Posts Tagged ‘music’

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.


Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Perhaps one of the artists who come very close to understanding the urban to its full extent is Machinist, a.k.a. Zeno van den Broek. An architect by education but musician and audiovisual artist by profession, his multi-layered work experiments with our perception and experience of space. He does this in a very convincing fashion. Machinist has released several musical works on CD, his most recent ‘Viens Avec Moi Dans Le Vide‘ and upcoming ‘Of What Once Was‘, and has made video-art, paintings and installations. He will present ‘Transform your Hertz’ on next week’s Motel Mozaïque Festival in Rotterdam. It is time for an interview.

Hi Zeno. As Machinist you have experimented a lot with the sonic perception of space. More recent work has become more abstract but in a way also more concrete because you focused more on spatial distribution of sound and the use of field-recordings. Why this change?

When I started out with Machinist I was mainly focused on an immersion of the audience by making sound like a concrete wall; thick, heavy and impenetrable. Most of the time I created a very oppressing atmosphere from which there was no escape. But when I started working towards ‘Viens Avec Moi Dans Le Vide’ (2010, Betontoon – LG) I became interested in the notion of the void, let’s say the negative space which the ‘concrete wall’ created. My fascination for the void continues today and coincides with an evolution towards a more open atmosphere. I try to let the music and sounds be more open for interpretation by the listener as opposed to bombarding them with a clear cut mood in which there is nothing left to be discovered. I see my work as a constant evolving process, like a research by design and creation, so I can and will only speak about the current position and the relation of this point to the previous line of development. This also runs parallel and entangled with my video and spatial work. Perhaps by the time your readers read this interview my quest has already progressed to a next level.

At this moment I’m working with two main ingredients in my work: sine waves and field-recordings. I’m fascinated by the contrast of the non-spatial tones from the computer to the always-spatial sounds of the field-recordings and I try to use these ingredients, contrasts and cohesions to create spatial experiences which are open for interpretation and association.

You make considerable use of field-recordings from cities, industries and even nature. What is your opinion about the extent to which field-recordings should be manipulated?

For me context is everything; I like to manipulate the experience of the auditor by putting different field-recordings in context to each other and to the abstract tones I mentioned previously. By working like this I try to stimulate the listener to be immersed by the sound and to let them create new (mental) spaces from the details of spaces (the field-recordings) I supply them with, by discovering the(ir) context and relation between the sounds.

I can see that. So, what is the relationship between your music and sounds and the urban?

I like to be confronted with the unknown, to be enriched by something I previously didn’t know of, or to have had a view altered. For me the urban is a coalescence of heterogeneous spaces, people and other occupants which together form a constantly evolving entity, the city, and thus the perfect space to be confronted with this ‘unknown’. In some of my video works I work with these urban spaces, most of the time registrations of ‘uncontrolled’ areas with no video-control, commercial or private interventions, which I see as the true public domains, spaces in which the unknown can be encountered unfiltered.

You have a diverse background and seem to have a broad interest in the urban. What are you main sources of inspiration?

Besides from the city itself my main inspiration comes from visual and spatial art. Yves Klein has been a big inspiration with his notion of the void for ‘Viens Avec Moi Dans Le Vide’ and also for a part of my new release ‘Of What Once Was’ (released this April on Moving Furniture Records). The first half of the album is inspired by his monotone symphonies, in which a chamber orchestra plays only one note for twenty minutes, followed by an equal measure of silence. I take up this concept as a premise on which I’ve build an electric guitar piece in d, with the only variation being the length of tones and different shapes of resonance. Besides Yves Klein some artists I value greatly are: Richard Serra, Michael Raedecker, Tjebbe Beekman, Sigmar Polke, Giuseppe Penone, Daniel Richter, Lucio Fontana, Constant Nieuwenhuys. Your education is in architecture, you were trained as an architect. To what extent does music or sound play a role in designing buildings – or should it play in case it does not?

When designing architecture or creating music I aim for the same ‘goal’; creating a worthwhile spatial experience. I focus on the same issues when I design sound or architecture. I’m fascinated by Swiss and Japanese architecture where  a minimalist approach to expression is coupled with great attention to detail and texture. That attention for detail and texture is carried over into my music, I find it more important than grand sweeping statements. I’m mostly concerned about two connecting elements: space and its context. This context is addressed in my sonic works. When I record a CD, it doesn’t really matter where and when it is played, the pieces are not connected to a certain locality of the listener. The sound installations, however, are strongly connected to a certain area. My composition for Motel Mozaique will be featured in Soundpiece Schouwburgplein, at the central square designed by Adriaan Geuze. It addresses the role of this void in the city and the way the festival permeates in different areas in town. The composition addresses this particular area and time and will become meaningless if played in a different locality. Another work is ‘6.2.2’. This consists of two archetypical volumes, from which 6 compositions, each lasting 2 minutes, can be heard. The volumes derived from a research into negative space that comes into existence in this room placed in relation with the compositions to alter the experience of this space.

You hail from Rotterdam and it is great to see ‘Transform your Hertz’ in your birthplace. However, you moved to Utrecht recently. To what extent has ‘Rotterdam’ influenced your work and has this changed due to your change to Utrecht?

What fascinates me about Rotterdam is that it’s always in transition, which results in many spaces that are ‘in between’ their previous state and what they will become. I grew up in a suburb of Rotterdam, living on a high floor of an apartment building I spend many hours gazing at the Rotterdam skyline and analyzing the city, the building blocks and the space they create, which I think has influenced me greatly and is one of the sources of my fascination. Utrecht is a more static city of a different scale and where there are less spaces in transition to be found, I’m sure this will have its influence on my work but that takes a while to develop.

Let’s see, indeed. Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your upcoming exhibitions. ‘Of What Once Was’ will be released this spring through Moving Furniture Records and ‘Viens Avec Dans Le Vide’ was released through Betontoon.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »