(SNODS EDGE) Okay, I finally made a video demo for the piece I wrote for Stichting Conlon at Gaudeamus Muziekweek two years ago. The premiere at the Speelklokmuseum in Utrecht was musically lovely, but visually…not quite, um, no. Two years to get this done! Better late than never. It’s a good piece, I think. It’s AT LEAST worth checking out this video of section 1 and 1a….
(SNODS EDGE) For our Dutch friends out there: Een fijne pakjesavond is gewenst! Voor ons is dit de eerste Sinterklaas buiten Nederland sinds 2007. Yes, it’s Sinterklaas time again in Hollandia! You can sort of get an idea what it’s all about here. Georgie and I are missing Holland quite a bit at the moment. It’s sad to be missing out on the Sint this year….
My return from Krakow a couple of weeks ago brought an end to my hectic travel schedule this autumn; it’s nice to just be home, I have to say, although all of the concerts were mighty enjoyable, to be sure. Last week at Durham University we hosted a five-day festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of John Cage, kicking off the event with a massive rendering of his ‘Variations IV’. Got to meet and work with some great musicians from around the UK and the Netherlands as well, as the Ives Ensemble was on hand for workshops, lectures, and concerts. John Snijders (piano) has recently been appointed Reader in Performance at Durham, and is set to begin in January; the slow infiltration of Dutchies into Durham continues!
Elizabeth Price won the Turner Prize. I saw a piece of hers at the Baltic Centre in Newcastle last February and was happy to make a pleasant, new (for me, at any rate) discovery. The work I saw was ‘West Hinder’. I found it quite touching; my kind of fantasy. Hundreds of automobiles at the bottom of the English Channel, slowly achieving consciousness and zipping around on the seabed with a newfound, sentient freedom. Instrumental version of a Genesis hit used in the climax.
Just heard that Dave Brubeck has died. Dave Brubeck and Elliott Carter; both remaining very active and vital to the last. I hope that I can manage to do the same.
(DEN HAAG) I did the music and sound design for my friend Joel Stephen Fleming’s most recent film project, premiering this weekend in beautiful Naaldwijk! Stop by on Sunday afternoon at 16:00 if you’re in the Westland. Check out the trailer:
In other news, I’m playing bass for the premiere of Christiaan Richter’s new mega orchestral piece, Infraconscious, tomorrow night at the Grote Kerk in Den Haag. Showtime is 20:15. Don’t miss it!
(DEN HAAG) Someone uploaded a live performance of the Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto project with Ensemble Modern. I’ve only heard the album (downloaded) so I don’t own the physical artefact, which comes with a DVD. Does anyone know if the DVD features the same material shown here? I love these collaborations; some of the tastiest ambient music around. I listen to this album frequently. Headphones or a good sound system are a must!
In other news, plans for the autumn project with the POW Ensemble are moving forward. I’m meeting tomorrow with the head honcho, Luc Houtkamp, to begin to sort out some technical details. Several composers are already writing pieces for the ensemble, and Luc and I need to finalise our individual setups with the computers and electronics. This is a unique challenge with a laptop-based group: each person can have a quite individual setup, so you need to carefully work out precisely which tools you need to make available to the composers, who may or may not be writing custom software. It’s a fascinating process, not completely dissimilar to a percussionist who has to decide what toys he’ll bring to the gig, but different from the standpoint of notation and standardisation of software tools and approaches.
(DEN HAAG) I’ve been reading Victor Zuckerkandl’s 1956 book, Sound & Symbol–Music and the External World. He’s taking on the big question of whether the source of music is to be found in the internal world of it’s makers and listeners, or rather in the ‘external world’ of the musical materials themselves. He begins to attack the problem by attempting to refine our conceptions of the perception of ‘motion’ in music. What is musical motion? Can music be said to properly ‘move’ at all, or is this simply an impression conveyed in the mind of the listener? In the first section, he convincingly argues that the problem of sorting out the true nature of perceived musical motion (if indeed such a thing exists) is actually an age-old problem concerning the motion of physical objects as well.
He uses motion pictures as a visual analogy: a stream of objects or images, projected at the proper speed, will convey the illusion of smooth motion. In his view, it is the ‘pure dynamism’ of the perceived flow, what we see between each discreet image, which constitutes the real nature of perceived motion. Applying this same idea to streams of discreet musical data, we come to see that the sounds themselves don’t properly ‘move’, but that the dynamism present in each tone has a ‘direction’ that we can hear, and which exists objectively, simultaneously in the tones and between them, quite apart from any subjective concerns. I’ve only finished the first section, but so far Zuckerkandl is attempting to locate the source of all music in the ‘external world’, rather than simply in the internal psychological state of some individual listener. I’ll report back as soon as I know more….
In more mundane news, I’ve had to do a bit of research into driving laws in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as Georgie and I are looking to relocate to the north of England this summer and I’ll need to be ‘legal’ on the road when we arrive. We’ve (thankfully) been able to get by without a car over these last five years in Holland, but in Britain this is just not practical. We’ve already purchased a 1999 Toyota Corolla and the only thing that remains is to get insurance, which in my case means getting a UK license. There is no license exchange scheme between Britain and the US, meaning that I’ll have to sit a theory exam and take a driving test. The last time I did this was when I was 16 (22 years ago!), back in Montana. This time around, the whole thing will cost around £100 and be a complete pain in the ass. I could do the test here in Holland and then exchange the Dutch license for a British one, but that would mean more expense and paperwork. Easier to just do it in Britain. Sigh.
(DURHAM, UK) The phrase of the day is: ‘Vennels Cafe’, for lunch or teatime treats! This lemon cake rules. Good filter coffee (sometimes I just want a regular effin’ cup, you know?). Had lunch here yesterday with the composer Eric Egan, during which we talked enthusiastically about remote northern places (being half-Norwegian, he shares my isolated-northern-islands fetish). He was also able to enlighten me a bit as to the new-music scene here in ‘The North’. The key word: ‘potential’.
Last night I went to the concert by the Ives Ensemble in the Chapel of the College of St. Hild and St. Bede. The chapel is modern and very, very beautiful. Stark beauty, with an amazing acoustic for chamber music. Richard Rijnvos was saying that the concert marked the first time the chapel had been used for Durham’s ‘Musicon’ series, which seems a bit strange. I’d love to hear one of my pieces in there.
By the way, whilst I’m thinking of it: dear people of northern England, what in heaven’s name is UP with the shocking state of your public loos? No matter where I go, whether it be coffee shop, University library, Waterstone’s or Newcastle Airport, I am confronted with filthy toilets. You know the sort: the thin layer of antediluvian grime which covers the wall and floor. This is SERIOUSLY old, time-tested gunk that fits in with the UNESCO World Heritage ethos of preservation. Grade II listed grime. Maybe it’s just The North? I don’t remember seeing this down south. Maybe it’s because it’s a university town? Hmmm.
Back to the concert. On the progra(m)m(e) was a FANTASTIC piece by Christopher Fox (UK, 1955), Straight Lines in Broken Times 2. Apparently Fox has had a close relationship with the Ives for the last decade or so. Morton Feldman’s The Viola in My Life 2, Cage’s Six Melodies, Matthew Shlomowitz (Australia, 1975), Fast Medium Swing, Laurence Crane (UK, 1961), Seven Short Pieces. The real revelation for me was the program’s closer, Cassation, by Gérard Pesson (France, 1958). Almost entirely composed with extended techniques, the rhythms and sounds were delicate, subtle, at times quite funny, and always wonderfully balanced. This is music that tickles you. I try to make my music tickley as well. Anyway, I’ll be checking out more of his music.
Walking home last night after the concert I followed a trail of broken eggs on the pavement. Guess where they lead me? Bingo! All the way back to Butler College, my very own. This was impressive, as the distance isn’t negligible (just over a mile), requiring the careful eggers to have prepared at least two dozen eggs for the purpose. This was pre-meditated egging, to be sure.
Hey! Looky here at this nifty magazine that I’ve somehow missed, after 4 years of living in Holland…
Okay, to wrap up: here’s a piece by Gérard Pesson for your pleasure.
Already over a month since I last posted, during which time I returned to Holland from my Montana holiday-homecoming, got a new (short) piece off the ground for the Ives Ensemble (in residence at Durham University next month), and hosted the in-laws for a weekend.
I’ve been continuing work on a piece for orchestra, which is (I believe) approaching the halfway point. [Or rather, the end, as I suspect that the material which I’ve written thus far is actually the *second* half. We’ll see.] I can’t think of anything more satisfying than working on material which you know is strong. For the first time in a few years, I’m working on a piece which is not a commission. This means that I’m free to explore, consider, step back and think for a bit…. It’s really quite a luxury! With no immediate plans for a performance, I can take as much time as I need to really craft the thing. In addition, since returning to NL I’ve started a new work schedule. I rise every (weekday) morning at 3:50, ensuring that I’m at the desk (with hot coffee) by 4:00. I work for two hours until the wife rises at 6:00. Shower, breakfast, chitchat. Work from 7:00 to 9:00 and then off to the day job. It seems to be pretty effective so far, as I’ve been able to work well almost every morning, even doing a bit more in the late afternoons if the urge strikes me. The hardest part is getting to bed by 20:30….
The last two weekends I’ve been able to check out the annual world-class chess tournament at Wijk aan Zee, just about an hour north of us. I went for the first time last year, and again, the atmosphere is really something special! 14 of the world’s top chess players are there for the 14-day tournament. Here are some photos from this year’s ‘opening Saturday’:
(DEN HAAG) Several friends and colleagues at the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunst have put together a new exhibition which runs from next Thursday, the 15th, at KABK here in Den Haag. Check out the super-exciting trailer: