BEYAZ BALİNA – Cenk Erdoğan

It’s interesting to hear how a composer approaches a score when he limits himself to predominantly one instrument. This is the case with Cenk Erdoğan’s score for the 2017 Turkish family drama, Beyaz Balina (White Whale), where he uses acoustic guitar as the main instrument.

Beyaz Balina is a story about two young boys. Ali moves to his grandfather’s village after the death of his father. He meets Vahap, who has always lived in the village. Although there is initially conflict between them, the boys interest in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is a common element that may be the catalyst for a developing friendship.

The composer studied guitar, specializing particularly in the fretless guitar and his proficiency in both instruments is ably demonstrated in this soundtrack. The opening few tracks feature only guitar and the effect is mesmerizing and hypnotic. Erdoğan showcases his command of the instrument as he moves between slow and quicker-paced, aggressive playing, transitioning between emotions. “Sekiz Gün” has a depth and a sadness to it that’s quickly forgotten in the next track, “Kağıtlar Yetmez”, where quicker-paced playing gives a more upbeat and energetic feel to the score. The surprising appearance of strings, percussion and a celeste/glockenspiel adds to this brighter feel. As the score progresses, additional effects and instruments appear. As well as the use of the guitar as a percussive instrument (e.g., “Kağıtlar Yetmez”, “Koreli İle Karşılaşma”), synth tones (“Kavga”), sinuous strings (“Deri Kemer Sırtında”) and threatening piano chords (“Ali”) all add colour. The human voice (including some sighing) also features (“Koreli İle Karşılaşma”, “Ali”).

As the album progresses more instruments continue to appear. Their appearance feels somewhat (and surprisingly) intrusive – perhaps because the opening tracks, with the solo guitar, are so powerful at establishing a specific soundscape. The guitar becomes less of a dominant force in the score. The album then moves more towards being an ambient score with washes of sound rather than featuring attractive melodies: tremolo strings and what sounds like a prepared piano creates the score’s most threatening moments (“Uçurum”). This is only a temporary situation. It’s a relief when the dominance of the guitar returns towards the end of the album and we hear a statement of a familiar theme first heard in the opening track. Pizzicato strings and bright piano support the guitar to provide a positive conclusion to the score (“Kitapçıda Bekleyiş”).

Beyaz Balina is a score that, despite being predominantly for guitar, is interesting and engaging. Many of the tracks, particularly the early ones, are beautiful leading to the score being one that is worth a listen.

The album can be purchased HERE or at other online stores as a digital download or to stream.

Rating: ***/*****

  1. Bir Varmış Bir Yokmus (3:10)
  2. Kaptan (1:55)
  3. Sekiz Gün (5:48)
  4. Kağıtlar Yetmez (4:15)
  5. Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş (Fretless Guitar Version) (2:05)
  6. İlk Bakış (1:20)
  7. Koreli İle Karşılaşma (0:34)
  8. Kavga (0:37)
  9. Yangın I (0:28)
  10. Yangın II (0:30)
  11. Yangın III (1:25)
  12. Deri Kemer Sırtında (1:27)
  13. Uçurum (1:58)
  14. Ali (1:45)
  15. Pişmanım Hem De Çok (2:42)
  16. Kitapçıda Bekleyiş (1:29)
  17. Oyun (0:34)

Running Time: 32:10

LU Records (2019)

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