Monday, November 29, 2010

Grawemeyer Award for "La Commedia"

Louis Andriessen has won the 2011 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Dante-inspired multimedia opera "La Commedia", premiered in 2008.

Andriessen’s "La Commedia" was selected from a wide international field of entries, and the Grawemeyer’s prize announcement describes how the composer “uses Dante’s epic poem as a springboard for subtle and ironic commentary on modern life, drawing a multilingual libretto from the Bible and other sources.

Andriessen on winning the Grawemeyer Award:
“Just before the Second World War, I was born in a sidestreet by a small canal in the medieval centre of Utrecht. Believe me, 71 years later, getting the world-famous Grawemeyer Award for La Commedia seems to be completely unreal. How could this happen?"
“When I was four years old my father walked with me over the bridge of the canal to St Catherine’s Cathedral. In that church he played the organ and conducted the choir which twice a week included 40 boy trebles (girl sopranos were permitted only 25 years later). Did it all start sometime then? Perhaps it was hearing him play the organ when I started composing ten years later (I simply began by imitating my father and my 14-year-older brother Jurriaan). My father taught me: “Don’t think you are important, we are just worms, but we have the duty to serve the music and write as well as we can”.
“I am very grateful for the prize. Let us remember my wife Jeanette, who always provided valuable critical input about my compositions and supported me throughout the 50 years we lived together. She suffered a serious illness during the time I was working on "La Commedia" and died before the first performance. The complete five-part score is dedicated to her.”

To read the entire press release click here.
Foto: "La Commedia"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Anaïs Nin in Utrecht Tonight

Two more performances of "Anais Nin": tonight at Vredenburg Leeuwenbergh Kerk in Utrecht, 20.00h, and tomorrow at Den Bosch Verkadefabriek, 20.30h within November Music festival.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anaïs Nin Review

Frits van der Waa, exclusively for this blog, reports about Amsterdam performance of "Anaïs Nin":

The Dutch premiere of Louis Andriessen's Anaïs Nin was presented Thursday night in a crowded Muziekgebouw - which may be the result of the composers' appearance, the day before in the prime time show De wereld draait door. The new monodrama was performed by ensemble Nieuw Amsterdams Peil, who opened the program with Martijn Padding's Mordants en Guus Janssens Hu Hu Baley - excellent music and on a par with LA's work.
The book of Anaïs Nin is culled by Andriessen from Nin's diaries and from writings by Antonin Artaud and René Allendy, two of her lovers. She reminisces about her affairs, notably about her incestuous relationship with her own father, the composer Joaquín Nin. The role of the slightly vapid Anaïs fits Cristina Zavalloni, Louis Andriessen's muse since many years, like a glove. The only props are a chaise longue and a tea tray. Furthermore, director Jeroen de Man, added a video screen, where we can see snippets of Anaïs's past, with spoken quotations. But the audience cannot be swept away by this, because at times the 'tape' is spooled back and forth by Anaïs. In the beginning there is some interplay between music and video, but after some time the music takes over.
The score is certainly among Andriessen's finest, although the piece is at most 45 minutes long. The texture and vocal lines hark back to M is for Man, Music, Mozart (1991), but over the years Andriessen’'s style has become more supple and versatile. Helped by the 8-piece ensemble, fine musicians such as reed players David Kweksilber and Michiel van Dijk, pianist Gerard Bouwhuis and violinist Heleen Hulst, the composer suggests small orchestral miracles. At the same time, the music contains subtle traces of older music, like Weill's songs from the thirties, or American fifties' jazz. Beneath the surface, there's a lot going on, such as the wobbly, but nonetheless sure-footed octave jumps.
 Aided by the amplification, Mrs Zavalloni gives a powerful performance, although her voice isn't particularly beautiful and sometimes has a grating effect. The good thing is that the music is not 'expressive' in the classical sense, but rather straightforward, sung declamation - which doesn't prevent Andriessen from slipping in howling 'seufzers' at the great melancholy climax.
This music is thoroughly theatrical, and Andriessen employs a lot of time-honoured tricks. The most overt one is also the most effective: In the last minute the musicians stop playing, and we hear, far off, a melancholy song, accompanied by a muffled instrument - a guitar, a harp, a piano? It's an old song by Joaquín Nin, Anaïs father and lover, and it has a melancholy Andriessen probably never could have realized by himself, but which is so strongly reinforced and put in perspective by all what went before that it has become an integral part of his composition.

(The photo of Cristina Zavalloni as Anaïs Nin from the world premiere in Siena)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anais Nin, Dutch Premiere

During my recent stay in Amsterdam I made a photo of the poster for Andriessen's "Anais Nin" that will have its Dutch Premiere on November 4th, 8.15 pm. at Muziekgebouw aan het IJ. It will be performed by Cristina Zavalonni and Nieuw Amsterdams Peil ensemble. 
In the meantime, you can read interview about the piece with the composer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Anaïs Nin Libretto

"A desirable but insustainable emotional state brought on by extreme excitement and some form of mystical expectation". This was how Peter Greenaway defined ecstasy in "Rosa, the Death of a Composer". It appears that the ecstasy was one of the main motors for "Anaïs Nin", both the person and Andriessen's newest piece of music theatre. Andriessen himself created the libretto that brings evidence of ecstatic moments Nin had with Antonin Artaud, René Allendy, Henry Miller and her own father, composer Joaquin Nin.
"Even when I possess all – love, devotion, Henry, Antonin, Allendy – I still feel myself possessed by a great demon of restlessness driving me on and on. I am rushing on, I am going to cause suffering; all day I feel pushed, pushed.
I cover pages and pages with my fever, with this superabundance of ecstasy, and it is not enough. I pace up and down the cave. I have Henry, and I am still hungry, still searching, still moving – I cannot stop moving.
Only Henry senses the monster, because he too is possessed. I too will leave a scar upon the world." (...)

This is how "Anaïs Nin" begins, by Nin's own words taken from one of her interviews. Few more excerpts from the libretto illustrate Nin's passions:

(Anaïs Nin)
"Artaud – the face of my hallucinations. The hallúcinated eyes. The sharpness, the pain-carved features. The man-dreamer, innocent and diabolical, frail, nervous.
“Je suis le plus malade de tous les surrealistes.”
I was haunted by Artaud.
I met Artaud at the Viking. I was trembling. And then began a night of ecstasy. We left the café, we walked in a dream, in a frenzy, Artaud torturing himself with mad talk about eternity, God. We kissed violently; an ecstasy. He said: “Mon amour, mon grand amour! Entre nous il pourrait y avoir un meurtre.” (...)

(Anaïs Nin)
First day of Father story. King Father arrives after conquering a paralyzing lumbago. Pale. Suffering. Impatient to come. He appears cold and formal. He conceals his feelings. His face is a mask.
He talked about his love affairs as I do, mixing pleasure with creativity, interested in the creation of a human being through love. Playing with souls. And I watched him. And I knew he was telling me the truth, that he was talking to me as I talk to my journal. That he was giving me himself. This self was generous, imaginative, creative. And at certain moments, inevitably untrue.
Meals were brought to the room. I wore my satin negligee. The hours passed swiftly.
Then he said, “You are the synthesis of all the women I have loved. I don’t feel toward you as if you were my daughter.”
“I don’t feel as if you were my Father.”
“What a tragedy. What are we going to do about it? I have met the woman in my life, the ideal, and it is my daughter! I’m in love with my own daughter!”
“Everything you feel, I feel.”
There was a long silence.
Father asked me to move nearer. He was lying on his back and could not move.
We kissed, and that kiss unleashed a wave of desire. And when his hand caressed me – oh, the knowingness of those caresses – I melted. With a strange violence, I lifted my negligee and I lay over him.
“Toi, Anaïs! Je n’ai plus de Dieu!"
My yielding was immense, with my whole being.
Anaïs Nin: Incest. From A Journal of Love. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers New York, San Diego, London Copyright 1992 by Rupert Pole All rights through: Gunther Stuhlmann.
Antonin Artaud, Oeuvres, Lettres à Juliette Beckers et Anaïs Nin. Édition établie, présentée et annotée par Évelyne Grossman, Éditions Gallimard, 2004.
René Allendy, L’Amour, Éditions denoël, 19, rue Amélie, 19, Paris VII, 1942.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Anaïs Nin World Premiere Photo Log

Sara Ciccarelli sends photos from the world premiere of "Anais Nin" opera. The performance took place on July 10 at Teatro dei Rozzi in Siena as part of Settimana Musicale Senese.
Cristina Zavalloni as Anais Nin, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy
Photo by Pietro Cinotti
Cristina Zavalloni as Anais Nin, Nieuw Amsterdams Peil ensemble, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy
Photo by Pietro Cinotti
Opera Anais Nin, Nieuw Amsterdams Peil ensemble, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy
Photo by Pietro Cinotti
Cristina Zavalloni as Anais Nin, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy
Photo by Pietro Cinotti
Cristina Zavalloni as Anais Nin, Teatro dei Rozzi, Siena, Italy
Photo by Pietro Cinotti

Friday, July 9, 2010

Anaïs Nin Synopsis

Festival "Settimana Musicale Senese" begins today in Siena, Italy. Andriessen's new piece of music theatre "Anaïs Nin" (2009/10) will have its world premiere tomorrow at Teatro dei Rozzi. This monodrama opera is based on texts by Anaïs Nin and commissioned by the Accademia Musicale Chigiana of Siena and by the London Sinfonietta. Performers are Cristina Zavalloni, soprano, and Nieuw Amsterdams Peil instrumental ensemble. Interestingly, Andriessen will have his debut as a film director with the film that is incorporated in the piece.

Here is the synopsis and history of the piece written by Louis Andriessen:

Anaïs Nin Synopsis

I await my father with deep joy and impatience.

My Double! My evil Double!

Anaïs Nin

Anaïs Nin is a ‘monodrama', a musical stage play for one voice (Cristina Zavalloni), an ensemble of eight musicians (unconducted) on stage, and projected film fragments. The voice, Anaïs Nin, sings of her love affair with her father, the composer and pianist Joaquín Nin, whom she meets again after an absence of twenty years. Her lovers, René Allendy, Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller, get their word in both on film and on tape, recorded by the expressive singer Han Buhrs. These films are a compilation of existing material as well as new fragments.
The piece opens with a short TV-interview with Anaïs Nin, in which she says that she is forever restless, feverishly excited, and that nothing will satisfy her. ‘Only Henry senses the monster, because he too is possessed. I too will leave a scar upon the world.'
We see Anaïs Nin and Antonin Artaud making a romantic walk. On stage Nin sings of her ‘night of ecstasy' with him.
Then we see a film of someone making a speech and we hear René Allendy, Anaïs Nin's psychiatrist, talking about jealousy. She sings about her affair with him and of Artaud's criticism of her behaviour. Artaud: ‘What have you done to Allendy? You have done him harm.'
Following this Anaïs Nin sings about her renewed meeting with her father (film images). She is interrupted by a furious Henry Miller, but continues her story about the relationship with Joaquín. After a dramatic climax she phantasizes in a letter to her father about a moment of great peace, while sitting on his bed.
Later, in the room where Henry Miller lies asleep, Anaïs sings of her loneliness and perpetual hunger.
As the piece comes to a close, a recording of Joaquín Nin’s arrangement of a Basque Christmas carol is heard off stage, a gramophone disk from the thirties.

History of the piece
I knew about the father Joaquín Nin before I heard about the daughter Anaïs, because my father’s sheet music collection contained piano pieces and an arrangement of Spanish songs by the then famous pianist and composer Joaquín Nin. Only later, in the sixties, an American diary author became famous, mainly because of her sexual frankness. After some investigations she turned out to be the daughter of the composer. Again much later it became clear to me that she had had a love affair with her father.
After many years of intense collaboration with the Italian devil’s artist Cristina Zavalloni I realised that she would be very well suited to do the role of Anaïs Nin. In the meantime the volume of her diaries about the contact with her father had been published unabridged in English under the title Incest.
A few years ago two of my best friends, Gerard Bouwhuis and Heleen Hulst, had started a new ensemble, called Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (‘New Amsterdam Water Level’), consisting of some brilliant solo musicians, who decided to perform 20th and 21st century music for roughly 8 to 12 musicians, especially the more complex pieces, without a conductor.
All these things together opened the way for me to make Anaïs Nin. Reading the diaries from the years ‘32-‘34 I learned that this father was only one of the lovers amongst several others. This lead to my decision to grant an (outsider) role to three of them, namely the French film actor, poet and playwright Antonin Artaud, the American alcoholic turned into a writer by Anaïs Nin: Henry Miller and René Allendy. Artaud, under psycho-medical treatment himself, soon discovered Anaïs’ erotic hunger and advised her to consult his psychiatrist. Not much later this Allendy could be counted amongst her lovers.
The choice of instruments was influenced by the time of writing of the chosen diary fragments (early nineteen thirties). This explains the use of saxophones, clarinets (Sidney Bechet, Coleman Hawkins) and percussion (drumset including hi-hat, guiro, etc.).
The music closely tracks the irony, despair and passion of this many-sided and brilliant woman.

Louis Andriessen

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Implied Harmonies

Hal Hartley’s conscientious assistant in Berlin receives weekly letters from her boss and sends him the books he needs as he struggles in Amsterdam to create the staging for Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s opera, “La Commedia”. This is the plot of Hartley's short film "Implied Harmonies" featuring: Louis Andriessen, Christina Zavalloni, Claron McFadden, Jeroen Willems, Reinbert de Leeuw, Asko/Shoenberg Ensemble, Jordana Maurer.

Hal Hartley in an interview by a DJ Mendel:
(...) Implied Harmonies was supposed to be a real making-of documentary. But I was so overwhelmed by the production of the actual opera I had no time to shoot much. So, after I was back in Berlin for a few months, I watched the footage I did have – the orchestra rehearsing, blocking rehearsal with the singers, some interviews… And then I just copied out parts of my diary and turned them into letters to Jordana, who did, in fact function as an assistant for me in Berlin.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Image de Moreau Dance

Dance film to Andriessen's "Image de Moreau" performed by Marcela Giesche.

Image de M from Marcela Giesche on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birthday Blog

Louis Andriessen's birthday. I have found "A sort of birthday card for Dutch composer Louis Andriessen" by Hal Hartley (2004/2010).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Noise Quotes

Mirjam Zegers sends some funny quotes from Alex Ross' "The Rest is Noise":

The Mozart scrimmage
"Dave Lupack, our classical/sports liaison, notes that New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini has been blasting Mozart during practices at Jets training camp (read to the end of this item). It seems that Mangini read those Mozart-makes-you-smarter articles and decided that it would work on his offense. We would recommend Louis Andriessen instead."
The classical comeback (cont.)
"More on that 22.5% bump in classical record sales: reports from insiders suggest that the rise is not, in fact, due to crossover fare (Il Divo, André Rieu, the Dowland-howling Sting) but to the real thing (Mozart, Beethoven, Louis Andriessen)" (...)

Monday, May 10, 2010

De Staat at Carnegie Hall

Enseble ACJW with John Adams as conductor perform "de Staat" this evening at Carnegie Hall.
Program notes by Robert Adlington.
To see archive video of "De Staat" from 1978 Holland festival in Carre Theatre go to July 9, 2009 post on this blog.

Adlington's book, Louis Andriessen: De Staat, Ashgate, 2004.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hoketus Archives

Short video excerpt from 1981 showing ensemble Hoketus playing "Hoketus". Performers:
Group 1: Jan Willem v.d. Ham, Sax/ Patricio Wang, Panflute/ Paul Koek, Congas/ Gerard Bouwhuis, Piano/ Gene Carl, Fender Piano/ Huib Emmer, Bass Guitar/
Group 2 (right): Mariette Rouppe v.d. Voort, sax/ Renato Freyggang, Panflute/ Luuk Nachtegaal, Congas/ Cees van Zeeland, Piano/ Louis Andriessen, Fender Piano/ Jeanette Yanikian, Bass Guitar

Recently another youtube "Hoketus" recording emerged:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Image de Moreau Box Notes

Recently I got "Image de Moreau" box with nine piano pieces, chosen by the composer, published by MCN.

It includes Andriessen's comment about the pieces: "Strangely enough many of the pieces have some sort of handicap. There are no fewer than three pieces for one hand, left or right. There is one piece which has only chords, as in a Bach chorale. There is even a piece in which not a single note occurs.
The box also contains some birthday presents."

Another note is included, about the graphic design of Louis Andriessen's Image de Moreau box by Bas Mantel:

"The basic assumption for Bas Mantel was to design something different to the traditional piano book, something special, retaining its original functionality at the same time. The front of the box, which holds nine piano booklets, represents the Gustave Moreau painting Dalila, this picture being Louis Andriessen's personal choice.
So as to emphasize graphically the connection between the image and the nine works by Andriessen, Mantel has divided the painting into nine parts, one for each cover. Enlargements of these cuts will stress the details and the figurative symbols in addition to the abstract colour spaces. The composition, the painter's touch, colour, rhythm and texture of the autonomous images are, so to speak, an interpretation analogous to the piece of music. In an indirect manner, Image de Moreau refers by its choice of cover to the Andriessen work Souvenirs d'enfance, which was also published in a box in 1969."

The pieces are: Image de Moreau, Base, Etude Pour Les Timbres, Trois Pieces, Caecilia's Contrapunt, Ricercare, Trepidus, Feli-citazione, Blokken.

Ursula Oppens plays "Image de Moreau", from youtube:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Reviews

New Yorker
The Wall Street Journal Blog


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ash, Reviews

After Saturday Making Music concert in Zankel hall has been cancelled I found those two documentary photos online:

New York Times review, April 20
New York Times review, April 19

Saturday, April 17, 2010


"Life" will have its American premiere this evening in Carnegie Hall. Martijn Padding's "Mordants" and  Andriessen's "Dances" will also be performed. The last concert of "Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls" series brings improvized music performed by Ernst Reijseger, cello, Cristina Zavalloni, voice and Andrea Rebaudengo, piano.
More about Andriessen Carnegie Hall events here.

This is fragment of "Dances" (part II) played by ensemble of the Rotterdam Conservatory conducted by Henk Guittart.

"La Commedia" Reviews

Los Angeles Times
New York Times

Cristina Zavalloni as Dante, Walt Disney Concert Hall,  Los Angeles. Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

Jeroen Willems as Lucifer, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. Photo by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

Cristina Zavalloni as Dante, Carnegie Hall, New York. Photo by Richard Termine/New York Times

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interview with Andriessen on "La Commedia", Part 2

Andriessen talks about using musical language of romanticism. Conversation took place on March 10, 2009 in Andriessen's studio in Amsterdam.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Garden of Opera Delights: American Premiere of "La Commedia"

Tonight at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles "La Commedia" (concert performance) will have its American premiere. For more details click here.
"La Commedia" has five parts:
I The City of Dis or The Ship of Fools
II Story From Hell (Racconto dall'Inferno)
III Lucifer
IV The Garden of Earthly Delights
V Luce Etterna (Eternal Light)
Parts I and IV are named after Hyeronymus Bosch's paintings.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

All Stars Volkskrant Review

Frits van der Waa sends the text of his Volkskrant review of Bang on a Can recent Amsterdam concert, translated in English:

Andriessen master among minimalists
Works by Lang, Gordon, Andriessen, Moore, Wolfe and Nyman, the Bang on a Can All-Stars.
March 25, Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam.

For more than twenty years there has been a lively exchange of musical ideas between New York and Amsterdam. The central figure on the Dutch side is composer Louis Andriessen. The organisation Bang on a Can, in which composers and musicians cooperate is the focus on the other side of the ocean.
The six-member core group, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, brought a handful of pieces to the stage of the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw (Music Building), including Andriessen's latest composition Life, especially written for the ensemble.
An important aim of Bang on a Can is the removal of musical boundaries. The musical DNA of the composers involved still contains considerable traces of minimal music: almost all pieces in this program consist of interweaving notes, usually with a rather static harmonic background, the basis for unfolding rhythmic and melodic patterns. All in all, the sound is often more interesting than the actual notes. Characteristic ingredients are mixtures of electric guitar and amplified cello, the acrobatics of reed player Evan Zyporyn and a - colorful - rhythm section consisting of bass, percussion and keys.
Andriessen's new work, Life, a collaboration with video artist Marijke van Warmerdam, offers tranquil images of leaves, a couple on a bench, blinds and a window. Andriessen's music for the four short parts follow the mood, and features some striking timbral combinations. This new work doesn't contain great surprises, but what Andriessen does with a handful of notes still is way ahead of the sonic carpets of his Anglo-Saxon colleagues.

Amsterdam Muziekgebouw

"La Commedia" - Synopsis of Part I

Part I: The City of Dis or “The Ship of Fools” - Synopsis by Louis Andriessen
It opens with a psalm text in Latin introducing Das Narrenschiff, followed by the sixteenth century recruitment text for the guild of the Blue Barge. Anyone indulging in throwing dice, dancing and capering with pretty women is welcome. “With such folk the Barge is loaded.” Then Beatrice appears. She tells (in Italian) about her request for Virgil to help Dante on his expedition through the afterlife. There are some men in a boat on their way to Dis, the burning city in Hell. On the roof of the flaming towers they see screaming furies. Near the end someone walks on the water. Dante concludes the first act with the words: “I was certain that she was sent from heaven”.

Part I: The City of Dis or "The Ship of Fools" - Synopsis by Hal Hartley
The Terrifying Orchestra of the 21st century, also known as "The Guild", play their music on the streets of Amsterdam. They finish for the day, divide up the money, and go to their favorite bar, the Ship of Fools, where Lucifer, a local businessman with failed political ambitions, witnesses everything. Meanwhile, two young social activists from the suburbs, Maria and Lucia, arrive in town to hand out political pamphlets during the visit to the city of a famous public figure - Beatrice. Dante, a lady television journalist from Italy, is preparing her on-camera report of this important event. Maria is saddened to see her friend Lucia seduced by the young, tattooed, horn player, Farfarello, and taken to the Ship of Fools. At the bar, the Guild get drunk, dance, argue, fight, and try to make out with each other's wives and girlfriends. A ferocious fight breaks out between Calcabrina and Libbicocco.

"La Commedia": Impossible Synchronization

Hartley and Andriessen offered two different synopses for "La Commedia". This fact contributes to the view of the opera as an impossible synchronization. Hartley wrote the synopisis of film, and Andriessen synopsis of musical dramaturgy. There is an ambivalence between characters of Dante's "Comedy" and their contemporary embodiments. For Andriessen, Lucifer is «the fallen angel, in part III and Cacciaguida, an angry thug with frightening opinions in part V», and for Hartley «An angry and resentful businessman with frustrated political ambitions”. For Andriessen, Dante is «at once the famous Italian poet of 14 century Florence on his journey through hell, purgatory and heaven as described in his Divine Comedy, as well as a TV News anchor woman reporting on current affairs across Europe», and for Hartley only «television news journalist from Italy”. For Andriessen Beatrice is «Dante’s true love and guide in heaven. But she is also "a popular statesperson of some sort», and for Hartley she is «a famous foreign public figure visiting Amsterdam”.
Significant characters of "La Commedia" are also members of the musical guild, symbolizing the institution of music, and its functioning in the flux of capital. With colorful Italian devils’ names, Andriessen and Hartley are parodying the tradition of senseless operatic plots. In Hartley's film central role is given to musical guild and their Amsterdam adventures. In Andriessen's interpretation there are direct references to the world of Dante's Comedy and Hyeronymus Bosch's paintings.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Ship of Fools

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marijke van Warmerdam "Life" Interview

In e-interview Marijke van Warmerdam, visual artist, talks about "Life", the newest collaboration with Louis Andriessen for which she made four short films. "Life" had its world premiere in Milan by Bang on a Can All-Stars three days ago, and will have its Dutch premiere tonight at Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam. Marijke also sends several film stills.

Jelena Novak: "Life" just had its world premiere in Milan. Louis Andriessen mentioned that it is a kind a contemporary "Pictures at an Exibition". How would you describe the relation between the music and the film in the piece?

Marijke van Warmerdam: Louis asked me to make together a brand new 'Pictures at an Exibition' like Modest Mussorgsky who composed this suite in ten movements in remembrance of artist/architect Victor Hartmann. At once I had films in mind and suggested to him to start with some ideas which led to four loosely related short films as shown in 'Life'. For me length related to film is defined by the impact of an image and its concept, not so much by length. Opposite to a painting film is never static and tends strongly to become a story. I am on the other hand quite interested in creating a kind of stillness or even sometimes stand-stillness in film. Abstraction and lack of narration help me to obtain this. It is fascinating that the relation between the music and the films opens both abstraction and the narrative.

JN: In which way your film represents life, is it about life, which life, whose life...?

MvW: "Life" is a big word. Louis is quite right about that, but here it is about an elderly couple apparently contemplating about life. In my point of view this is what we all unavoidably strive for, namely to get old together. At least, it is something I would have liked to look forward to, but it doesn't look like it that I will accomplish this.

JN: How do your four films relate to each other?

MvW: In 'Life' there is a wind blowing through streets and around corners of buildings. For me gusts of wind are as unpredictable as life with all its ups and downs. If all goes well we reach the moment in which the couple is seen. The film with the blinds shows an abstract looking image in which light peeps into the given space. It blows any view away; here the unpredictability of life is repeated, although in the extreme. In the fourth film for me the old couple is disappearing in space and time, in which a hand can no more do than wiping away the condense on the window glass.

JN: What we hear strongly affects what we see and vice versa. How do you think that works in "Life"?

MvW: Light goes 300.000 kilometers per second and sound has a speed of no more than just 300 meters per second. Nevertheless I think that music is three times faster in reaching our emotions than a static image. A film is faster than a static image, but yet not that speedy. Music touches the sentiments deep in us, film images need to be unrolled for our slow eye. In 'Life' the music carries me away at once, while the film is taking its time to have an impact.

JN: What was your first reaction when you heard music together with the film?

MvW: It struck my eye and ear that the long lasting wind blasts in the first film were accompanied with long streaks of sounds and for instance a bit further circular camera movements could be heard in the composition. I have the feeling that sometimes structure and at other times the narrative part is emphasized.
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carnegie Hall Residency Program

Nine Programs include the New York premiere of Andriessen’s film opera "La Commedia" performed in concert version in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. Featured performers include John Adams, American Composers Orchestra, Asko Schoenberg and Reinbert de Leeuw, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Iva Bittová, Greetje Bijma, Maurice Chestnut, Ensemble ACJW, Evan Parker, Ernst Reijseger, Dawn Upshaw, and Cristina Zavalloni.

Friday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Jeffrey Milarsky, Conductor
William Anderson, Electric Guitar
John Korsrud, Trumpet

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN Symphony for Open Strings (NY Premiere)
MISSY MAZZOLI These Worlds in Us (World Premiere, new orchestration)
MICHAEL FIDAY Gonzo Variations - Hunter S. Thompson in memoriam (World Premiere)
JOHN KORSRUD Come to the Dark Side (World Premiere)

Wednesday, April 14 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
IVA BITTOVÁ, Violin/Vocals
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
Programmed by Louis Andriessen this double bill offers high-voltage tapping and singing—all improvised, first by star American tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, followed by Czech singer-violinist Iva Bittová, whose unique vocal and instrumental technique have gained her international recognition.

Thursday, April 15 at 8:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Reinbert de Leeuw, Conductor
Claron McFadden, Voice
Jeroen Willems, Voice
Marcel Beekman, Voice
Cristina Zavalloni, Voice
Synergy Vocals
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Dianne Berkun, Director

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN La Commedia (concert version, NY Premiere)
Pre-concert talk starts at 7:00 p.m. in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage with Louis Andriessen in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Director of Artistic Planning, Carnegie Hall.

Friday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Reinbert de Leeuw, Conductor
Barbara Sukowa, Voice

MARTIJN PADDING First Harmonium Concerto
REINBERT DE LEEUW Im wunderschönen Monat Mai (In the Lovely Month of May)

Friday, April 16 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
EVAN PARKER, Saxophone
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
A feast of surprises, as Louis Andriessen continues his series of unpredictable improvisatory concerts. This double bill features two striking performers who both exploit every possibility of their instruments: British saxophonist Evan Parker and Dutch singer Greetje Bijma, who performs with Andriessen on piano.

Saturday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Commentary by Louis Andriessen
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Heleen Hulst, Violin
Gerard Bouwhuis, Piano
Bang on a Can All-Stars
The Zankel Band
Anna Elashvili, Violin
Yonah Zur, Violin
Meena Bhasin, Viola
Claire Bryant, Cello
Kristoffer Saebo, Bass
Molly Morkoski, Piano
Bridget Kibbey, Harp
Eric Poland, Percussion
Alan Pierson, Conductor
Jeremy Geffen, Series Moderator

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN Life (with video by Marijke van Warmerdam) (US Premiere)

Saturday, April 17 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
This double bill features a versatile cellist "who can play anything," according to director Werner Herzog, for whom Reijseger has composed four film scores. On the program’s second half, a wildly theatrical singer who is also featured in Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia at Carnegie Hall on April 15. It’s the last in a series of evenings of improvisation programmed by Andriessen.

Sunday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.
(Le) Poisson Rouge
Program to include:
Facing Death
Trois Pieces

Monday, May 10 at 6:00 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Featuring musicians of The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and The Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education
John Adams, Conductor
Jeremy Denk, Piano

JOHN ADAMS Son of Chamber Symphony
IGOR STRAVINSKY Concerto for Piano and Winds

More details about concerts here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whistling "La Commedia" in Florence

Just back from Florence where joined the workshop "Opera in Medial Transformation". Funny enough, the garden of the house where I stayed was the place where Dante was often coming to write and to admire the view over the city. While wondering through Florence streets, melodies from "La Commeda" were coming to me themselves!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Andriessen in Conversation about New Work “Life”

"Life" by Louis Andriessen with video by Marijke van Warmerdam is going to receive its world premiere by Bang on a Can All-Stars ensemble for which it was written on March 22 in Milan. Andriessen explained in program note “(...) We decided to make a kind of contemporary “Pictures at an Exhibition”: short pieces of music to accompany video clips. This resulted in Life -- four short compositions which combines late romantic ‘European’ music with hip ‘American’ repetitive music. This combination is stretched by the use of cross-references, parallel with what happens in the four films: every film is completely independent, but contains allusions to the others”.
In recent conversation Andriessen evokes his latest collaboration with Marijke van Warmerdam.

Marijke van Warmerdam, Lievelingsmuur (The Wall of Preferred Things, 2000, Collection Louis Andriessen)

Jelena Novak: You mentioned that “Life” is like contemporary “Pictures at an Exibition”?

Louis Andriessen: Marijke found it difficult to think in time. A lot of visual artists don’t know how to handle the fact that things have duration. I said “I can understand it very well so why don’t you forget about time and I will take care of the time”. I think that at earlier times we also talked about narrativeness in art, that is something that interests me very much in the last ten years, specifically because of the vocal music I write. That is the situation with the famous Mussorgsky piece. Of course it is about paintings but the paintings seem to make you think of a story. And that is very interesting in between time and static situation of the visual arts. Four films are quite different and there are cross references through the films. It is more or less the same which I did in the music too. There are memories from earlier pieces in later pieces, but the four pieces are quite different, like a movies.

JN: Did Marijke first made videos or you worked in parallel?

LA: We talked about it a lot and then she had a sort of synopsis of the four movies and she had even no idea which order she would like them. I think she was earlier than I was, starting to shoot things. I remember taking my car to the forest where she made the second one. She used crane because there is an old couple on the bench sitting and looking over the little lake. You see them from the back, than you go up, like an angel, and then you go down again, and the camera moves under the bench, turns around and comes out of the bench, then you see the couple in front and then the camera goes very high up like you are an angel again, turns around in the air to arrive at the opening position. It makes a large circle. For moving under the bench she needed some hi-tech computer animation, because it is totally impossible, it is quite amazing.

JN: You have wall painting done by Marijke van Warmerdam. I remember seeing it on the postcard.

LA: It was a present from my friends for my sixtieth birthday, to paint one of the walls in house in France. It is called “Wall of preferred things”. She had the list of my preferred this and that, and made a choice of four of them, which was: favorite pet – two cats, favorite vegetable was garlic, favorite transport medium was a little step bicycle that children use, and favorite animals were birds – a large parrot. Few days ago when I had dinner with her we had a discussion because I said I call the picture fresco, than we looked in Wikipedia and other places when you can call wall painting a fresco. During our absence the neighbors found out that the part of the ceiling was broken and fell on my desk and on the piano. After a while they found on the floor, in a bin, a dead rat! The rat made a sort of jump from the roof and ceiling and fell down. While repairing that, they have hurt the fresco and Marijke is coming with me in late April to the house to repaint it. Now the part is painted white and it is really like the fresco because all these beautiful Giotto’s and stuff in Italy are also partly completely white.

JN: Would you like to discover some of the musical references you use in “Life”?

They are not quotations. They are what I call allusions. I start with late French romantic melody for the soprano sax. So, Evan Ziporyn does not play on his clarinets and bas clarinets (in the last part he plays clarinet, but he changes it into soprano sax). This melody is sort of remembered during the second and third movement but most of the first and second movements are sort of American repetitive musics. In the second part it starts to become what I call more human. That means that there are harmonic changes and melodies that have to do with French late romanticism. It is basically about those two things, except for the third film in which you only see window blinds, and from time to time hand moves over them to change a little bit a position. That whole part is an imitation by the group of sort of the sound that you could imagine that would be heavy metal material. It’s kind of really live sound but it’s very evident that it’s not synchro at all. It is a kind of musical interpretation of what you see. That works very well. In that part there is no connection with the other three. Of course there is in the film. I don’t follow the cross references at all because the last film starts at the window of nineteenth century country house or so. It has been hot inside, so there is steam on the window, you can’t see through. At the certain moment when the camera zooms in, than you see a hand again to clean the window, and then you can see outside, than it takes some time to focus on what you could see in the far away, you see the same old couple sitting and watching over the lake. So there is allusion on film number two. Somewhere there I start again with the melody we have heard in the first part. Sounds all very classical, but I find it rather good I must say. The combination with the film is quite interesting.

JN: And the very title “Life”?

LA: That was the long discussion with Marijke. We have talked about Steam, because of the steam in the last film. Then she came up with Life which I didn’t like, and said that I will change one letter and make it Live – I think of it as something that you should play live with, like we did before, the first collaboration we did was on version of "Passegiata". But she didn’t like that at all, and so it became Life.

JN: Life is a kind of very important word, it’s not a kind of allegory of life?

Marijke thinks that it is the main subject of the movies. I said - my dear, than every movie should have that title. As far as I know, except for the American magazine, it is not very much used title at all. Then I said ok, let’ do it.

JN: Musically it is your further exploration of ‘lukewarm waters of romanticism’, as you once said.

LA: “Anaïs Nin” is a kind of final step. I can’t go much further from what I did in "Anaïs Nin". Probably I have to move forward now towards new directions.

Carnegie Hall Soundbytes and Insights

Andriessen in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Carnegie Hall’s Director of Artistic Planning discusses "Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls" series of late-night improvisatory concerts, improvisation and changes in his musical language.
Sound Insights pages introduce Geffen's primer on composer Louis Andriessen, discussion on "De Staat", composer David Lang's comments on "La Commedia" and soundbytes from "La Commedia", "De Staat", "Zilver" and more.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Andriessen Introduces Carnegie Hall Events

Louis Andriessen introduces the inspiration for his 2009–2010 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair events, which include a special Making Music concert, the New York premiere of his opera La Commedia, and a series of late-night concerts he curated—Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls.
Click here for video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Frontiers + Festival dedicated to Andriessen

This year Frontiers+ Festival, Birmingham Conservatoire, March 15-19, is dedicated to the music of Louis Andriessen. Concerts present a range of Andriessen's works: ...miserere..., The New Math(s), Letter from Cathy, Le Voile du Bonheur, Shopping List of a Poisoner, Xenia, Hout, Bells for Haarlem, Workers Union, Woodpecker, M is for Man, Music, Mozart, La Passione.
Performances come from an array of distinguished musicians, including the Smith Quartet, Monica Germino, Michaela Riener and Decibel (who will be in residence), alongside performances by students and tutors from Birmingham Conservatoire. During the last concert, an Honorary Doctorate of the University will be conferred on Louis Andriessen.
More info here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Image de Moreau Box of Piano Scores

At the end of 2009 the publishing department of Muziek Centrum Nederland (MCN) produced a box with nine piano works (scores) by Louis Andriessen selected by himself. These pieces give a representative overview of more than forty years of composing. The front of the box contains Gustave Moreau painting 'Dalila'. Pieces are: Image de Moreau, Base, Etude Pour Les Timbres, Trois Pieces, Caecilia's Contrapunt, Ricercare, Trepidus, Feli-citazione, Blokken. The box does not contain CDs, as I first mistakenly thought.

More info here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Interview with Andriessen on "La Commedia", Part I

An interview with Louis Andriessen on film opera "La Commedia" (2008, in collaboration with filmmaker Hal Hartley). Conversation took place on March 10, 2009 in Andriessen's studio in Amsterdam. I asked him about place of opera in the age of media, using musical language of romanticism, corruption of the music world, love, philosophy, Dante, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch, singing voice and gender.
"La Commedia" will have its American premiere in April this year in Carnegie Hall.

Monday, January 18, 2010

La Commedia Trailer

was recently published on Youtube by De Nederlandse Opera (also see: The Plot, Team and Cast, Photographs etc.)