Music soothes violent feelings, says veteran conductor
Veteran musician and conductor Professor Rengim Gökmen says that music is an art that soothes harsh and violent feelings of human beings and penetrates into their souls.
Gökmen, 66, served as the general manager and artistic director of the State Opera and Ballet and also served as the music director and conductor at the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) for 40 years until the pandemic process. He is the founder and permanent conductor of the Doğuş Children’s Symphony Orchestra and the supervisor of the İzmir Karşıyaka Municipality Chamber Orchestra. Gökmen is currently training young conductors at Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, Gökmen explained the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on arts and said: “It was terrible that what we read as a dystopia in the novels turned out to be real. Our concerts were halted as if they were cut with a knife.
Along with education, culture and art are the sectors that have been hit the hardest. Particularly, the art of ballet suffered a lot in Turkey. One year is very important in a ballet dancer’s life. It is a branch of art that can be done until the age of 40.
Young musicians also experienced this trauma. This period will leave negative effects even 20 years later. Those, without a fixed income, had a particularly hard time. There are also very painful things that we have heard. Those who committed suicide or those who sold their instruments.”
Gökmen said that during this process, he was not that pessimistic. He said that it was the time when he left the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and spent his time writing, reading and listening. “It was the most peaceful and saturated period of my life. I have developed many projects. I can say that I had a very full time,” he added.
When asked which one is hard, to be a manager or a chief, he said, “You feel happy and pleased even when overcoming difficulties in conducting. In administrative processes, this process is troublesome. But I had the benefits of conducting in administration. Leadership is to manage human psychology in the best way.”
About the tricks of conducting and orchestra, Gökmen said that it is important to know the “human material” before you, adding, “Every orchestra has its own soul. It is like a horse and rider relationship. How far can a very good horse go with an average rider? You need to carefully consider every detail and be able to bring the orchestra to the highest level. Psychological analysis is important.”
He stated that after the generation of Zeki Üngör, Hasan Ferit Alnar, Hikmet Şimşek and Gürer Aykal, there are very talented young conductors in Turkey.
“I think that Turkey is in a more important position in the world music platform than in many other fields. In recent years, the profession of orchestra conducting has been developing. Our young performers are very successful. I can say that our orchestras are at a level that can easily compete with many European orchestras,” he said.
With Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange,” criticisms have been made that classical music evoked violence. Gökmen thinks it is actually the opposite.
“Yes, although classical music has the potential to reflect any emotion that human nature can feel, and this may include violence. But it includes compassion more. The last thing that can be associated with classical music is violence. Being at peace with classical music will also make it easier to overcome many problems. Music is an art that soothes the harsh and wild feelings of human beings and penetrates into their souls. The discovery of the importance of the art of music by the world leaders can open great doors in the development of societies in the 21st century. This brutality, violence against women, indifferent attitude towards the environment or racist approaches can be overcome more easily with the art of music,” Gökmen explained.
As for the difficulties of being a chief conductor in Turkey, Gökmen said: “In Turkey, social life is manager-oriented. The layout and quality of the environment you live in depend on the manager. For instance, this is not the case in Germany and Japan. There is a certain system. Orchestras in Turkey are very dependent on the manager. Therefore, they expect a lot from the chef. Many problems are expected to be solved by the conductor. We are an emotional society. This can have a negative impact on our work. We cannot evaluate problems objectively.”