Natalia Mann (harp)
Harpist Natalia Mann makes her debut on Rattle with her first recording under her name. An ex-pat Wellingtonian, she now lives and performs in Turkey with percussion-maestro, Izzet Kizil. This beautifully recorded and produced album features some of the finest contemporary Turkish musicians - an organic, richly textured, highly musical, deeply satisfying work.
Click here to visit Natalia's website
Alexandra Ivanoff on Natalia Mann's pasif.ist
Harpist/composer Natalia Mann’s exquisitely atmospheric compositions dwell in the subconscious’ netherworld. They could underscore paintings or photographs that conjure a perfumed dream where maybe only some things are familiar, but highly redolent of the unfamiliar. In general, the feeling of much of the music is soft and ambient, creating a flowing stream to jump in with eyes closed and heart open.
Indeed, Mann says: “It is my desire that people would experience pleasure when they listen to this album. That they could be taken away from the drudgery of ordinary life for a moment.” However, it is not a high-powered energetic impetus for dancing away your doldrums; on the contrary, it blissfully lifts you like a feather to float away from it all.
This album uses Turkish instruments along with Western instruments, but the former’s “Turkishness” is not apparent in traditional ways because they are being completely subsumed into another kind of texture. Using a pure approach to his sound, Sercan Halili’s relatively noninflected contributions on the kemençe in Akşam Duası don’t have any ethnic identity, per se; they are simply musical threads in the larger musical carpet, but they do add a color that can’t be found elsewhere.
However, these pieces are environmental, according to Mann, in that they were written in and under the influence of Istanbul. Listening to them, even without any prior knowledge, one can instantly feel a part of the hazy, mysterious, and sensual ambiance of Turkey, even if it’s completely drawn from one’s imagination of what Turkey might be like.
Gül Çayı (Rose Tea) is an intensely soulful piece, made so particularly by Halili’s sweet sound on the kemençe, a Turkish bowed string instrument that has its origins in Central Asia. It’s almost as if he’s absent-mindedly singing a plaintive song full of hüzün, the Turkish word for melancholy. Mann’s harp and Riki Gooch and Izzet Kızıl’s delicate percussion provide the perfect cradle for this baby.
Butterfly Effect has a chamber music feel with the bowed bass’ predominant melody accompanied by harp arpeggios and gently pulsating drums. Green Stones’ mystical setting of the Celtic harp tradition mixed with Pacific and New Zealand influences and sounds of taonga pūoro, instruments created from nature’s raw materials (the timbre of greenstone, the wing bone of an albatross, the leg bone of a dog), and Kızıl’s skillful support on drums gives us one of Mann’s most haunting creations.
When Once the Birds is a harp solo which is a paean to a time when birds had forests, which by now have been cut down, effectively forcing their migration. An almost ghoulish threnody on the edge of a primal scream, made so by some ambient tappings and scrapings from percussion; nevertheless, it keeps its animus intact with a strong adherence to its tonic chord modality, but with ghostly decor.
Akşam Duası (Evening Prayer) takes us into the imperceptibly slow descent of the sun at dusk and the ezan (prayer singer from the mosque’s minarets) via a lazy drumbeat and the kemençe’s unearthly voice. Both are joined by a more regular pulse from the harp and bass and a joyously jazzy groove is ended with the bass’ unfinished improv.
Sister Sunshine is an unabashedly major mode improvisational mix featuring Halili, who is able to swing nonchalantly on his ancient instrument. Üç Adım (Three Steps) is more in the dark ambient jazz mode where spooks may be lurking around the corner. Lucien Johnson’s chimerical soprano sax, somewhat in the background, is a sinewy siren, while his alto sax makes little side comments as Mann’s harp improvisations poke some innocent fun. But bassist Dine Doneff’s tremelo gets the last word like a scratchy cough in the dark.
This first full-length effort from Natalia Mann, as composer and leader, and her like-minded colleagues blends more than the East and West, it is a global musical collage of who she is. Her music is gently sexy, powerfully descriptive, abstract but not obtuse, and sings clearly from her soul.
Alexandra Ivanoff is a music journalist who contributes to Time Out Istanbul, Today’s Zaman newspaper, Andante and Jazz magazines, and MusicalAmerica.com.
RAT-D029 (November, 2011)
01. Gül Çayı (4:52)
Mixed by Jean-Pierre Smadja, with assistance
Engineered by Günseli Işık Yılmaz & Ergin
Özler at Deney Evi Studio in Istanbul, and Oğuz at Serhat Studio, Istanbul
Additional recording by Bob Bickerton (Nelson), Riki Gooch (Wellington), Deniz Güngör (Istanbul)
NAOMI JEAN O’SULLIVAN
NATALIA MANN BIO
Natalia Mann was born in Wellington, New Zealand. She studied harp and piano from the age of five, and began playing professionally as an ensemble & orchestral harpist in her late teens, specialising as a soloist of contemporary classical repertoire. She spent ten years in Australia immersed in Melbourne's vibrant multicultural music scene, where she explored world folk musics, roots, pop and experimenta, and co-founded various groups including the Samoan trio Sunga, the Brown Roots Pacific Arts Collective, the avant-garde improvisation ensemble Shima, and the Turkish fusion group Unified Gecko/Gece. Natalia completed her BMus in Repertoire Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne (2002), where she later taught improvisation. She has since performed extensively through Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Western Europe and Turkey.
In 2005, she moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where she was invited to play alongside master Turkish musicians, including her husband, virtuoso percussionist Izzet Kizil, and kanun master and composer Goksel Baktagir. Within this context, she began to write music of her own. She formed the improvisatory ensemble PasifIst to perform her original music, which was created in response to the Istanbul environment. The group was selected to represent contemporary Turkish music at the Traumzeit Music Festival in Duisburg, Germany 2009, where they received a standing ovation.
For the past year, she has been the principal harpist for the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed with the Kosovo Symphony and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. Active as a conceptual artist, she was engaged as a composer/performer for a new work by choreographer Neil Ieremia and Black Grace Dance Company, collaborated on a new recording with sound artists Erdem Helvacioglu and Ros Bandt, contributed to new albums by Yoko Ono and Bic Runga, and worked with a number of underground artists, film and documentary makers.