Hakan Ulus

Hakan Ulus (*1991 in Buxtehude/ Germany) is a German-Turkish composer. Since early childhood, he gained experience in composition. He studied composition with Ernst Helmuth Flammer, Adriana Hölszky, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf and Tristan Murail at the Mozarteum University Salzburg and at the HMT Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Leipzig. In 2013, he completed his BA in composition with distinction at Mozarteum University Salzburg. He participated in various masterclasses with composers, such as Brian Ferneyhough, Chaya Czernowin, Dieter Schnebel, Steven Kazuo Takasugi, Peter Ablinger, Dieter Mack and Pierlugi Billone. Furthermore, he has been a participant at the Donaueschinger Musiktage Next Generation Composers Workshop 2011 - 2013, at the Internationale Darmstädter Ferienkurse 2012 and at the Harvard Summer Composition Institute Residency 2014. He received fellowships (e.g . Harvard Summer Composition Institute Residency 2014, Turkish Cultural Foundation 2014, Arbeitsstipendium Land Salzburg 2014, Erasmus 2013, Ordentliches Stipendium Mozarteum 2014), prizes (e.g. Recherche Composition Prize 2011), won call for scores (e.g. Donaueschinger Musiktage Next Generation 2011, Platypus Echoraum Wien 2012) and got commissions (e.g. City of Munich 2014, Ensemblia Festival 2013, Ensemble Aventure 2013, International Society For Ecmelic Music Salzburg 2012). His works are performed by renowned ensembles such as Ensemble Recherche (Freiburg), Ensemble Aventure (Freiburg), Talea Ensemble (New York), Ensemble Platypus (Vienna) and Ensemble Black Pencil (Netherlands) at international festivals of contemporary music (e.g. Salzburg Biennale, KlangNetz Dresden, Beethovenfest Bonn, Ensemblia Festival, Donaueschinger Musiktage Next Generation, KunstKulturKirche Frankfurt, Aventure Konzertreihe Freiburg, Aussichten). He is founding member and artistic director of Tempus Konnex, an Leipzig based Ensemble and association of composers, interpreters, musicologists and philosophers. His music was broadcasted in German and Austrian radio stations. In addition, studies in musicology (Master) at the LMU Munich and publications in Musik & Ästhetik and Wolke Verlag. Currently, he is completing his Master´s degree under Tristan Murail at the Mozarteum University Salzburg. He is stipendiary of the International Ensemble Modern Academy 2015/16.

Mini-interview with Hakan Ulus

Where are you from? Does that have any influence on your music? If so, how?

I was born and raised in Germany. Therefore my parents come from Turkey, I had the great luck to get to know two musical cultures: The European and the Arabic/Turkish. Both influenced me in my compositional work. To keep it short: From my German C culture I have the German constructivism respectively deconstructivism and from my Turkish culture I have the richness of ornamentation and the attention to detail. I am living already for five years in Austria. Which influence Austria has on my work, I will be able to point out in a few years.

When did you start composing and why?

As a child i started improvising on the piano, which is my instrument. By writing down small pieces, I gained first experiences in ‚composition‘. At the age of 13 I was already very sure that I want to become a composer. During the years I had the opportunity to come in touch with Newest Music in the Ensemblia Festival in my hometown Mönchengladbach. Why I started composing? Because there was an inner necessity, curiosity for the new, invention and research. This is also the reason for my compositional activity today. The artistic work was always also a research activity.

What, if any, was the most inspirational experience you have had as a composer? (It could be a lesson, a piece, a concert, a sound, a walk, a bus trip, an image, etc.)

There are too many to list them all. I can not say which one was the most inspirational experience of all of them. But what I can say is, that there are very many fields, which can be very inspiring for me. I belief in the universal artist, who should be curious about everything.

What is most important to you when writing a piece?

Besides all relevant compositional/musical researches, the substance („Gehalt“) of the music is very important. The substance is not something, what becomes an attribute to the piece after finishing it. It is an inner compositional aspect, probably the most important one. To explain this in detail, would be beyond the scope. Furthermore, and this is closely linked to the aspect of substance, it is important to write music with global and avantgardistic awareness in the 21st century. I think this is the only way to bring an esthetic additional value into music.

What's the title of your new work?

Ğumu’ah

Describe in a few sentences what your new work is about.

In my piece Ğumu’ah for oboe and piano - which I wrote for the DRK International Young Composers Residency 2015, and which will be performed by Ensemble SurPlus on 12th of June in Singapore - I am developing a special treating of the piano, which I started researching explicitly in my piece A.Q.A.R. (2014) for ensemble and fixed media and very excessive and consequently in A.Q.II for piano and fixed media and setting it - with the oboe - in a chamber music context. To name this special treating of the piano: I am using various sounds, which are produced with tuning forks inside the piano to ensure microtonality in the piano, because - to my opinion - the art music of the 21st century is microtonal and the piano should match to it. These tuning fork techniques I am researching excessive already for more than one year. The tuning fork has a symbolic character in my work and stands for the human voice. It corresponds to the Qur’an-Recitation, which I am also researching already for a few time. The title Ğumu’ah comes from the Arabic/Turkish and means Friday. It refers to the Islamic Friday Prayer and the Qur’an-Recitations contained in this prayer. The overall form of the piece is obtained by the formal sequence of the Friday Prayer and the Suras (chapters), which are recited (Fatiha - A'la - Ghāshiya - Fatiha - Fajr). The compositional research of the Qur’an-Recitation - free of any ideology and dogmatism - is not done adequately in art music up to the present day, is uncharted territory and therefore an avantgarde working field. My work tries in a critical and discursive manner to make this research and is therefore located in the spirit of the avantgarde. Discursive interculturality in the art music of the 21st century is of high priority in our global age and can serve as the engine of a new musical development. Through aural and structural integration of various elements of the Qur’an-Recitation in a critical and discursive way, I want to contribute with my work to the artistic development on a global and intercultural level.

An excerpt from Ulus' Ğumu’ah


Hakan Ulus's Ğumu’ah along with 8 other works by young composers from around the globe will be premiered by the Trio SurPlus at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory's Orchestra Hall on 12 July 2015 at 7:30pm.

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About the DRK 2015 concert

About the DRK 2015 composers

Getting to Yong Siew Toh Conseratory of Music (YSTCM)