Turkish Pianist AyseDeniz On Her Online Music Community

AyseDeniz on rock/classical piano, her new album “Motus”, and the importance of the arts.

To learn more about the pandemic’s effect on musicians, Jetset Times travelled via Zoom to Turkey, to interview piano prodigy, AyseDeniz Gokcin. In this abridged interview, she talks about her rock/classical piano, her new album “Motus”, and the importance of the arts. AyseDeniz recently performed online for Sofar Sounds, an international music organization whose goal is to support local musicians and create intimate performance spaces.

Photo by Ercan Arslan

Unfortunately, as of March 13th, 2020, Sofar Sounds had to cancel all of their live shows and completely switch gears. To help out their performers, Sofar Sounds launched an online Listening Room where musicians perform and receive donations from fans. On top of the listening room, Sofar Sounds also created a Global Artist Fund with a goal to raise 250,000 dollars to pay over 1,000 artists during these uncertain times. The organization promises that 100% of all donations goes to Sofar artists and any contribution will help musicians like AyseDeniz.

JST: Thank you so much for talking to Jetset Times, AyseDeniz. Your music is the exact dose of beauty and relaxation that we all need during this day and age. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your music?

AyseDeniz: I was born in Turkey and when I was a kid, I was already performing concerts and doing solo tours with orchestras. It was very disciplined and very rigorous and I was basically a professional pianist at a very young age. When I moved to London, I decided to open up my vision and break away from the academic environment by doing things that I love and that are honest. I always wanted to break the walls between being artists and the audience, so I began doing rock arrangements for classical piano. I did this project which went viral after I graduated. It was a Pink Floyd classical project that resonated somehow with a lot of people. I never expected that since they are very nerdy arrangements. The project kind of twisted my whole career and path. Then, I toured the world playing Pink Floyd. Eventually, I was like, ok, I need to do my own things too and not just play other people’s music. So for the next project, I still did grunge rock with Nirvana, but I added my own compositions in there and it was more artistically free. Today, we have a much broader vision, unlike the past where movements were attached to certain styles. You can like rap music and pop. You can listen to baroque music, opera, and musicals. I think that’s what makes us human.

Photo by Rob O Connor

JST: You also have a new album from this year. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

AyseDeniz: They were actually quite minimalistic compositions.What comes from me is very different from what I listen to. The goal was to condense musical ideas into simple things, so that it will mean a lot when you listen and also create an experience. Some of the inspiration was from my personal experiences. One of the compositions is called “Home” and I wrote this after escaping from a wildfire in California. I was living in L.A. and our house was situated literally in the middle of the fires. So we evacuated for five days and during those five days, the only thing I was worried about was my piano because that’s the most meaningful thing for me. We never really got the news on whether the house was burnt or not, but thankfully when I came back, it was still there. With those feelings of coming back home from a sort of a tragedy, I wrote this piece with the sort of weird feeling of tragedy, hope, and everything combined. It questions the idea of home, like, what do we call home? Is it an object? Is it family or is it our friends? Is it a city that we identify with? And how about people who don’t have homes? Now, it brings a new perspective to the idea of home while we’re all stuck in quarantine and we can’t get out.

JST: How has building community and collaborating with different artists been different in quarantine? What are some ways that you’ve had to change your creative process or your interaction with the music community?

AyseDeniz: I think there was always and still is this gap between the real world and the Internet. With social media before Corona, we started seeing a lot of amateur instrumentalists and vocalists that would create a lot of content, but they were not necessarily good. The good people were the ones actually performing live with sold out shows, but especially with classical music, Instagram is not something that they work on. You might go see a sixty year old amazing pianist, world renowned, but he won’t have an Instagram account or even a website. So this is crazy. I think there was a huge lag of catching up with technology in that aspect. It’s interesting with quarantine because suddenly they realized we have to have an online presence. I think that’s our biggest challenge nowadays, as artists — what should you create and how can you appeal to more people, but still make quality content? Quarantine shifted everything because now I’m seeing all of these sixty year old pianists on Facebook doing live concerts. That’s what I always like to see so this is a positive thing from Corona.

For me, it has been the busiest ever. I was already doing a lot of content online. I was doing live streams, live concerts, improvising based on numbers that I take spontaneously from audience members. They say things such as, one three seven, and I create melodies from those intervals. My Facebook grew with 16-20 thousand people over the last month and it keeps growing. I feel like now my function is not even just to make music, but also to connect people together in these times of crisis. I did daily live concerts every day in March. During those days, I would have nurses, doctors from Italy, people from around the world who were thanking me for these moments where they forget about Corona. They can just go to another world and feel ok and take a break from it. I learned that I have a purpose as an artist and I also made them connect with each other. One of the fans told me that his grandmother passed away from Corona and that he was feeling super sad. That was actually the reason why I started doing more of these live streams. He said that he was so thankful and then I saw below his message that a lot of other people sent him support. That was really nice to see— an interaction of positivity, optimism, and hope. It is this little community that I have and I really like it.

Photo: Omer Aslan

JST: What is your story with Sofar Sounds? How have they helped you and their international music community?

AyseDeniz: Sofar Sounds was something I did for fun. The live ones I’ve done four times and then one online. Two in London, One in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and one in L.A.. They’re all very different from each other and it was not for money at all because it was not a big chunk of money. It was more for the exposure of people and it was good to reach out to people who don’t necessarily listen to classical, so that I could open their horizons and have that interaction. Also, for me artistically, how do I feel playing for people sitting on the floor, drinking wine, and shouting and yelling? It’s a different perspective and I loved it. It felt like a rock concert.

I also think that SoFar took leadership in guiding through a new age. They adapted super fast with new technologies and started this off before anybody else did. I know artists who would do it from their personal pages and or business pages, but it wasn’t this big. SoFar has a huge network with hundreds of thousands of people and to do that shift quickly was very inspiring to see. These are amazing people who care about the arts and about how you listen to music. I love the idea that you don’t go somewhere to drink or to entertain yourself, but you go for the music. You’re very silent and you respect the artist. You have a direct relationship, very cozy atmospheres, and very few people go in. It reminded me of the salon music of Chopin’s time. This is what music was. Artists were playing in their living rooms for their friends and family members, so it brought back these old traditions. I love SoFar Sounds because of the whole thing, it’s just brilliant.

Portrait by SARP TATLISU

JST: Where can people find you and your music?

AyseDeniz: It’s very easy to find me. My name is AyseDeniz, so the letters are A and D for the initials. My website, AyseDeniz, is where you can find all the info about Spotify, Apple, new album updates, and Facebook concerts. If you go online, just look for adpianist on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. I would also love it if you subscribe to my Spotify because there’s going to be new music soon and I have a playlist called Piano Against Corona. That is where I am going to release my new album. On the album, there are a lot of feel good piano pieces that range from Titanic to Hans Zimmerman to Beatles to Debussy and very cheesy things as well, so I’m looking forward to that.

JST: Do you have any final thoughts on how we can support each other during these times?

AyseDeniz: Stay safe and healthy and be sure to support the arts as well. I just want to remind people, especially audience members, who are spending their quarantine reading books, listening to music, painting, that the arts is everything. It is what gives meaning to our lives and we can sometimes forget that because we’re not used to paying for it up front as much. However, if it disappeared, if there were no colors in our life, if there was no design and no music and no paintings, then it would be so hellish. We should always support artists in this bad time and through that we can all create a supportive community.

Be sure to follow AyseDeniz on social media and support other international musicians by tuning in to SoFar Sounds Listening Room or donating to their Global Artist Fund.

Vivian Bauer


Vivian is passionate about everything related to music, art, and language. When traveling, she loves to walk for miles, try all kinds of food, and visit every museum. She has lived in Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil while hoping to one day travel to Mongolia and East Timor.

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