Full Biography - Armağan Durdağ, Composer
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Full Biography


Armağan Durdağ is a composer of contemporary classical. His music embraces a Postmodern approach which powerfully integrates Western Neo-Romanticism –including but not limited to Post-minimalistic blend of rock, jazz, and popular music– with the melodic and rhythmic colors of traditional Turkish maqam and folk music. Proud of being born in the 2700-year-old cosmopolitan city of Istanbul as a literal bridge between the Middle-East and Europe, and therefore creating an original synthesis of both Western and Eastern, as well as both modern and ancient musical traditions and spiritualism, Durdağ’s compositions also reflect neo-tonal and modal elements. While employing unique combinations of Western and traditional Turkish music instruments, his music sometimes makes use of intensive polyrhythmic sound masses as well as contrasting silences resulting in a nonlinear and nondirectional quality designed to create a meditative state of mind.


Works of the composer were performed in various cities of Türkiye, USA, Germany, Poland and Armenia to date. Among his compositions, “Roxana” Cello Concerto was performed for four times by renowned Turkish cellist Rahşan Apay and major orchestras in Turkey, and broadcasted nationwide on television. Katibim, for soprano and piano, was premiered at the 7th Festival of European Songs in Warsaw, Poland with soprano Ece İdil and pianist Metin Ülkü. It is also released in Ece İdil’s 2017 studio album “From the Balkans”. Mother, for string orchestra, commissioned by the Orchestra Ankara was premiered at the 32nd International Ankara Music Festival. Bridges of Light, a double-concerto for two alto saxophones and percussion orchestra, commissioned by Jewish-American saxophonist Allen Rippe, was premiered in 2011, in Memphis, TN under the composer’s own direction, and was dedicated to all the people who were losing their beloved ones in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bridges of Light was also performed at the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) National Conference in Urbana, Illinois, USA in 2014. The Refuge, for alto & soprano saxophone, cello and piano, also commissioned by Allen Rippe, was premiered in 2017 in Tucson, AZ. It was inspired by Syrian refugees and was dedicated to whoever in the history of the world was forced to leave their beloved country because of a devastating war. Istanbul, for two Turkish traditional instruments (kemençe and kanun) and a mixed ensemble, was commissioned by internationally acclaimed Hezarfen Ensemble, for its five-year European Research Council project, “Beyond East and West: Developing and Documenting an Evolving Transcultural Practice” and was premiered by the ensemble at Guitar+Microtonal Festival in 2017, in Fulda, Germany.


Durdağ also dedicates his time and soul for his special project “New Music for a New World” to be performed by Armağan Durdağ Ensemble founded by the composer himself. The first part written for this project entitled “The Land of Colors” is a 63 minute, 15 movement unstaged work with also a script written by the composer, combining Turkish ethnic instruments such as ney, oud, bendir (frame drum), kemençe with Western classical instruments such as the piano, string orchestra, percussions, electronics and a mezzo-soprano, using sacred texts from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and quotations by various important people from around the world including but not limited to ancient Greek philosophers, 12th & 13th century Persian, Turkish and German poets and mystics, and several scientists. Armağan Durdağ Ensemble premiered The Land of Colors in 2012, at prestigious Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall, in Istanbul, Turkey under the baton of Burak Tüzün and the composer himself at the piano. The second part of this project entitled “The Portrait of Freedom”, with 7 new movements, was premiered by the Armağan Durdağ Ensemble in 2015, at Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall. The first part of 15 movements, entitled The Land of Colors, was released as composer’s debut CD album as a hard copy in the USA and was also released over the internet on all digital platforms worldwide in May 2019.


Among the performers of the composer are such groups and orchestras as, Istanbul Cemal Reşit Rey Symphony Orchestra, Bursa Region State Symphony Orchestra, Antalya State Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Istanbul, Hezarfen Ensemble, Luna Nova New Music Ensemble, Istanbul Modern Music Ensemble (IMME), Trio Kuvars Viyolet, Orchestra Ankara, Istanbul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Istanbul and such prominent conductors as Rengim Gökmen, Burak Tüzün, İbrahim Yazıcı, Vladimir Altchuler, Kamran İnce, Hakan Şensoy, Oğuzhan Balcı and such distinguished performers as Allen Rippe, Ece İdil, Rahşan Apay, Cana Gürmen, Bülent Evcil, Jerfi Aji and Sabri Tuluğ Tırpan.


Armağan Durdağ was born in 1981 in Istanbul, Türkiye. Throughout his middle and high school years, he studied piano with Mert Bilginer. After graduating from high school, he studied Western classical music theory, orchestration, advanced jazz harmony, big band arranging, and traditional Turkish music maqam theory with Nail Yavuzoğlu. Pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Technologies at the Turkish Music State Conservatory in Istanbul Technical University, he graduated as the top-performing student within the Department of Music Technologies. He went to Washington, DC, USA, where he studied piano and composition with Jeffery Watson, and orchestral conducting with A.Scott Wood at Washington Conservatory of Music. While living there, he wrote the string orchestrations for Faces & Places, a 2009 jazz album by renowned Turkish-American composer and pianist Fahir Atakoğlu, hosting an all-star ensemble of Grammy winning jazz musicians. The album charted at #1 on the JazzWeek‘s World Music Charts.


Finishing his Master of Music degree in Music Composition with support of a full scholarship granted at the University of Memphis, in the USA, Durdağ studied composition with Rome Prize winning composer Kamran İnce and orchestral conducting with Kraig Alan Williams, as well as piano with Sam Viviano, at said institution. As a Teaching Assistant, he taught Music Technology classes and individual composition lessons, as well as recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered concerts held at the University campus.


Durdağ completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Composition with a minor in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Arizona, in the USA, with support of a full scholarship, where he studied composition with prominent American composer Daniel Asia and conducting with Thomas Cockrell. He also taught music composition at this institution as a Teaching Assistant. Masterclasses he attended are given by such prominent American composers as Joseph Schwantner (Pulitzer), Marc Mellits, Fred Lerdahl (Pulitzer), Sophia Serghi, David Ludwig, Christopher Trapani (Rome), Chris Brubeck, David Maslanka, and Joan Tower (Grammy).


Armağan Durdağ is a Voting Member of the Recording Academy (GRAMMY awards) as well as a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in the USA, and a member of MÜZİKOTEK and Musical Work Owners Group (MSG) in Turkey; and rights on his works are protected by these institutions. Durdağ is Assistant Professor of Composition and Head of Composition and Orchestral Conducting Department in the Conservatory of Music at Istanbul Maltepe University, Istanbul, Türkiye. Here, he wrote the curriculum, as well, for the Composition division in the undergraduate and the graduate programs of both Master’s and Doctoral levels.