Monday, April 3, 2017

De Materie Opens World Minimal Music Festival in Amsterdam

Opening concert at Muziekgebouw aan t 'IJ featuring  Andriessen's De Materie on Wednesday April 5 is sold out.
General rehearsal at 16.30 is open for attendance. Tickets are still available.

Ensemble Academie
Reinbert de Leeuw dirigent
Kristina Bitenc sopraan
Georgi Sztojanov tenor
Nina van Essen spreekstem
Elsie de Brauw spreekstem

Here is the programme note written for BBC about De Stijl (De Materie, part 3) for the last year Total Immersion Louis Andriessen festival at Barbican, London.

De Stijl (1984-85)
for 4 women’s voices, female speaker and large ensemble

Considered to be one of Andriessen’s classics, De Stijl is sharp and abrasive in tone, and has something of the air of a manifesto. It draws together ‘high’ and ‘low’, ‘artistic’ and ‘popular’ musics, foregrounding the notion of style as the conceptual motor of the piece. The title pays homage to the journal De Stijl, first published by Theo van Doesburg in 1917 in Amsterdam, which served as the theoretical grounding for the movement known as ‘neo-plasticism’ in the visual arts.
               Although De Stijl is often performed as an independent piece, it is actually the third part of the stagework De Materie (1985-88), in which Andriessen investigates ways in which the mind or spirit handles the material world. The combination of rigorous structural planning and a diversity of stylistic elements is common for all four parts of De Materie.
               Red, Yellow and Blue; bold, black intersecting lines; black, grey and white rectangular fields; asymmetry: these might be the keywords to describe the geometrical abstraction characteristic of the painter Piet Mondrian, who was the most prominent artistic figure of neo-plasticism. One of his most emblematic paintings is Composition with Red Yellow and Blue (1927), and it was precisely this work that Andriessen used as a kind of model for the proportions of De Stijl.

The music is a free transposition of the proportions (durations) and colors (instrumentation) of the painting. It takes the shape of a Passacaglia, a set of variation on an ostinato bass. The funky-like bass theme, first played by piano and bass guitar, is a restless melody of improvisatory spirit. It appears no fewer than fifty-eight times, sometimes comprehensively disguised, and with only its metrical structure preserved and detectable. 
               Two literary texts were used. The first, sung in Dutch, is by the theosophist and mathematician M. H. J. Schoenmaekers (who greatly influenced Mondrian), and is about the figure of ‘the perfect cross-line’. The second text, mainly spoken by a dancer in English, is by M. van Domselaer, and describes Mondrian’s love of dance. The words about the cross-line are always followed by the B-A-C-H motive. The female voices that convey the cross-line text are invariably strained and dissonant. They come across as a kind of vocal perpetuum mobile that critically mirrors the text. After a climax a boogie-woogie begins on piano, and in the staged version of the piece the dancer/speaker takes a prominent role from that point on, narrating Van Domselaer’s text while projecting the image of the perfect cross-line with a laser beam.
               Andriessen was never interested in creating a singular musical style, suggesting that if his music really does express something like his own specific language, it is due to his limitations, not his acumen. Thus, for Andriessen, style appears to be a strategy for avoiding these limitations. And in the process he endlessly introduces musical references of remote and unlikely origin, as though to confirm that music is not really about style, but about other music.

Text © Jelena Novak