June 19, 2013
Sureyya Opera House,
Kadikoy, Istanbul, Turkey
flute, oboe, Bb clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano
it’s a nasreddin is commissioned by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts for Berlin Counterpoint. It is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano. Composed between February and May 2013 in Memphis and Istanbul, it is in nine movements. Each movement is based on a story attributed to Nasreddin Hodja, believed to have lived in the 13th Century in Aksehir, near Konya in Turkey. He is considered a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He appears in thousands of stories, sometimes witty, sometimes wise, but often, too, a fool or the butt of a joke. A Nasreddin story usually has a subtle humor and a pedagogic nature. What I love about these stories are the inner contrasts, surprises, subtle meanings and quiet double meanings. His language is local and universal at the same time. He is truly free in any of his ideas, tries not to have biases against them, filters them but does no sensor them. He is never afraid to take chances, in making fun of himself. All these are qualities I admire and try to achieve in my art as well.
1- Good for all ailments
One day when Nasreddin was going to the bazaar a joker from the neighborhood came up to him: During the night when I was sleeping a swallowed a mouse, what can I do? Hoca said this is easy, just swallow a cat that is very hungry.
2- You are right also
When Nasreddin Hodja was a kadi (Judge) two men with a dispute came to him and asked him to resolve their conflict. The Hodja listened to the plaintiff first. `You are right!' he said when the plaintiff completed his account. Then, the Hodja listened to the defendant. `You are right!' he said to the defendant as well. Everyone in the room was perplexed. His wife who had come to see him, said to the Hodja: `Kadi effendi,' she said, ‘what kind of Kadi are you. You agreed with both of the parties. The dispute can't be settled if you say "you are right" to both of them.' Nasreddin Hodja considered for a moment, then he said: `You are right too!'
3- Before the pitcher brakes
One day Nasreddin Hodja had to send his son to the fountain to fill up their big, earthenware water pitcher. After handing the pitcher to his son, he slapped him on the face. `Don't break the pitcher!' he said. People around who witnessed this, showed their disapproval. `Hodja effendi, the kid didn't break the pitcher,' they said, `he didn't even leave for the fountain yet. Why did you slap him?'` Ah, but, you see,' the Hodja replied, `if I slap him after he breaks the pitcher, it will be too late!'
4- Steam of food, sound of money
One day when Hodja was a kadi (judge) in Aksehir two man came before him: O ne was a stingy cook, the other a humble poor man. The cook: ‘I am sueing this man. I was cooking beans in front of my eatery, and aromatic steam was coming out of the side of the pan. This man came with a whole bread, held pieces over the steam and slowly proceeded to finish the whole loaf. I asked him to pay for the steam of the beans but he did not. Nasreddin asked the poor man, ‘is this true?’ and the answer was yes. After listening carefully he turned to the poor man and said: ‘OK, take out you money sack’. The poor man could not say no to the Hodja and took out a little money sack with a few coins in it. After then Hodja called the cook to come and stand next to him he shaked the case causing the coins to jingle. Then he said, ‘OK you have got what was owed to you’. The cook: He was amazed and said ’how can this be, you have not given my money yet’. Hodja answered ‘don’t prolong the issue, I am sure someone who sells the steam of food will hear and receive the sound of money’.
5- Donkey is facing the wrong way!
One day Hodja was riding his donkey facing backwards. People who saw this yelled at him: ‘Hodja, you are riding your donkey backwards!’. Hodja said: ‘No, I am riding backwards. The direction of the donkey is backwards’.
6- If that’s the case, then mine can think!
One day The Hodja was walking around in the market place. He saw a bird for sale for 50 akce, a high amount. Hodja was amazed. He approached the crowd gathered around the bird and its seller. How can a bird be so expensive?' he asked the seller. `This is a special bird,' he explained, `it can talk!' This gave Hodja an idea. He went straight to his home, grabbed his turkey and brought him to the market. He stood near the man selling the parrot. `Turkey, for sale, only 100 Akce!' he yelled. `Hodja Effendi, how can a turkey be worth 100 Akce?' the seller protested. `There is a bird there for 50 Akce.' insisted the adamant Hodja. `But Hodja Effendi, that bird can talk' the seller tried to reason. But Hodja was unbending. `Then, in that case, this turkey can think.' he countered.
7- If this is the cat, where is the meat?
One day Nasreddin Hodja bought 2 kilograms of meat from the neighborhood butcher and had it sent home for his wife to cook a real nice stew for dinner. Hodja's wife did cook the stew but a few of their neighbors came over for a visit. Having nothing else to serve to her guests, she served the stew. They all ate heartily and finished it all. Hodja came home after a long day's work and asked his wife if the stew was ready. `Ahh, ahh! You have no idea what befell the stew.' his wife said, `The cat ate it all.' Nasreddin Hodja, suspicious, looked around and saw the scrawny little cat in one corner, looking as hungry as himself. Hodja grabbed the cat and weighed him on his pair of scales. The poor thing weighed exactly two kilos. `Woman,' said the Hodja, `if this is the cat, where is the stew? If this is the stew, then where is the cat?
8- Cauldron gave birth
Nasreddin Hodja had borrowed a cauldron from his neighbor. When Hodja came back later to return the the cauldron, the neighbour noticed that there was a small pot in it. `What is this?' `Well, neighbour, congratulations, your cauldron gave birth to a baby pot.' said the Hodja. The neighbour, incredulous, yet delighted, thanked the Hodja, took his cauldron and the new little pot. A few weeks after this incident, one day The Hodja came again, asking to again borrow the cauldron. The neighbor didn't even hesitate and lent Hodja the cauldron with pleasure. However, this time it was taking the Hodja forever to return it back. The neighbour had no choice but to go asking for it again. `Hodja Effendi, are you done with the cauldron?' `Ahh neighbour, ahh' bemoaned The Hodja, `I could not figure out how to tell you this, but I am afraid your cauldron is dead.' `Hodja Effendi, that's not possible, a cauldron cannot die, it is not alive!' exclaimed the disbelieving and angry neighbor. But Nasreddin Hodja had his answer ready. `My dear fellow, you can believe that it can give birth, why can't you believe that it can also die?'
9- Rookie songbird
Hodja was craving fruits. He entered his neighbors yard and climbed a tree, eating whatever he can find. The owner of the yard came and said ‘what are you doing on my tree?’. Hoca said ‘I am a songbird’. The man then says ‘chirp then, lets see how you do’. Hoca then starts making an assortment of sounds. Laughing out loud, the man says ‘how could there be a songbird like this’. Hodja counters: ‘a rookie songbird chirps like this’.