blogEast is a project of goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Film. The blog was created during the first Corona wave in Europe as a solidary mouthpiece for film (culture) creators from all over Europe. In the coming weeks, blog posts will be published that highlight cinematic as well as political and social facets of today's situation, but also offer a way to distract from the omnipresent discussion about infection figures and vaccination progress. blogEast is supervised and edited by the goEast team and accompanies the digital festival in Wiesbaden.
The idea of healing with music is gaining popularity around the world. Today, universities across the US offer doctorates in music therapy, but Turkmen people have been practicing this for many centuries. In Turkmen culture, we believe that music has miraculous powers. This notion is a big part of my life, as well as the story that I'm telling in my virtual reality documentary "1991". The film is centered around my father's depression and his process of healing through music after the collapse of the USSR.
Throughout Turkmen history, there are various examples of medicinal capabilities of music, and healing with music is not a novel idea. During the Seljuk Turkmen empire in the 11th century, there were special hospitals where Turkmens used music to rehabilitate people's spiritual state and well being. This tradition of healing with music was carried throughout the centuries. It is known that even at the beginning of the 20th century, Turkmens treated children with measles by inviting a bagshy (Turkmen master musician) to perform gargy tuyduk (a long reed Turkmen flute) or dutar (two-stringed Turkmen instrument). Music believed to ease the pain of the sick child and helped to expedite the recovery. Moreover, Turkmen folklore has numerous stories that depict the remedial powers of music. Among those, a musical legend "Uzuklar" stands out for its poetic artistry. According to legend, a girl suffers a traumatic event and develops a severe stutter. She is healed by the beautiful melody of the gargy tuyduk performed by a young shepherd boy.
Another way in which the power of music manifests itself is through the preservation of peace between nations. In the 1963 Turkmen film "The Contest" by director Bulat Mansurov, the story follows a 19th-century Turkmen bagshy who rescues his brother held captive by an Iranian shah. He challenges the Iranian court musician for a musical duel, and his music is so powerful that he wins the hearts of the enemies and frees his brother, without spilling blood. Music proved to be mightier than the sword.
In modern days, music still holds its powers. The theme of my virtual reality documentary "1991" reflects this as well. In the documentary, I'm telling a story about my father Suhan Tuyliyev and how his music has carried him through the difficult transitional times after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Like most people in the countries that fell out of the Soviet Union, my parents each were working three to five jobs and our deprived family still went hungry many days. Due to these harsh times, my father couldn't compose music for almost two decades. Deep in depression, artists were struggling to survive. In the VR documentary, I recreated my father's office in our home in Ashgabat, where I revisit childhood memories and imagine what those difficult years must have been like for my father.
Suhan Tuyliyev's music is at the core of this experimental documentary, as the participants will hear three of his original pieces performed, reflecting the changes in the country and his emotional state. To represent the 20 year long silence, the memories of a ghostly symphonic orchestra will come to haunt my father, performing his piece that was last performed in 1989.
In the final act of the VR experience, my sister Dr. Maya Tuylieva - a world renowned pianist, will perform a Piano Sonata composed by my father after he came out of his depression. The piece describes the human struggle and the celebration of life. While this autobiographical piece is being performed, the legend "Uzuklar" unravels as a VR mural around the viewer, paralleling how after sustaining this trauma, my father's music has started to heal him.
Creating this documentary about my father and his music began the healing journey for me, as I continuously reflect and process my own lived experience going through the collapse. Depression and mental health are big taboo subjects in the Post-Soviet countries. The generations that are living with Post-Soviet trauma deserve a closure and a space to heal. My hope for "1991" is that my father's story will ignite a conversation with audiences who are still silent about their struggle and his music will aid in their healing, as music has done for centuries.
Akmyrat Tuyliyev, a Turkmen new media artist and producer working in the intersection of storytelling, technology and culture.
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