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Come to hear the music, not to see the star

15/12/2007

Sofia Music Weeks 2007

On the back of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia, painted bright blue, there is written, in white and dark blue, large and small letters: "Zoals de koelte ’s nachts langs lelies, en langs rozen" (“Like the coolness at night around lilies, and around roses”), and the rest of Jan Hanlo’s poem This is how I feel you are as well. It makes you suspect a warm, special bond with Bulgaria, but Dutch isn’t the only foreign language on Bulgarian walls. In anticipation of its joining the European Union, nine member states adopted a wall in Sofia, to present a poem in their national language on it. In 2004 the Netherlands, who came up with the project, were the first to carry out this idea on a prominent location in the old city centre. Now that Bulgaria has been part of the EU since January 1, 2007, the Netherlands are further strengthening the ties with a whole series of cultural activities. Meer...

Frank J. Oteri - conversation in New York, May 2007

15/12/2007

A pluralistic view on music

"There is definitely a two-way stream between old Amsterdam and New Amsterdam", says composer, music journalist and radio maker Frank J. Oteri. He is the founding editor of New Music Box, a web-based magazine about American contemporary music, published by the American Music Center. Oteri visits festivals, meetings and symposia in the States and abroad, often as a representative of American composers. The following day he will do an on-stage interview with Jacob ter Veldhuis in the Whitney Museum at Altria, but Ter Veldhuis isn't the only Dutch composer Oteri is interested in, he may well be the best informed person on Dutch music in the United States. "I probably wouldn't know this much about it, if it wasn't for the promoters of Dutch music from Donemus", he states. "Fantastic combination of cd's, sheet music and expert information." Meer...

meetings and festivals in Europe

15/12/2007

Improvising in the shop-window

The Dutch Jazz Connection gives Dutch jazz musicians a hand with the conquering of foreign countries, for all too often musicians and professionals are like ships that pass in the night. When Dutch musicians are playing, foreign programmers are usually not around, and when they are, the Dutch musicians are not on stage just then. Programmers and artistic directors of foreign venues and festivals, most of them members of the Europe Jazz Network, like to meet at each others’ events and, while they’re at it, stay informed about the musical state of affairs. So why not combine the meetings with an extensive, attractive presentation of the best, most interesting jazz, homegrown in Holland? At which, in addition to the EJN members, as many other important foreign guests as possible are present? The people of the Dutch Jazz Connection didn’t wonder for long, and in 1998 they organized the first Dutch Jazz Meeting. Meer...

Guus Janssen – interview in the pianist-composer’s workroom, October 2007

15/12/2007

Is there anything in this for me?

“I can play up a storm with my left hand. Autonomously. You almost never see that in jazz music.” Guus Janssen is not just an individualistic improviser, he is also a virtuoso pianist, a seasoned performer of his own composed work and that of others. “A composer can easily detach himself from the practice”, Janssen says, “so playing music yourself as well is enjoyable and useful.” His music is often about that of others, recognizable sounds, references and quotes can be heard in it. Sometimes they’re appearances that are deceiving, and often they last only a moment, just long enough for a flash of recognition. Whether it’s in Russia or in America, in China or Turkey, Janssen can sometimes move his listeners deeply. Meer...

the international career of Jacob ter Veldhuis - according to a conversation in the composer's garden, July 2007

15/12/2007

Chance, perseverance and the right notes

“How come I didn’t know this guy?”, that’s almost the standard reaction from an American, expert or unsuspecting listener, who hears Jacob ter Veldhuis’ boombox music for the first time. These muscular pieces, with samples from Jerry Springer shows, a speech by President Bush or TV commercials for slimming products, go down well with the American public. And yet, Ter Veldhuis didn’t celebrate his first international successes in the United States, and not with the stirring boombox repertoire. It all started in Russia with melodious music, after a more or less inappropriate artist-in-residenceship in Darmstadt, thanks to the piano composition Toccata for ten fingers and a nose. Meer...

Tineke Postma – interview in the saxophonist and composer’s home in November 2007

15/12/2007

Graduation party at Carnegie Hall

Flawless technique and a lilting style don’t guarantee a student of the saxophone a glittering career. But Tineke Postma’s playing was exceptionally convincing. In 2002, when she was studying for her master’s degree in Amsterdam, she received the Beurs voor Excellerende Jonge Talenten (Scholarship for Excelling Young Talents) of the Dutch conservatories. With additional financing by the Fonds voor Amateurkunst en Podiumkunsten (Fund for the Amateur and Performing Arts) she left for New York to study for six months at the Manhattan School of Music, with renowned American musicians. The Sisters In Jazz All Star Award, which she received in 2003, led directly to a first and indirectly to a second American tour. That year Postma had hardly graduated, with honors, from the Amsterdam Conservatory when she performed at a sold-out Carnegie Hall. Meer...

Guus Janssen - interview in de werkruimte van de pianist-componist, oktober 2007

15/12/2007

Valt hier nog wat te halen?

"Ik kan als een razende tekeer gaan met mijn linkerhand. Autonoom. Dat komt bijna niet voor in jazzmuziek." Guus Janssen is niet alleen een eigenzinnig improvisator, hij is ook een virtuoos pianist, doorkneed in het spelen van eigen en andermans gecomponeerde muziek. "Een componist kan zichzelf gemakkelijk loszingen van de praktijk", zegt Janssen, "zelf ook spelen is leuk én nuttig." Zijn muziek gaat vaak over die van anderen, er klinken herkenbare geluiden, verwijzingen en citaten in door. Soms is het schijn die bedriegt en vaak duurt het maar even, net lang genoeg voor een flits van herkenning. Of het nu in Rusland is of in Amerika, in China of Turkije, Janssen weet zijn luisteraars soms tot ontroerens toe te raken. Meer...

Han Bennink – telephone conversation in November 2007

15/12/2007

Reluctant globe-trotter

It’s no coincidence that an action photograph of drummer Han Bennink graces the cover of the standard work about improvised music in the Netherlands: Jazz + Classical Music + Absurdism = New Dutch Swing. It was written by an American, jazz critic Kevin Whitehead, which says something about the international reputation of Dutch improvisers. In 1967 Bennink, who also plays other instruments and is a visual artist to boot, founded the Instant Composers Pool with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker, to this day the most adventurous high quality improvisation orchestra in the Netherlands, if not the whole world. In 1974 Breuker switched over to his own Kollektief, Mengelberg remained the leader of the ICP. But unfortunately Breuker is now too ill for world-class achievements, and Mengelberg too tired. In the year 2007 Bennink is the most prominent founder-ambassador of Dutch impro music. Meer...

Insomnio, house ensemble of the ISCM - conversation in September 2007

15/12/2007

Angular, rugged or pure passion

The Utrecht ensemble Insomnio – fifteen musicians strong, young and successful – gladly and often plays music by living Dutch composers. As a Dutch ensemble you’re supposed to do this, is the opinion of Idske Bakker and conductor Ulrich Pöhl, who are joint artistic directors. Bakker moreover exchanged her role as harpist for that of business director, she brings the ensemble to more and more venues for current music at home and abroad. In 2007, recommended by Gaudeamus, Insomnio was appointed its house ensemble by the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). This led to concerts during the ISCM World Music Days, this year in Hong Kong, preceded by an international tour of festivals affiliated with the ISCM. Four performances abroad have by now taken place, still to follow are the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in England and the World Music Days in Hong Kong. Meer...

Louis Andriessen - a conversation in the composer's living room, July 2007

15/12/2007

World famous with the Anglo-Saxons

The first time the name Louis Andriessen was mentioned in an American newspaper must have been in 1969. That year the Holland Festival presented the much talked about opera Reconstructie by a collective of Dutch composers and writers, Andriessen being one of them. On July 8, a headline in the New York Times read: “’Reconstruction’ Aims Satire at U.S. ‘Imperialism’ in South America”, reassuringly adding, a few days later: "The operatic bomb planted in Amsterdam's Theater Carré failed to explode; its charge of political dynamite turned out to be a dud. Instead of the widely prophesied riot, there was an evening of fun and frolic." Meer...

Boi Akih: singer Monica Akihary and guitarist Niels Brouwer - conversation at the musicians' home, October 2007

15/12/2007

A new form of jazz

Boi Akih Management holds office at the house of singer Monica Akihary and guitarist Niels Brouwer, a small wooden dyke house in Amsterdam North. Although the Enja record company is of inestimable importance to the product familiarity and promotion of Boi Akih abroad, for the time being all the organizational and production work concerning concerts and tours is done by the singer herself. “For concerts by the two of us that’s manageable, but we usually tour with more people.” At the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 Akihary and Brouwer will mainly perform as a duo for a while, but after that they will certainly work with guest musicians again. Because interest in Boi Akih is great, in whatever combination, and especially in foreign countries, the duo is now negotiating with an agency, not the smallest one in the Netherlands. Meer...

Michel van der Aa - conversations in June and October 2007 at the composer’s home

15/12/2007

Just tell them what you do

“In my musical theatre pieces you can’t see the music separately from the film clips and the stage image. With the opera After life I noticed that people sometimes have difficulty seeing the music, the action and the images as a completely organic whole. At certain times the film or the stage image is the most important, then I put the music on the back burner for a while. Combinations is what I’m good at, creating the balance between those three layers myself. I write the notes, I determine who stands where on the stage, I decide what can be seen on the video screen at which moment. This way, everything gets interwoven, much more so than when you put different people to work after the music is finished.” Meer...

Graham McKenzie - Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

15/12/2007

Stuff to discover, all the time

"There is a strong Dutch emphasis to the program this year", artistic director Graham McKenzie writes in the booklet accompanying his Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. "Holland has long provided a personal inspiration and education to me, when it comes to contemporary music(s)", he continues. He calls Yannis Kyriakides, a student of Louis Andriessen appointed house composer of the festival, "one of the brightest talents to emerge on the European scene". Since McKenzie took office, a new wind has been blowing through Huddersfield, extremely favorable to the Dutch. Meer...

innovative jazz festivals

15/12/2007

Balancing on the edge between groove and experiment

Playing on the stage of a renowned foreign festival is good for the international career of any musician, and this holds true in the world of contemporary jazz as well. But how do you get there? The promoters of the Dutch Jazz Connection offer a helping hand, they bring Dutch jazz and improvising musicians to the attention of the artistic directors and programmers of progressive festivals all around the world. Most jazz festivals in Europe have joined the Europe Jazz Network (EJN). The representatives see each other at official meetings, but at least as often in an informal atmosphere, during festivals, for instance; colleagues from other continents are also regularly present there. Meer...

Moscow, St. Petersburg and the rest of Russia

15/12/2007

A hundred composers and their work

When, in the second half of the Nineteen Eighties, perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) heralded the collapse of the Soviet Union, a free exchange of information and ideas with the West slowly but surely started to flow again. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the last physical barrier between East and West had come down, and musicians, composers and musicologists from both worlds eagerly threw themselves into each other’s repertoire. In the havoc that fifty years of communist rule had wreaked, at least the conservatories and composers’ unions, ensembles and orchestras were still standing. Gaudeamus successfully strengthened the ties with the esteemed representatives of these institutions. Meer...

Jacob ter Veldhuis in New York

15/12/2007

Obsessed with American culture

“A wonderful milestone, another step further”; composer Jacob ter Veldhuis, better known locally as Jacob TV, is far from unhappy about his mini festival in New York. In early May 2007, at the Whitney Museum at Altria in the heart of Manhattan, the only music to be heard for three nights was that by this Dutchman fascinated by American culture. A nice occasion to also present a brand new release with six cd’s and two dvd’s full of highlights. Too bad the hall echoed so much, that the video screen was living room size. But the goal had been reached: exposure. A pretty big audience at the concerts, a two-hour radio program, broadcasts of music from the new cd’s, an ample announcement in Time Out, good reviews in the New York Times, among others. All that more than makes up for the occasional disappointment. Meer...

promoting Dutch music abroad

15/12/2007

A breach in the dike

A catchy name was still lacking for the program that Donemus (at the time still Muziekgroep Nederland) and Gaudeamus carried out in 1999-2004 with so-called HGIS-C funds: Intensifying the promotion of Dutch contemporary music abroad. During the 2005-2007 period the program, actually a compilation of countless, mostly small-scale projects, was continued under the name A Breach in the Dike, this time together with the Dutch Jazz Connection. Meer...

A breach in the Dyke - introduction

15/12/2007

Typically Dutch

The Dutch identity is impossible to trace in the field of music as well. Foreigners do perceive a typically Dutch sobriety, control and humor, and especially the existence of many different styles. This great variety exists thanks to the eagerness and skill with which composers and improvisers hereabouts handle all kinds of musical, theatrical and visual possibilities, wherever they come from. Meer...