While I am very happy that the “Geveze Pianist” concerts that I have developed in New York in the last ten years have received a very good response in Turkey, the fact that some of the perspectives that I tried to convey to the audience during these concerts were limited to the hall and the audience of that day and I feel the need to invest more time and effort on these issues. Lincoln Center is one of the biggest stages in New York City and the smallest hall in this huge art complex is the 220 seat Bruno Walter Auditorium where I did a series of Chatty Pianist concerts. The title of my last “Chatty Pianist” concert was “Occident Express”.
I created this title and content with the inspiration from the famous “Orient Express” train and movie. In fact, the words Orient and Occident stand for east and west in French, nothing more, but there is a contemptuous attitude in “Orient Express “towards the cultures that are called “Eastern” by the so called “Western” cultures. People from so called west have been carried to east by Orient Express, which is a region they label as exotic or even barbaric.
I was born in Istanbul but life took me to Venice, Paris and New York and I thought that my journey was a real “Occident Express” (West Express), so in my the farewell to “West” concert, I started my speech with the issue of “East and West”.
Let me quote my own words from that concert:
“If we could directly walk towards east without any obstacles, do you think we can reach China?
What if we turn to the opposite side with the same trouble-free conditions and walk towards west, do you think we can reach China?
So, is China an eastern or western country?”.
The deadly silence in the hall at that moment was the most beautiful audience reaction I’ve ever heard in my life in a concert hall. It is so customary for cultures that call themselves “Western” to adopt the concepts that belong to all humanity that, we’ve become accustomed to consider it reasonable to adopt the words that indicate direction. Therefore, isn’t “Classical Music” a more correct term to call the music that composers from all over the world have produced works over the centuries, instead of “Western Classical Music”? Or shall we call the rabies vaccine “ The French Vaccine” because the Frenchman named Louis Pasteur invented it? The directional terms “East” and “West” belong to the whole world, so does Classical Music.
There are many similar examples such as Greenwich being approved as the point zero of the whole world in 1884. The French have insisted on having Paris as the point zero for a long time. With a different perspective, we can discuss if point zero should be in Istanbul, can’t we? Why isn’t it a point on the equator? Or how about the idea of having point zero in a neutral zone, on an island in the middle of the ocean? The fact that Greenwich is announced as ground zero without any scientific reasoning makes one think that the British see science as if they own the subject, but of course, this is a political issue more than a scientific one. Speaking of politics, classifying political tendencies as right and left has as nonsensical origins as labeling regions of the world as east and west. Those who know history also know that this usage developed due to the groups sitting on the right and left of the king, in the General Assembly during the French Revolution. In other words, those who felt closer to today’s right wing was sitting on the right side of the king, and those who were closer to today’s leftist ideas were sitting to the king’s left. This was the revolution of 1789, the one that happened 230 years ago.
In the year of 2021; the world is struggling with huge problems; change of climate, natural disasters, depletion of natural resources, world-wide pandemic, cultural collapses, economic problems, the collapse of morality and many more. Isn’t it time to stop using concepts that belong to the entire humanity such as right, left, east, west, music, vaccine, point zero and many others as a toy for political conflicts?