My view of ‘chaos’

I thought that the word chaos was used only to describe situations that are or will have a negative outcome. That view changed completely after I stumbled upon Tom Wessel‘s The Myth of Progress. What ended up happening wasn’t simply learning a new meaning of a word that I already know, but an understanding of a different view of the world surrounding me.

Being thought to see the world through equations or simplifications they offer, I think I missed how nature works in my early adult years. My education simplified the world, trying to express or approximate its complexity in linear terms where 2+2=4. Can we ever speak of the weather with such mathematical precision? Or can we define the workings of a society and its culture with a set of equations?

I believe that the ability to reduce complex problems into approximated/simplified versions is the pinnacle of human ingenuity, but it’s at the cost of understanding chaotic systems, which is what we’re basically surrounded with every day; climate, our economic and political systems, pandemic, the human brain, etc. I also believe that trying to look at the world through a reductionistic view is either limiting our possible actions if not creating a feeling of hopelessness.

For a long time, I used to think that whatever my actions are, I am one of eight billion and they won’t really change anything. This put me in a state of despair living in a country with democracy falling apart and a world with a destabilizing climate.

I don’t know if either of the problems above will improve during my lifetime, and to be honest I’m not hopeful. But I believe that my actions could cause change, and this is not like a spiritual thing I arrived at. It’s more from the scientific understanding of how chaotic systems work. Just to give an example, you and I share %99.9 DNA that is exactly the same, yet that tiny fraction is enough to have such diversity. How come?

Hope this short post creates more questions than answers 🙂 Below is the experiment Wessels uses to explain chaos.

Zahhak @A.R.T. Jan 12-15

Two years after the first recorded performance of Zahhak in Boston, we now are going to perform it live at American Repertory Theater, Boston between Jan 12 to 15th. Here’s some more detail on the production.

You can use this link for making ticket reservations. It’s free!

And here are some interviews courtesy of Boston News Network, explaining why this performance exists and what our process is.

Do the Research

Understanding music business is crucial for any artist who wants to find their own way in this complex environment. Yet, not many musicians have the chance to find the right tools or time to seek out the information that might help in their careers.

So, in this post I’m sharing a compilation of five articles that magnify the relationships within the triangle of artists, audiences and stakeholders (venues, festival organizations etc.).

I know this is a lot to read and digest in one sitting, but I think that understanding the playing field is part of the role of being an artist. Hope you find inspiration from how other artists navigate this world!


  • Medbøe, Haftor. “4.7. Jazz scenes and networks in Europe: repackaging independent jazz–new strategies for emerging markets.” 295.
  • Reynolds, Dean S. Jazz and Recording in the Digital Age: Technology, New Media, and Performance in New York and Online. City University of New York, 2017.
  • Debono, Christian. Is yesterday´ s popular genre today´ s elitist art form?: the analysis of the evolution of Jazz through contemporary festivals. Diss. 2021.
  • League, Panayotis. “From the Ground Up, Again.” Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation 14.2-3 (2021).
  • Gould, Jackson S. The Changing Business of Bands: How New Groups Start, Grow, and Succeed Using Social Media. Diss. Ohio University, 2012.

‘Zahhak’ Premiered!!

After more than a years’ worth of work we -as in Boston Experimental Theatre- shared our work with the audience via YouTube and the work was welcomed by the curious eyes. So here’s some remarks by some of them:

A review by Broadway World Boston’s Andrew Child

“Artistic director Vahdat Yeganeh has adapted, along with strong collaborators, a narrative from Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi’s ancient Persian epic, Shahnameh as an experimental duet between an actor and a jazz musician. Right away, the source material is engaging, fantastical, and speculative. For a western audience, this seems the equivalent of boiling down The Odyssey or The Suppliants to its philosophical barebones and staging it with two performers in a black box space.”

Click here for full review.

From various members of audience:

“Thank you to BETC for sharing this fascinating story on YouTube! For those of you who don’t know this Persian myth, as I didn’t before watching this, I recommend watching the production twice. It is worth it as the richness of the production increases the second time and no doubt the third too… Bravo to Donya and Engin-the performers. The shadow work is beautiful.” 

Heather Waters-editor at The Theatre Times

“This show reaches into the bones and invites of the breath and is worth embracing mutliple times. This performance, the music, the lighting, the pacing, the voice, the prose, presence and power is … forever something I will remember in an embodied and soulful way. The cinematography is also marvelous. Please please make a moment to light a candle, breathe in some breaths and engage in this story. Please please support the Boston Experimental Theatre company!  I can’t wait to see what they do next!” 

Tamera Marko-Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center, Emerson College

“I really enjoyed this production, well done! Located at the inerstices of theatre, music, and storytelling, it wove a compelling story with movement and sound. Also, the foregrounding the piano player allowed us to enjoy both the story and the artistry of the telling. You should include a link here where people can donate to Boston Experimental Theatre and support more innovative work!”

Dr. Robert Lublin-Professor of Theatre Arts, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston

“I found the production of Zahhak quite revealing of how the language of mythology has different energies and transformations across cultures. There is much to explore in the way Vahdat Yeganeh’s theatrical sensibility has been shaped by his exposure to archetypes in the Iranian context. And this finds expression in their use of color and the strange affinity with the dream-like score of the piano.

At one level, it is minimalist relying on a storytelling idiom to the accompaniment of the piano. But it is this very crystallization of the basics that makes the myth come alive in very sharp and arresting registers. I found myself compelled to listen to each and every word for which the actor must be given due credit for holding the performance so effortlessly without any cuts. So one felt the sense of “real” performance time.

The music was exquisite. Such an interesting choice for the musical score, so far removed from the more predictable beating of drums. In its glacial, almost Debussy-like coolness and detachment, one felt the story more deeply because the piano acted like a counterpoint. It gave the myth a contemporary edge.

In addition, there were some magical moments in the lighting which I am sure will be enhanced once the director get to finalize his mise-en-scene. At all costs, the staging needs to retain its intimacy because it is in this space that the myth of Zahhak becomes real and, at the same time, distinctly theatrical in an understated, yet elegant, enactment in recreating the myth.

My warmest good wishes to all in the company, and a special warm embrace for Mr. Yeganeh as he keeps his creativity alive in these stressful times.”

Rustom Bharucha-writer, director and cultural critic, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Wayne Shorter Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum Transcription

I have always loved this album, and find myself coming back to it either for more digging or simply enjoy Wayne’s intriguing compositions. However this time, I found much joy in uncovering what the band is actually doing beat by beat and appreciate their vibe and wit.

So here’s the head of Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum.

Working with an actress and a director for a year!

Some time in late December, 2019 sitting in a warm Boston pub with members of Boston Experimental Theatre, celebrating an intensive and exhilarating ‘IsNotThatAnymore‘ performance, Vahdat Yeganeh (founder of BETC) asked me if I’d be interested in being the musical director of his new project called ‘Zahhak’. Now, sitting in my Istanbul room, listening to Sam Harris’ Interludes, and three weeks away from premier of Zahhak, I wanted to share a short journal of how we (as in the creators; Vahdat, Donya and myself) managed to come to this point, from December 2019 to March 2021.

BETC rehearsal in process – Actors and musicians in same space – March 2019

The three of us started rehearsals in early January 2020 using New England Conservatory practice rooms as our lab space. Donya and myself plowed through myriad of exercises Vahdat (the director) laid on us to become better connected to our emotions, the surrounding space and with each other as performers on stage. The exercises ranged from simple introspective meditations to turn based improvised acting or music-playing which Vahdat calls “passing-the-ball”. The rehearsals were three to four hours in length and happened two or three times a week until the pandemic hit Boston in March 2020. From March to May, we hunkered down in our homes and kept meeting for rehearsals on Zoom and kept ‘passing the ball’ to better learn the script of ‘Zahhak’, analyze the characters of the story and stay in-tune with each other as performers.

What made this project really interesting to me was the fact that Vahdat asked me not to compose anything beforehand, and simply come to the rehearsals to improvise music off of the emotions that I felt at the rehearsals. As an improvising musician at heart, I naturally found myself deciding to improvise music for the whole forty-five minute-long Zahhak perfomances. (More on how I managed to do that in a future blog post!)

Entering June 2020, Boston’s COVID cases seemed to level off, yet live performances were out of question at the time. Burning with the desire to share our creation, we decided to take our chances in recording the project in July. This meant finding a rehearsal and recording space in Boston with a decent acoustic piano, and room enough for stage design. After many unsuccessfull tries, we found a church in downtown area with everything we needed (including a sweet grand piano!). The three of us jumped backed to our regular rehearsal routine now with safe distancing.

Community Church of Boston – Our rehearsal/performance space July 2020

After 3 weeks of intense work, we shot the performance with help from Boston News Networks’ Steve Marx and Ed Slattery (as camera operators), and Joseph Branciforte (as sound engineer) on the set.

Zahhak – A recorded theatre performance

Our new recorded theatre performance Zahhak has been in the making for the last 12 months, and we’re super excited to announce that it will soon premier. I’m super proud of what Donya, Vahdat and myself have created even though it’s been an incredible challenge to pull this off during the pandemic. 

Looking forward to sharing this creation, which has been a total ‘in-flow’ experience for us. Please stay tuned. 

Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra

During my first studio lesson with Ken Schaphorst at NEC, he looked at one of my compositions written for five horn players, plus the rhythm section and said, “Why don’t you expand this for the orchestra?”. Not having written anything for such a band before in my life thrilled me but also scared the shit out of me, because in NEC’s workshop orchestra, the composers also get to conduct their own pieces. So, just coming out of Istanbul with zero orchestra experience, standing in front of these amazing musicians and conducting them was probably one of the most fun yet challenging experiences in my life.

I want to share this composition of mine called ‘Nadir’. I love the opening section of this piece as well as the build up of the first soloist Ye Huang, echoing his clarinet on the walls of Jordan Hall at NEC. Below is the description of the piece.

In Turkish, “Nadir” means “rare”. This composition was inspired by my close musician friends in Istanbul during the summer of 2016, when the city was traumatized by various terrorist attacks and political upheavals, completely shattering the peace of mind for everyone in the city. Yet, these musicians found the courage to get together and play, making anyone hearing the music feel at least a little bit better. This composition is dedicated to all of those musicians that help to create that positive spirit.