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Hezarfen Ensemble performing Part III:

A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley (2018-20)

40 minutes - for ensemble, narrator & electronics

Part III performed by Hezarfen Ensemble 

March 10, 2019 - Ankara, Turkey

February 25, 2024 - Istanbul, Turkey

Part II performed by Oerknal 

October 23, 2019 at Ankara, Turkey

November 24, 2022 at Matera, Italy

September 07, 2023 at Utrecht, Netherlands

“And – here is a thought  not too pleasing – as the external world becomes more animate, we may find that we – the so-called humans – are becoming, and may to a great extent always have been, inanimate in the sense that we are led, directed by built-in tropisms, rather than leading. So we and our elaborately evolving computers may meet each other halfway. Someday a human being, named perhaps Fred White, may shoot a robot named Pete Something-or-Other, which has come out of a General Electric factory, and to his surprise see it weep and bleed. And the dying robot may shoot back and, to its surprise, see a wisp of gray smoke arise from the electric pump that it supposed was Mr. White’s beating heart. It would be rather a great moment of truth for both of them.” - Philip K. Dick


Core Concept

'A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley' (for ensemble, narrator, and electronics) is a cycle consisting of five ensemble pieces in total. The setting created for this piece is based on a cognitive phenomenon named as the uncanny valley, a term popularly put forward by Masahiro Mori. This concept aims to explain the emotional responses which we give to objects in proportion to those objects’ resemblance to a human being. According to the hypothesis, the more an object resembles a human being, the more we tend to show positive affinity towards it, until there arrives a point where the object becomes almost human, but not quite. At this stage, our positive response suddenly tends to drop down to a remarkably negative level, as this object’s extreme resemblance to a human being causes an unsettling cognitive dissonance. This discomforting zone of transition from non-human to human is named the uncanny valley.

The Fiction

In 'A Night of Music in the Uncanny Valley', the uncanny valley is treated as a fictional setting as if it were an actual existing place. The work is written as the representation of a ritualistic ceremony held by the inhabitants of the Uncanny Valley, beings who are trapped on the thin line between the "human" and "non-human." Every section of the overall piece depicts a different stage of the complete ritual in five parts.

Filtered and rounded frequencies matching vowel formants:

Ending Notes

In his principles on 'Quadraturen', Peter Ablinger writes:


" main concern is not the literal reproduction itself but precisely this border-zone between abstract musical structure and the sudden shift into recognition - the relationship between musical qualities and 'phonorealism': the observation of 'reality' via 'music'."

I wish to parallel this statement by expressing that the goal of this work is not at all to create an acoustic simulation of recorded speech. In fact, a perfect level of phonorealism would defy the spirit of this piece, as the potential for the uncanny does not reside in the real, but rather in its distorted impressions. The areas of non-resemblance grant me the freedom to wander away from the source material, to play with different levels of abstraction, and simply to implement my own aesthetic choices within the composition. This way, the listener is constantly lead to make distinctions among sections of “pure” music, sections of actual human speech, and sections of speech that are instrumentally synthesized, until the act of labeling becomes irrelevant. From a broader perspective, the speech and its transformations act both as a musical and a subtextual ritualistic element in the piece.

Part III performed by Hezarfen Ensemble


Orhun Orhon - Conductor
Cem Önertürk - Piccolo
Kıvanç Fındıklı - Bass Clarinet
Kerem Öktem - Percussion
Müge Hendekli - Piano
Özcan Ulucan - Violin
Ulrich Mertin - Viola
Gökhan Bağcı - Violoncello


Recording and mastering by Engin Dağlık
March 2019, Bilkent Concert Hall

The Material

All five parts of the piece are built on a common musical material: methodically selected data derived from the spectral analyses of the Narrator’s voice. Elements such as vowel formants, partials, phonemes, speech melody, consonant noise, and inflections are gradually added into the piece and a pseudo-organic speech-like quality starts to take over, transforming the existing musical structures. By implementing these vocal parameters, I intend the end result to sound "almost human, but not quite." The constant shifting among the human and non-human form the gestalt of a human-machine; consequently creating an uncanny setting by obscuring the line in between.

Ex. 1, Part III

Ex.1 Chart 

"The peat bog, for example, I knew it didn't belong there."

Actual voice

Excerpt from Part III


Art: Yugo Kohrogi


The concert version of the piece does not include any of the stage elements from the complete work.

Part II performed by Oerknal


Gregory Charette - Conductor
Susanne Peters - Alto Flute & Piccolo
Daniel Boeke - Bass Clarinet
Christian Smith - Percussion
Sophie Patey - Piano
Jellantsje de Vries - Violin
René van Munster - Violoncello

October 2019, Bilkent Concert Hall

Ex. 2, Part II

Crotales resonance blending with vowel shapes.

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