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Seung-Ah Oh - Korea, Schoenberg, and the appeal of an eastern philosophy


Round-trip to Vienna

Seung-Ah Oh

“Music was important to our family when I grew up”, says Seung-Ah Oh, who was born in 1969. Yet in the Roman Catholic Oh household no ancient Korean chamber music could be heard or folk music from the villages or rural areas. In the 1970s, Seung-Ah’s father worked in Saudi Arabia for a while and came back with a fabulous hi-fi system, including a tape recorder and an extensive collection of opera tapes. “He played Pavarotti, all of the well-known singers”, Oh remembers, “very often and very loudly. When I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s nobody believed that Korean music was important. We did music in primary and secondary school but it was almost exclusively about western music, mainly classical, starting with Beethoven and the Romantics. We had theory lessons and sang Schubert and Schumann.” Meer...

Seung-Ah Oh - Developments, finds and prospects


Piece by piece

Seung-Ah Oh

“During my first year in the Netherlands I wrote ten pieces instead of two or maximally three per year, as before”, Oh says. Not all of these works are among the forty compositions listed on her website. Below is a selection of the most interesting pieces (according to Oh, and also because they illustrate her approach and the way she has developed) with some explanatory notes, provided for this occasion.

So-Ri I and II – 2001 – guitar, flute; violin, cello, and piano – 10’; 10’
“So-ri means sound or noise. This piece is not so much about pitch but about stacking up sounds; how to build blocks of sound using harmony, repetition, and instrumentation. Meer...

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

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


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


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...

Han Bennink – telephone conversation in November 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


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


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


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


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


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...
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