Each TouMilou production aims at a unity between music, artwork and narrative. Within the space defined by genre, material, skills and time, an album can be taken anywhere, and having a theme helps focusing and maintaining coherency. For Pîrî Reis it was exploration and discovery, for Európe the still ongoing political leadership crisis, and for Erato inspiration and love. The theme will have guided repertoire choices and interpretation, is reflected in the album art, and recurs in the liner notes.
To serve their pupose on a concept album, the texts that acccompany my own releases are stories and essays rather than technical notes. Similarly, I discuss Čalgija’s music not only in terms of provenance and tradition, as their musical director Wouter Swets did, but also as a typically Dutch cultural expression of the 1960s to 1980s.
While music is more than able to speak for itself, there are people behind it, who have feelings, ideas and intentions, and who are influenced by culture, zeitgeist and each other. It is always good to know who is speaking to you.
Michiel van der Meulen
Bunnik, February 2023
- Erato (2019–2023) – Production of album with original compositions
- Music from the Balkans and Anatolia #1 and #2 (2022) – Online publication of the liner notes of Čalgija’s vintage albums
- Üçayak (2020–2021) – Digitisation of unreleased recordings by Čalgija, research, album production
- Oats in the Water (2020) – Recording of single, video production
- Unforgotten (2019–2020) – Digitisation of unreleased recordings by Čalgija, research, album production
- Microtonal tambura (2019) – Modifying a Macedonian tambura for modal accompaniment
- Európe (2018–2019) – Production of album with original compositions
- Mitos Orchestra (2017) – Contributing two compositions to a program of contemporary modal music
- Vintage Recordings (1962–1964) (2017) – Digitisation of unreleased recordings by Čalgija, research, album production
- Pîrî Reis (2016–2017) – Production of album with original compositions
- Balkanika (2010 to date) – Digitisation and online publication of paper archive of music from the Balkans and Anatolia
Project Rumelia (2022–2023)
On my previous two albums I included one existing piece to honour the sources of my inspiration: ‘Dali znaeš pomniš li’ on Európe and ‘Blackcap’ on Erato. At that pace, it will take more albums than I expect to be making to produce an appropriately sized homage. My next work will therefore be different; it will consist of arrangements and adaptations of my most beloved folk melodies from all over the Balkans, along with my own compositions. Coherency will be achieved by performance. The material will played by, and where necessary arranged for, a modal ensemble. This entails, amongst other things, stripping the pieces from chord accompaniments: a litmus test that only the strongest melodies ‘survive’.
From a historic-geographical perspective there is only one appropriate name for this project that I can think of: Rumelia. While the combination of that name and the overall approach may come across as rather cerebral and possibly revisionist, that is not my intention. I am not trying to ‘restore’ pieces to pristine versions from some theoretical modal past. I will merely be feeding beautiful melodies to the Kairos Collective, and especially ‘Blackcap’ tells you that it should work very well. The first stage is to select material and produce a book of scores.
In search of a Laterna
A laterna (λατέρνα) is a small barrel piano that was once hugely popular in Greece. It could be considered the Greek equivalent of the Dutch street organ that to me, when I first heard one, presented two major advantages: the type of music it produces, and the fact that it is a stringed instrument that doesn’t hurt your ears. Once during a modal composition seminar I committed a mortal sin by secretly writing a piano piece entitled ‘Chasapiko Burlesque’. It is cheerful and nostalgic at the same time, it is full of clichés but somehow nice. I never knew what to do with it, but a squeaky midi version + melody recently made me think of a laterna. Two weeks ago I sent the piece to Manolis Kanakakis, with whom I was recording, and who is not only an exceptional kanun player but also an excellent pianist. The next day he got back to me saying he liked it but considered it laterna music rather than piano music. Without knowing we had both been spending night time searching for options to get the piece played on a laterna. This however is not a trivial thing. Access to the instrument set apart: ‘programming’ a street organ requires you to punch a hole per note in paper, and for a laterna you must hammer as many nails in a large wooden cylinder. So what I am thinking of is to create a laterna VST instrument and make a single. First contacts have been established.
Project TTKM (2016 to date)
In this project, we produce the second edition of a text book in Dutch language on Turkish art music. Check the book page here.