Michel Waisvisz, director of STEIM, the award-winning Amsterdam-based centre for research and development of instruments and tools for the electronic performing arts, died on 18 June 2008, aged 58, after a long illness.
Waisvisz is generally recognised as the first person to invent a practice for ecstatic live performance with live electronic instruments, and many of the live electronic performance arts' pioneers have since been inspired by Waisvisz to work at STEIM.
Born on 8 July 1949, he led STEIM for 27 years. An obituary replacing the normal STEIM website's opening page described him as 'a musician, visionary and occasional gardener - touched by sound and forever happy to be surprised', and went on to comment that Waisvisz 'was the source of an enormous surge of energy that continues to flow through STEIM into the world. We will miss his touch, crackle, inspiration and constant improvisation of the now.'
STEIM has another problem ... the organisation is in danger of losing its structural funding from the Dutch government (based on a review which somehow mananged to refer to the organisation as '... closed and only appealing to a niche audience ...') and has been asking on its website for letters of support.
Operating at a similar level to Paris-based IRCAM, researchers at STEIM have created many and various devices and software packages which are used to manipulate sound and visuals in live performance. These include the first Apple Mac program allowing realtime manipulation of video, and a rich set of imaginative controllers which can be used by the performers themselves, on-stage.
STEIM (the STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music) 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 frequent informal concerts in Amsterdam.
Of special value are STEIM's residencies, allowing performers to work and study in Amsterdam in an artistic and technical environment in which their ideas can be constructed and tried out. STEIM has recently expanded into new areas, and has initiated projects with puppeteers, circus artists and street musicians.
It would be difficult to imagine the Dutch contemporary music scene without the creativity of this organisation, which is the world's only independent live electronic music centre, exclusively dedicated to the performing arts.
Posted: 1 July 2008
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