From the visual arts to the world of sound, from jazz to written music, from Türkiye to Paris, with a detour through California, the paths that have brought her to composition are manifold. Didem Coşkunseven is an atypical artist who likes to expand her horizons. She is on the bill for IRCAM's ManiFeste-2024 festival with a new electronic piece she conceived with the immersive qualities of the Espace de projection in mind.


Didem Coşkunseven knows the venue well, having frequented it assiduously during her Cursus year in 2021. We were captivated by the poetic, dreamlike space she created in Day was departing, her Cursus piece using voice, gesture, video, and electronics. In February 2023, her work Dawn Chorus for vibraphone, marimba and electronics was performed at the Itinéraire concert, her first contact with the Espro, to which she will return in June.

Although Didem's early training focused on the visual arts (a combined undergraduate program in painting and sculpture), the sound environment in which she evolved already seemed to mean a great deal to her. “A memory that still fills me with enthusiasm is discovering Radiohead's Kid A album in 2000, when I was just fourteen. The band's music made a huge impression on me, and I still appreciate their work today.”


In her twenties, while taking jazz guitar lessons, she was introduced to the fascinating world of Sweden's Esbjörn Svensson and other Nordic jazz luminaries, whose models would remain duly anchored in her artistic journey. At the same time, her meeting with Turkish composer and jazz musician Emin Findikoǧlu was decisive; she worked with him weekly in private on jazz composition in Üsküdar, a district on Istanbul's Asian shore. His patience and attentiveness gave her confidence and boosted her future work. She went on to become a freelance composer and musician, playing keyboard and synthesizer in the independent jazz duo BLOV.


"I've always had a passion for costumes, fabrics, colors, shapes, and objects."


Didem was 25 when she took a serious look at the written repertoire of today's music, choosing to take a course in History and Philosophy of New Music at Istanbul's Center for Advanced Studies in Music (ITU), which introduced her to spectral aesthetics in particular. Pursuing this academic path, in 2018 she began a doctoral thesis in composition at the University of California, Berkeley, work she completed in 2022. “Looking back today at the journey I've taken, it seems I've matured in many ways. The friendships and collaborations have also taught me a lot. So far, so good."

At the end of her Cursus year in 2021, Didem Coşkunseven decides to stay in Paris, where she now works as a composer. Places have a profound impact on her, with Istanbul and Paris leaving lasting impressions: “One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to go into comic book shops, engage in long conversations with the staff and research their new releases. I also collect children's books in different languages. I need to tell tales and stories through my music. I'm a tireless explorer.”


As evidenced by her Cursus piece, Day was departing, which incorporates dance and video, Didem likes to design her projects in a cross-disciplinary spirit: “I worked for a while in the film industry in Istanbul as an assistant art director. Looking for collaborations with artists from different disciplines was a natural thing for me, and I enjoyed doing it. [...] It's often a challenge for a composer to embark on a collaborative work, but it's also one of the best things you can experience: long hours of enriching conversations with your collaborator(s) experienced in anticipation and excitement. It keeps the desire alive.”

Répétitions de Drawing the sun © Deborah Lopatin


However, the piece to be premiered at ManiFeste, Drawing the sun, is purely electronic and produced with Ableton Live and MaxMSP software. "I'll be alone backstage with my tools, the computer, synths, controllers, keyboards. I also keep in mind the performance space in itself, because I obviously take into account the interactions between space and music when composing." The project does include lighting design, for which the composer had prepared a “super exciting” moodboard.


For Didem, this shared performance is also a collective experience in which a unique connection is established between the listener and the performer, “that frisson of enchantment aroused by the act of listening to music in concert”, she says, which she refers to, based on the concept developed by Federico Garcia Lorca, as El Duende. Magic and mystery!

Credit picture : Yucegul Cirak