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Ensemble

All in the mix

KEITH BRAMICH takes in the GRM Experience
at Amsterdam's Frascati Theater

 

A thundery, blustery, showery, Monday in Amsterdam -- bad enough weather to persuade most of the Noorderkerk Market stallkeepers (with a shrewd knowledge of their customers' habits) to pack up their goods and give up on the day by mid-morning. The weather on 3 November 2003 wasn't bad enough to prevent a good evening turn-out at the Frascati Theater, though -- about 150 people to support three contemporary composer-performers -- Christian Fennesz, Mika Vainio and Christian Zanési. Neither, unfortunately, did the wind and rain protect these musicians from the sharp knives of Amsterdam's contemporary electronic music world elite, who were out in force and probably made up much of the audience.

The Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam's three main canals, with the Noorderkerk, home to many classical concerts, behind. The large Monday market uses the area between the canal and the church. Photo: Keith Bramich 2003
The Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam's three main canals, with the Noorderkerk, home to many classical concerts, behind. The large Monday market uses the area between the canal and the church. Photo: Keith Bramich 2003

The concert, GRM Experience 2, comprised a single piece [listen -- opening], lasting seventy minutes, and performed by the three collaborators on stage, using Acousmonium, a loudspeaker orchestra created by François Bayle in 1974 at the GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l'Institut National de l'Audiovisuel) in Paris, and transported to Amsterdam especially for this event. Zanési (born Lourdes, France, 1952, and a student of Pierre Schaeffer) is a respected composer. Fennesz (from Austria) is a well-known laptop performer, using the latest computer and music hardware and software to produce a kind of musique concrète. Vainio (born Finland, 1963) is a rock musician, known as half of the duo 'Pan Sonic'.

Christian Fennesz, Mika Vainio and Christian Zanési
Christian Fennesz, Mika Vainio and Christian Zanési

The performance was introduced by Roland Speklé, Music Curator at STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music), the Amsterdam-based organisation which co-hosted the evening with GRM. STEIM was founded in 1969 by a group of composers including Peter Schat, Konrad Boehmer, Misha Mengelberg, Louis Andriessen and Dick Raaymakers. The organisation supports contemporary music, theatre and dance in various ways, including the development of special electronic musical instruments and controllers, the provision of staff and facilities to help composers work on specific projects, and informal concerts every few weeks in Amsterdam.

STEIM's Artistic Director, Daniel Schorno, demonstrates one of the organisation's specialist musical instruments. Photo: Keith Bramich 2003
STEIM's Artistic Director, Daniel Schorno, demonstrates one of the organisation's specialist musical instruments. Photo: Keith Bramich 2003

The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, has a lively contemporary music scene, in which Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and his disciples play a major part. Colourful musicians from other countries have also settled in Holland, such as Calcutta-born British/German composer Clarence Barlow.

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Copyright © 6 November 2003 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire UK

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