Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Here is an inspiring clip about sounds and the city:


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December and November are notorious for their workload and deadlines. However, much fun was to be experienced. Here are some pictures instead of words.

A different context for academic work: lectures in the old Lantaren-Venster cinema give an entirely different atmosphere and improved interaction between audience and speaker. We will return here! Picture by Fred Ernst

Urban planner and author of the great book 'Cities, Design and Evolution' gave a great lecture about conurbations and urban planning as an evolutionary process. A great evening and a fully packed house, i.e. a definitive success. Picture by Fred Ernst

Meanwhile, storms and full moon tested Rotterdam's defense mechanisms against high water levels. Things got a bit wet but not to the extent that the Nieuwe Maas had to be closed off. The problem with good water management is that you rarely get the chance to test how good it is. This was one opportunity. Picture by Andres Dijkshoorn

BJ Nilsen was our guest last Thursday and he performed an extended version of 'The Invisible City'. It was a truly inspiring performance. For those who wonder what Mr. Nilsen does during a performance: here is a view from his office space, as seen during the sound checks. Picture by me.

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May I draw your attention to this special event. The Invisible City is an evening of music, experiments and emotions. The first part of the evening is a live improvisation with sounds and field-recordings by Pieck, Zeno van den Broek (Machinist, elektronica & field recordings), Peter Johan Nyland (Hadewych, percussion) and Coen Polack (Living Ornaments, saxophone). The second part of the evening is a live performance of The Invisible City by BJ Nilsen, including an introduction to the set and an interview with BJ Nielsen. A very special event indeed, not to be missed.

Location: Huis aan de Werf, Utrecht
Tickets and information can be found here

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Following my interview with Zeno van den Broek, a.k.a. Machinist, I want to point you to a recording of Transform Your Herz, recorded during the Motel Mozaïque Festival 2011 in Rotterdam. Enjoy!

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As indicated by e.g. Vicar, Graham and Healy, there are many stories that can be told about the city. There are tales of grandeur, told by the architects and planners. There are tales of historical roots and development, told by history buffs. There are tales of progress, told by politicians. And, let’s not forget, there are the stories of the many, many people who spend their daily life in the urban. Telling stories keeps communities together but the tighter the community, the more closed it is to the outside world. It is hardly surprising that the diversity of the city also means fragmentation.

While preparing for a lecture for the Master City Developer, I came across an entirely different range of story-tellers: that of the young and (sometimes) angry, to whom the city is much more than just a backdrop for music and lifestyle. Now, I’m very well aware that much contemporary art is categorized as ‘urban’ (to the extent that it includes contradictory scenes such as skating and R&B) but I had not expected that to be very literal in the sense that the urban defined the music. I often assumed that the urban was used as a header for art that was generated by people living in the city. While is true, it is also true that a specific locality acts as the main source of inspiration. Evidence of this can be traced back to e.g. the early hip hop from the 1980s but I was surprised to see it popping up in my own town and being more than just copying Bronx-like postures and statements.

The fact that I was surprised is because politicians of a certain disposition, and policy makers with them, tend to portray the young as the source of everything threatening the city: being lazy, noisy, uneducated and even perhaps criminal. Such images appear to be powerful and convincing to a lot of people, especially when applied to young migrants or children with a non-Dutch ethnic background. Many assert that those people ‘don’t care about society and the place they live’.

Rubbish. They care as much about the place as anyone else but in different terms and from different experiences. They tell different tales. It may not resonate with the older (and white) population but that is part of the diversity of a city. Their tales are as legitimate as others. In fact, in some cases they are surprisingly similar in their messages as are older people (e.g. in dissing Amsterdam in the continuous 010 vs. 020 fight) even though the medium is completely different. So, without much further theorizing, I present you a collection of YouTube clips made by young people about their life in the urban. I invite you to watch some, even if you don’t like the music or don’t agree with the things being portrayed. Watch the picture, listen to the lyrics. And note the real power behind their stories.








Taras van de Voorde


A quick search on YouTube will reveal more, much more than I can post here.

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A few days ago I saw the Zuidelijk Toneel perform Brecht’s and Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel and The Song of Rotterdam by Rümke and De Ket in the Rotterdamse Schouwburg. Here is my review:

It was so brilliant that I cried.



Yes, that is a useless review but then again: it is also the most honest thing I can say about it. A while ago I wrote extensively about the way Brecht and Weill captured urban life and civic culture in the unstable but exciting 1920s in Berlin. Not only do I admire their take on the urban (long before ‘urban’ became a label in its own right) but I also share their opinion about the human condition in the city. Some may call it cynical, others may call it realistic. I prefer the latter but understand first. This particular night, the music of Weill was as magical as ever, performed in a powerful and convincing fashion by the Willem Breuker quartet and very well-sung by a group of six professional singers. Weill’s music, full of dissonant tunes is hard to perform and sing but they managed perfectly, capturing us in the tales of decline.

The second part of the evening featured a contemporary play directed by Matthijs Rümke with contributions by Tom de Ket. The Song of [insert name of host city here] is a 201o critical review of the current human condition in the city. It is, in short, what Brecht could have written should he live today. Newspaper NRC Handelsblad called it ‘more Brecht than Brecht‘.  There is no use in repeating the storyline here. It left us as an audience gasping for breath and reconsidering the way we deal with each other in an ever-accelerating society. Interesting for me (as a scholar studying public decision making) was the director’s take on the way we as a society try to outsource our duties in an attempt to relieve our burden but effectively creating a much bigger burden in return. That is pretty much what Brecht told us almost 100 years ago: there is no utopia because we can never separate ourselves from our sins and paradoxes. Well, thank you so much. A reality call that hits straight in our faces, but a very welcome one.

The Rotterdam show was the last one so there is no opportunity to see them.  However, I suggest a re-run, and making it mandatory for administrators and politicians to watch it. Just as a little reminder of what they are appointed for. as for, I feel thankful for a very wonderful evening, the effects of which continuing to echo in my daily work.

An ordinary Tuesday night in the Rotterdamse Schouwburg. Audience stays in the lobby to talk about what they have just experienced.


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If there ever was the ultimate soundtrack for the urban at night, it would be ‘Sunset Mission’ by Bohren und der Club of Gore. It is darkjazz at its best, to be played around midnight during a rainy evening in, of course, a big city. Bohren et al. started as a German collective playing metal but those influences gave way for jazz and Sunset Mission was the first release where no guitars were used anymore. Subsequent releases become more abstract pieces of art, aimed at achieving maximum impact with minimal means. In a sense, Sunset Mission is their most accessible work in the realm of jazz. But don’t be fooled because the music on Sunset Mission becomes more abstract over its +70 minutes playing time. The art is in the fact that you won’t notice this unless you put your player on repeat, in which case the opening song sounds almost too straight in your face. The overall atmosphere is unbelievably heavy and gloomy but in the nicest possible way, i.e. you don’t feel inclined to reach for your razorblades. It invites you on a journey into your own thoughts. There are times when I don’t want to listen to it because I know it will expand my gloomier self. However, when in the right mood, it hits the right spot and I keep playing it over and over again during night. Highly recommended.

Sunset Mission - Bohren & Der Club of Gore

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