A Turk at the Grammys: Esin Aydıngöz

2 January 2024
A Turk at the Grammys: Esin Aydıngöz

We are not sure how it feels for a 30-year-old young woman to be remembered with Arif Mardin, the genius of music history, but Esin Aydıngöz continues to produce without getting carried away by the excitement of being nominated for Best Arrangement at the Grammy Awards.

A Turk At The Grammys: Esin Aydıngöz
Esin Aydıngöz

Everyone’s talking about your Grammy nomination. However, as far as we know, we are talking about a person who has devoted most of his life to music. How would you describe Esin Aydıngöz?

I have been involved with music since I was four years old. I have been performing on stage since I was seven years old, and I have been composing since I was 13. I would describe myself as someone who has big dreams and strives to make a positive impact on the world through music while making her own dreams come true. It is very important for me to take part in projects that children love and inspire them to pursue their passions. I enjoy every genre and every stage of music and I think the secret to happiness is doing what we love.

What is it like to be remembered with a name like Arif Mardin in any part of life? After all, he was the previous Turk to receive an award at the Grammys…

Arif Mardin is a very special name for me. Beyond the Grammy nomination, my Berklee College of Music adventure started partly thanks to him. In 2010, Berklee was giving the “Arif Mardin Scholarship” to a single Turkish student for the “Five Week Summer Performance Program” summer school, now known as “Aspire”. Thanks to a friend of my father, I learned about this scholarship and became interested in Berklee. Even though I did not receive this scholarship that summer, I attended this summer program the next year without a scholarship, and later, while I was studying at Berklee, I was unexpectedly rewarded with this scholarship. I am very happy that I was able to finish my education with the Arif Mardin scholarship and follow in his footsteps at the Grammys. I hope I can get the award like him and make our Turkey proud.

You were nominated for your arrangement of “Paint It Black,” popularized by the TV series “Wednesday.” After listening to the other works in this category, we have a strong feeling that you will win. Who do you think you would compete with the most?

Thanks a lot! I hope you are right. I think our biggest rival is Ludwig Goransson. He is both a very good musician and the work for which he was nominated is from the movie “Oppenheimer”, which left its mark on this year. You can guess that in awards such as Grammy, Oscar and Emmy; The awareness of the project can also increase your chances. If our arrangement had been used in an independent festival film watched by a very limited audience and it was not so well known, I think we would not have received such a nomination. Thanks to “Wednesday”, the whole world and therefore the music industry heard our arrangement. “Oppenheimer”, like “Wednesday”, is a very popular project and was watched, liked and talked about by large masses. Therefore, I think Ludwig’s chances are high.

A Turk At The Grammys: Esin Aydıngöz
Esin Aydıngöz

“Wednesday” tells the story of a smart, sarcastic and dark girl. What kind of process does it take to write music for such a completely fictional work?

It requires a process based on imagination, empathy and communication. You need to understand the vision of your directors and producers, put into notes and sounds the stories they have been working on for years and treat them like their babies, and while doing this, create a new musical world specific to the film.

It’s definitely different from a normal composition process. Does the fact that the story is determined and the boundaries are drawn limit your imagination or does it open your mind?

When I compose music for myself, I often have difficulty choosing a subject because there are dozens of subjects, people or places that I want to compose about or that inspire me. When the decision of how I can turn these into music is entirely up to me, I get a little overwhelmed by the possibilities. Since most of these decisions when making music for films are already more or less clear due to the subject of the film and the director’s preferences, you can proceed directly to production without getting lost in the possibilities. We can say that the budgetary and creative limits brought by the project make my job easier and make me more productive.

Let’s dream a dream. Which Turkish movie would you like to have written the music for?

This is a very difficult question. I have always cried a lot in Çağan Irmak’s films. I wondered what it would be like if I had composed the soundtrack for the movie “My Father and My Son” and now I looked at its composer. I was just a kid when this movie came out, and it was still a year before I discovered that I could compose. Turns out it was made by Evanthia Reboutsika, a Greek female composer! I am very pleased. Apart from that, I guess it is very enjoyable to work with Cem Yılmaz and Gülse Birsel. So working on “G.O.R.A” or “Between the Family” could be unforgettable.

When you were a little kid, you went to Disney and said, “I’ll work here.” What kind of place does this memory have in your memory?

After spending four or five days in Disney’s parks and starting to feel like a part of that magical world, I think it is very difficult to leave there and return to your normal life. It was hard when I was a kid, and it’s hard now. I went there as a kid in the summers of 2000 and 2002. As I was leaving the parks on the last day, I looked at the castle in Magic Kingdom and said, “I’m going to work for Disney.” It is very interesting that; My return to Walt Disney World as an adult happened this December, as a guest of Disney Music Group. It was incredible to return to the parks as a conductor who had conducted the two-month North American tour of Disney/Pixar’s Coco and to see my own videos shared on Disney Concerts’ social media accounts. I’m so glad I was able to keep my promise, and I’m grateful to everyone and everything that has helped me keep that promise over the years!

Can we count you as one of the lucky people who can make their dreams come true?

Yes, you can, but just dreaming does not make dreams come true. Let’s count me as someone who works with all his might for his dreams, who constantly reminds himself, his environment and the universe of his dreams, who tries to create his own luck, and who does what is necessary when luck knocks on the door.

A Turk At The Grammys: Esin Aydıngöz

All eyes turned to you with your candidacy. Do you think people are more surprised that you are a female conductor and composer, or that you are pursuing a career in this field as a Turkish composer? How do all these identities and adjectives enrich you?

In my opinion, there is no man or woman in musicianship. Music is a job done with emotion, passion and love, and we are all qualified for this. Especially while on the Disney tour, I received comments such as “We were very happy to see a female conductor.” I think I never saw a female chef when I was growing up, so I’m very happy that I could show today’s generation of children that this job has no gender and give little girls the courage to say “One day I can do this too.” Of course, we all add parts of our own identities to our art, but I think what enriches the music I write is not because I am a woman or a Turk. I think my education, how deeply I experience my emotions, and the lessons I have learned by observing other musicians are more valuable.

How will time pass until February 4? Even as we wait with excitement, how do you feel?

Every part of this Grammy nomination is so enjoyable. Of course, I have a hard time waiting patiently because I am so excited and happy. But in case I don’t receive another nomination in the future, I’m trying to enjoy every celebration that comes right now and every morning when I dream of receiving the award and remember that I’m just a nominee. I was a guest on NTV’s Gece Gündüz program and while I thought I would be very nervous, on the contrary, I talked with Ömer Vatanartıran as if we had been friends for years, it was a great experience. On the other hand, I went to the fashion house of our very valuable fashion designer Özlem Süer and I truly felt like a queen in her designs. In short, it is a period in which I enjoy every beauty that comes with being a candidate and I never want it to end!

Despite all this process, you are in a very busy production period. What kind of projects do you have ahead of you, apart from the Grammys?

This is a period when I dream even bigger dreams and work harder to realize them. While I dream of a career focused on composition, I have also become very interested in conducting, so I am trying to build a future in which I balance the two. On February 9, my chamber music work, which focuses on piano, will be played at Carnegie Hall in New York. I’m waiting for it with excitement. On the other hand, Onur Doğan shot a short film of Ömer Seyfettin’s story called “Bomba”, I am composing its music. I also continue my projects in America. In summary, my plans are for a future in which I will be involved in many different roles within music, working with pleasure both on stage and in the studio environment, and taking part in local and foreign projects!

While we proudly follow the news about you, we also consider it a great loss for this country that you live far away. How do you evaluate this distance?

I think we should look at everything from a positive side. Being in America is not a loss, on the contrary, it is a gain, as long as I represent our country well there. I also evaluate the local projects that come to me with pleasure and mostly try to accept them. I keep my friends in America informed about local projects. The foreign directors and musicians I work with hear from me and watch TV series like Club, Another One and are very impressed by the work coming out of Turkey. Being a bridge between cultures is very valuable. Distances are now very close in today’s world! I try to create a balance where I am present in both countries and it is a gain for both.