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Richard Rijnvos world premiere at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ: 'Art-loving audience very capable of critical listening'

What is a 'companion piece'? On Thursday 12 January, the quirky Ives Ensemble will answer this question at a concert in the Thursday evening series of the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in Amsterdam. Especially for this, Richard Rijnvos composed his Riflesso sull'arco, a 'companion piece' to Swinging Music By Kazimierz Serocki. I asked Rijnvos three questions.

What typifies you as a composer?

Let me start by saying that an artist is not the most appropriate person to characterise himself or herself. Unless he or she is systematically misunderstood or incorrectly portrayed. For instance, there is a persistent misconception about me that I am a 'control freak', which I would like to combat. Thus, many an aspect in the new work Riflesso sull'arco determined not by me but by the musicians, while playing. That's why every performance is different. What does characterise my work is 'precision'; people often confuse these two aspects.

Recently I reread for the I-don't-know-how many times the novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveller By Italo Calvino. Together with Palomar my absolute favourite piece of literature. At about three-quarters of the book, the fictional novelist Silas Flannery muses on his craft. I quote his text below, where the verb 'write' could be replaced by 'compose'.

Italo Calvino: 'It writes'

'I read in a book that you can express a thought objectively by using the verb think impersonally: not saying "I think", but "it thinks", like saying "it's raining". There is thought in the universe, that is the observation we have to start from again and again.

Could I ever say, "today it writes", exactly as "today it rains", "today it blows"? Only when I shall find something natural to use the verb write impersonally will I be allowed to hope that through me something is expressed that is less limited than the individuality of a few.'

Anyway, back to your question. I found an apt description by a leading musicologist: 'Richard Rijnvos is not a man of loose liflafjes, of a sensitive little menu here and a nice song there. Building a consistent œuvre with multi-part cycles and all kinds of cross-connections, he is a kind of musical city architect'.

Can you briefly tell where Riflesso sull'arco about?

American composer Morton Feldman would say it is about music. It is an abstract work, part of the cycle Riflessi. This is a still-growing series of 'companion pieces' that I started in 2007 and for which there is no good Dutch term.

These are compositions written for the same (exceptional) instrumentation as an existing work. 'Riflesso' is Italian for 'weather shine' and means as much as light reflected in a hue other than that of the source. My French colleague Gérard Pesson speaks of 'Nebenstück'.

Riflesso sull'arco responds to Swinging Music by Pole Kazimierz Serocki for bass clarinet, trombone, cello and piano. It is based on the fundamentals B-flat, A, C, B, or B-A-C-H in their German names. On these, I build four musical 'arcs' from their corresponding overtones. These stack up to the highest point, before descending again.

Gateway Arch St. Louis (photo credit wikipedia)

What was the first thing you did when you started working on your composition?

I honestly forgot about that. However, I did have a picture in mind from the start: the Gateway Arch in the US city of St Louis. Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed it in 1947 and its style reminds me of later work by the likes of Richard Serra and Anish Kapoor. It is akin to the motto Less is more which introduced architect Mies van der Rohe.

Incidentally, I feel that contemporary musical works that respond to this aesthetic are currently quite in short supply. Everything has to be entertaining, art entertainment, especially approachable, approachable, approachable. I myself assume for the time being that the art-loving public has not lost its mind. It is quite capable of critically but frankly enjoying today's music, both intellectually and sensually.

Thursday 12 January 2017 Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ: Ives Ensemble: 'Companion Pieces'

Iannis Xenakis Anaktoria
Aldo Clementi Impromptu
Richard Rijnvos Riflesso sull'arco...(world premiere)
Kazimierz Serocki Swinging Music
Gérard Pesson Nebenstück 

Gerald Barry No People (Dutch premiere)
More info and tickets via this link
The concert can also be heard on Friday, 13 January, at Korzo, The Hague.

 

 

Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: https://www.boekenbestellen.nl/boek/een-os-op-het-dak/9789012345675 In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

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