giraffe - Tev Stevig
This tune first appeared on the Klezwoods album, Toy Monkey (2018), but it takes on a very different character here. Gone are the horns and electric guitar of the aforementioned 10-piece klezmer and balkan group, replaced here by plucked and bowed strings with gentle percussion. The title refers to the long-necked saz or bağlama, an ever present instrument in Anatolian folk music, as well as the gentle loping nature of the tune’s rhythm.
2. Unexpected Zeybek - Tev Stevig
A zeybek is a somewhat slow but muscular dance in 9/4 rhythm from Greece and Anatolia. Stevig set out to write a zeybek for the Trio, but instead arrived at this tune, which is in 11/4 time and not a zeybek at all! That said, it still has the feeling of a zeybek and so the name stuck.
3. Hüzzam Saz Semaisi - Michael K. Harrist
An introspective piece in makam Hüzzam in a typical form present in Ottoman art music. The Trio chooses to favor the fretless guitar as the accompanying instrument here, a surprising choice given the other available instruments. This changes the flavor of the piece, making it sound much more modern.
4. Hocanın Sözleri (The Teacher's Words) - Michael K. Harrist
The only track on the record with lyrics, this song is in makam Dilkeşide.
Neye yarar sesler, iş dans etmek olmayınca, bilir misiniz?
Neye yarar sesler, ya şahın kulağını okşamak olmayınca?
Ne çıkar ki, içli sesiniz duygulandırdı beni.
Sizi acınız için alıyorum yanıma.
Müzik hep çevrenizde olur ve onunla yaşar gidersiniz
Müzik hep çevrenizde olur ama müzisyen olamazsınız.
Yüreğiniz var mı hissetmeye.
Sanatınız için değil, sizi acınız için alıyorum yanıma.
What benefit is sound when you are not dancing with it, do you know?
What benefit is sound when not caressing the king's ear?
Your soulful voice touched me.
I am taking you to my side for your pain.
Music is always around and with it you live.
Music is always around, but you cannot be a musician.
Do you have a heart, are you courageous enough to feel?
It is not for your art, I am taking you to my side for your pain.
Lyrics based off of Orçun Türkay's translation of "Tous les Matins du Monde" by Pascale Quignard and adapted for song by Michael K. Harrist with the help of Volkan Efe.
5. The Fluid Score - Tev Stevig (after Arif Sağ and Erdal Erzincan)
This song was made famous by the great bağlama player, Arif Sağ. Stevig became familiar with the tune through a seminal set of books written by Sağ and Erzincan for the formal study of bağlama. Here the arrangement utilizes fretless guitar and alterna-telli (a steel string guitar with additional frets, retuned to emulate the sound of the altı telli, also know as Oğur sazı) as the lead instruments, providing very different textures and harmonic content from the original.
6. Pençeli Karşılama - Tev Stevig (after Arif Sağ and Erdal Erzincan)
Karşılama is an energetic Thracian folk dance in 9/8 and Pençeli means literally “with claw.” This tune was also adapted from Sağ and Erzincan’s books for bağlama, but this time the tune is reinterpreted for clawhammer style fretless guitar. In 2013, Stevig released a solo album entitled Jeni Jol: Music of the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey consisting entirely of arrangements for clawhammer style guitar. Clawhammer (also known as frailing) is a uniquely American style, typically associated with old time American folk music performed on banjo, but it is also remarkably adaptable to other folk styles, as this track shows.
7. Iyi Geceler, Aydede (Good Night, Moon) - Tev Stevig
The album closes with a beautiful lullaby for a child just before bedtime, featuring the overlapping musings of Harrist on yayli tanbur and Stevig on fretless guitar.