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Cem Güven - Composer


1- You graduated from the Juilliard School in New York (bachelors in music) and you studied with Prof. John Corigliano. How do you recall this time and this master?

Studying at Juilliard was a great experience for me overall. I connected with wonderful performers and the recordings I got from the performances were beneficial for my career. Juilliard’s best gift for me was definitely being a student of John Corigliano. He is a living legend and a wonderful person. He completely changed my perspective towards what I do, in a great way. He helped me to understand my own music, which is crucial for a young composer, especially for an undergraduate student.

2- Is your family musical?

My mother is a great singer for TV shows, movies. It’s different than what I do, but music is a universal language and she is highly interested in contemporary music, as I am interested in her projects.

3- You currently study at the Royal Academy of Music (Masters Program) with Dr. Rubens Askenar. How is this progressing?

I’m very happy with the masters program here. My music is being performed by both Academy ensembles and the ensemble that are very well known worldwide, such as the Riot Ensemble. Thanks to the recordings I get from the Academy, I’m well connected with ensembles and orchestras worldwide. Rubens Askenar is one of the most experimental composers I have ever met and also a wonderful teacher. His compositional ideas are so bright and fresh, it’s impossible to not be inspired by him.

4- You recently became a composer of Universal Edition of Wien. How does this honour feel like?

It’s one of the biggest achievements of my life. Universal Edition is the powerhouse of contemporary music throughout the history. I’m truly grateful that my scores are published and distribuited by them.

5- You have won a whole series of awards. Does anyone of these stand out for you?

The Alblaze Records award is probably the most meaningful one so far, since as the prize I had the chance to work with Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

6- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

Probably the workshop and the concert performance of my piece “Whispers to Screams” by the famous Ensemble Intercontemporain. I learned so much from this event series. It was so amazing to see an ensemble which is incredibly dedicated to perform contemporary works. They workshopped my piece in such a detailed way, therefore they motivated me towards what I do. Also, I acted as an opera singer in Turkey when I was 12, for the opera “The Turn of the Screw” by Benjamin Britten as the character “Miles”. It was an experience I can’t forget.

7- What inspires you?

I’m highly inspired by the idea of “Atmospheres”. My music is abstract, I always push myself to get away from the reality and test the limits of my imagination. I’m also inspired by microtonal music, which is why I try to form my own microtonal language in my works.

8- Would you consider teaching music in the future?

Definitely, that’s why I’m preparing to do a PhD or a DMA degree. Without teaching in the future, all my academic dedication would be meaningless. One of my dreams is to big a member of a composition faculty that belongs to a high level music institution, like Royal Academy of Music or Juilliard.

9- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

I have an advice specifically for composers. The subjectivity of this creative art form will never disappear. I encourage all the young composers to apply to every organization that they dream, without getting discouraged by the fact that some people will have negative opinions about their music. This is what we dedicate our life to, therefore we have to take risks and keep our dreams alive, no matter what people tell us.

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submission November 2022