The brand new building of Muziekhuis Utrecht (Music House Utrecht), called Centrum Muziek XXI, at Loevenhoutsedijk 103 beckons. It’s a new venue for contemporary music, which, like contemporary art, speaks of the age we live in.
Yet, unlike contemporary art, new music requires more effort to reach listeners. Could it be that visual appreciation is easier than audio? Or is the time element? That is, one can stand in front of a painting for an indefinite amount of time to familiarise and appreciate. On the other hand, live music is delivered in real-time. Unless there’s a recording, you won’t hear it again. And why would you buy a CD of music you’ve only heard once? ….not even sure that you’d appreciate it?
There lies the rub.
Who would risk going to a concert of unfamiliar works? You might not enjoy it. When the composers are also unfamiliar, you may wonder why bother at all. In our case, it’s a quadruple whammy because the venue is completely new and our duo isn’t world famous. But if you like our “Mediterranean Summer” programme on the previous day, you will definitely enjoy “Pull, Pluck, Strum, Bang!” on 13th September 2009.
Why would you go to Centrum XXI in Utrecht on a Sunday afternoon in September?
New music on a rare combination of instruments (piano and guitar) invites you to new possibilities. Think outside the box as the composers have. What can you do with a piano and a guitar other than play them the way they have always been played in the past three centuries?
I visited the Museum of Modern Art in Paris twice this past August to find out why modern art seems so much more appreciated than modern music. Perhaps I should ask the audience at our contemporary music concert this Sunday afternoon.
“Pull, pluck, strum bang!” Concert Programme
Abstract and Dance (2007)
Gijs van Dijk (b. 1954)
When Bach, Stravinsky and The Who Met (2005)
Allan Segall (b. 1959)
Lan-Chee Lam (b. 1982)
Suite Rio de la Plata (2004) (last two movements only)
Erik Otte (b. 1955)
Danza de la pareja enamorada, lento ma non troppo
Candombe del amor recuperado, allegro giusto
Abstract and Dance (2007) Gijs van Dijk (b. 1954)
Born in Delft, Gijs van Dijk studied composition and music theory with Tristan Keuris at the Hilversum and Utrecht Conservatory. He works as a composer, an improvising musician, a classical & jazz guitar player and teacher in Amsterdam. van Dijk has worked with many leading Dutch musicians, mainly as a composer for chamber music ensembles but also in various improvised music ensembles.
“Abstract and Dance” is a kind of rendered piece. The first movement develops in the direction of twelve tone music which suddenly changes into a stylized Spanish dance in the second part.
When Bach, Stravinsky and The Who Met (2005) Allan Segall (b. 1959)
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dutch/American composer Allan Segall grew up in Denver, Colorado, and has most recently served as Concert Director at the Engelse Kerk in Amsterdam where he lives. He received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He acquired Dutch citizenship in 2007.
Segall wrote “When JS Bach, Igor Stravinsky and The Who Met” for the Baby Boomer Generation and and those young at heart who love The Who. This amazing work is a synthesis of art music and rock, a work where the guitar actually surpasses the piano in volume as guitarist demonically strums to an exhilarating climax that recalls Segall’s favorite Who album, Tommy.
Drizzle (2007) Lan-Chee Lam (b. 1982)
Born in Hong Kong, Lan-Chee Lam’s music often combines traditional Chinese and contemporary Western techniques, exploring new dimensions of the sound world. Her works have been performed in Hong Kong, Canada, United States and Italy. She is currently pursuing a DMA at University of Toronto.
Drizzle, as in light rain, makes use of guitar harmonics and the insides of a grand piano. There are pentatonic passages which make the piano sound like a Chinese instrument. Lam wrote, “The main challenge of writing for guitar and piano is the balance issue. In order to let people hear the guitar part more clearly, the piano can’t always plays too loud or busy figures. Therefore, I try to use more high register from the piano which has a thinner sound. It surprisingly works well with the guitar harmonics, as well as the inside piano plucking. This sounds like the bell. The main idea for writing Drizzle is to reflect the beauty of light rain with its transparent texture, with reference to guitar tremolos.”
Suite Rio de la Plata (2004) Erik Otte (b. 1955)
Born in Leiden, home to the oldest university in the Netherlands, Erik Otte played the violin as a child but made his final choice for guitar at age 16. After graduating from the Royal Conservatory (The Hague) and the Conservatory of Rotterdam, he followed an international performance career before settling into composing for chamber music in recent years.
Suite Rio de la Plata, which consists of four dance movements about the various stages of love (from heart break to new love), was written for Anne Ku and Robert Bekkers as a present. It is the first work dedicated to the duo.