End of the year
The year ended with a festive couple days at the Bimhuis for The Ex's 33 1/3 anniversary concerts, where amongst many other wonderful sets, Andy Moor and I played six songs from our Rebetika project. This was preceded by some frantic composing in December finishing two new small pieces: walls have ears, a song for voice, string quartet and video for Lore Lixenberg and the Brodsky Quartet based on a poem by Turkish Cypriot poet Mehmet Yashin, and a solo viola piece, (without the use of any technology whatsoever for a change) simply called music for viola. That rounded off a year which turned out to be very productive, with 14 new pieces written, and in which I had the pleasure of collaborating with some amazing groups, musicians and artists: Zwerm, Calefax, Jurjen Hempel & JON, Saskia Lankhoorn, Larissa Groeneveld, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Marko Ciciliani, Slagwerk Den Haag, David Wheeler & IOU Theatre, MAZE (Anne La Berge, Gareth Davis, Wiek Hijmans, Reinier van Houdt, Dario Calderone) and as always the usual suspects at Unsounds: Andy Moor and Isabelle Vigier.
Double Music Project
Premiere of 8'66 (or everything that is irrelevant), a collaborative piece written with Marko Ciciliani for Slagwerk Den Haag's innovative John Cage tribute concert. Inspired by Cage and Lou Harrison's Double Music (which was beautifully rendered by the ensemble), 6 couples were asked to contribute a joint composition. These included works by Luiz Yudo & Tom Johnson, Oscar Bettison & Pete Hardy, Louis Andriessen & Martijn Padding, Peter Adriaansz & Maarten Altena, Michael Gordon & Julia Wolfe, Huba de Graaff & Jan van de Putte, and Marko and myself. Arnoud Nordegraaf made some lovely video interviews with composer couples which were screened before each of their pieces. Was very happy how the performers handled the minimal elements of the performance: triggering the iPads and modulating the speaker sound with their mouths and hands and moving around the space.
MAZE in the studio
Fantastic couple of days in the studio with a new group MAZE (Anne La Berge, Gareth Davis, Wiek Hijmans, Reinier van Houdt, Dario Calderone and myself) recording and extended version of Alvin Lucier's Memory Space for a forthcoming CD, and Christian Marclay's Shuffle. The group will officially launch next year with Marclay concerts in various festivals.
Two new cello pieces
Two premieres of solo cello pieces took place during the Amsterdam Cello Biennale. Larissa Groeneveld performed the Mendelssohn inspired Words and Song Without Words (see video below), and the 2nd round participants of the competition all played Beatrice and the Nightingale. Jonathan Butler eventually won the prize for the best performance of this piece.
World Feels Pressure @ Venice Biennale
Another premiere took place at the Venice Music Biennale. Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart and Gareth Davis performed the world feels pressure, for 3 voices, bass clarinet, and live electronics. The piece is based on a Dick Raaijmakers text from De Methode. The voices are processed with auto-tune and this is used to distort the pitches rather than making them homogenous. I was very pleased with the performance, here is a nice review of the concert (in Italian). Further performances of the piece take place in Stuttgart (18th October) and Den Bosch (9th November).
Film about the Venice premiere:
Piano Portrait Concert
Pianist Saskia Lankhoorn performed a portrait concert of my piano music at Korzo theatre, Den Haag at the beginning of the month. This included pieces like Piano Movement (1992) from my student days to recent pieces like True Histories (2012) and Politicus: Art of Weaving (2011) an adaptation of the Venice Biennale installations as a 20 minute performance piece. This involved Saskia doing live preparations on the disklavier, while playing the role of the interlocutor in a one-sided Socratic dialogue. I was thrilled with the concert, which was held under the auspices of the Cypriot embassy, it's rare that one gets a chance to put on a retrospective concert as such, and Saskia's excellent performance was more than I could have hoped for.
Autumn season started with a trip to Goole, Yorkshire to develop a piece called Speaking Tubes with IOU (David Wheeler). They created a stunning installation with custom made air-ducting tubes that had five unique listening areas in a circular arrangement. One could listen from any of these areas between a pair of huge cones or get a surround experience form the center. I composed a soundscape based on the vocalization of vortex equations, using those equations to generate a sonic experience of turbulent motion. This was the first phase in a developing project which will be presented as an installation and concert piece with musikFabrik in 2013-2014.
Early Summer began with presentation of sound pieces in Nantes at the Sonor festival, and the premiere of some smaller works for Calefax reed quintet,hypothetical islands, at the Muziekgebouw, and Zwerm guitar quartet, X, at the Holland Festival.
I was happy to have found the time in the period (mostly in my hotel room in Nantes) to make a short Raaijmakers dedication film, machine read, for an evening organized by Terras magazine. It got me back into reading Dick's theoretical writings, “The Art of Reading Machines” and “The Method”, which are fascinating in their peculiar, ultra-objective point of view. The language is reduced to an almost geometric logic as found in Spinoza's “Ethics” or Wittgenstein's “Tractatus”.
Another highlight was going to Cyprus to set up the installation, norms of transposition (citizenship), at the In Crisis exhibition curated by Yannis Toumazis at NiMAC. It was all part of the festivities around Cyprus getting the EU presidency, not such a big deal, but a good excuse anyway to mount what turned out to be an excellent and very ambitious art event. The exhibition is still running until the end of the year, though I hope the installation, which is in part interactive, will survive the whole six months without too many temperamental- or even temperature-related crashes.
June was also enjoyable in having played a few concerts in a row; Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, with Andy Moor with our rebetika set. It's always great to do some live performances with Andy, and on a musical level the set gets better and better. What was less fun was the triple-wammy of car troubles: start-motor breaking down - car being broken into - and then towed away by the police, in just one exciting night in Brussels.
July was spent largely at home composing two new works, a solo cello piece based on cellist Beatrice Harrison's nightingale cult, which will be the compulsory contemporary work for participants of the cello concours at the Amsterdam Cello Biennale this Autumn. Completed also a piece for the Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart and bass clarinet player Gareth Davis, which will be premiered at yet another biennale, this time at the home of biennales in Venice in October. I hope the singers will forgive me for writing them an ‘autotune’ piece, but it subverts slightly the point of autotune, because instead of turning their voices into anodyne and quantized little Cher robots - they are collided with each other to produced confused and jittering little Cher robots.
August saw the premiere of nerve performed by the young talents of JON, Jeugd Orkest Nederland, conducted by Jurjen Hempel. The orchestra toured the piece in Italy and gave a final performance of it in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw. The piece is about stage fright and the fear of making mistakes, and ironically it was the computer which was cueing the samples and video that was most prone to error. Here is a picture of the performance in Florence sent to me by composer Eric Verbugt, the word 'error' ominously triggered a software failure and the operator had to restart the software and catch up in the middle of the piece.