Skip to content

Joy of life and icy constriction. Ensemble Modern performs striking world premieres by female composers during November Music

Ensemble Modern presents in November Music world premieres by German-Dutch Iris ter Schiphorst and Turkish Zeynep Gedizlioğlu. And that is good news, because the female composer remains too often invisible even in 2019. In the brochures of any Dutch orchestra, you will find none, or only a single work by a woman. On the new Heart & Soul list of Radio 4 you can choose 'from the 300 most beautiful pieces ever made'. Only two of these, according to our national classical station, were not written by a man.

November Music has long been programming a lot of music by women. For instance, composes Calliope Tsoupaki the now traditional Bosch Requiem for the upcoming edition. Last year, that honour fell to Kate Moore. The 2016 and 2017 Requiems were written by Detlev Glanert and Antony Fiumara. A salutary 50/50 ratio, in other words. Which Ensemble Modern also applies in its concert at 8 November.

Alongside the world premieres by Ter Schiphorst and Gedizlioğlu are György Ligeti's virtuoso Piano Concerto and the colourful Scherben by Enno Poppe. He is also the conductor. Ligeti is well enough known here in the country. In 2018, Muziekgebouw aan het IJ even dedicated a complete festival to this Hungarian modernist. Enno Poppe is no stranger, either. But the names of Iris ter Schiphorst and Zeynep Gedizlioğlu will not immediately ring a bell. And that is a pity, because both write catchy music.

Iris ter Schiphorst: music full of joie de vivre

As her name suggests, Iris ter Schiphorst (1956) has Dutch roots. She is the daughter of a German pianist and a Dutch engineer. After studying piano, she performed as a pianist for some time, but in search of new challenges she started travelling through Europe and Africa. From 1980 to 1986, she played bass and drums in experimental rock bands. Meanwhile, she studied philosophy, theatre and cultural studies and wrote her first plays.

In 1990, she founded the electro-acoustic ensemble Intrors, in which she played piano, synthesiser and sampler herself. Six years later, she formed a duo with Helmuth Oehring. They explored the interfaces between language and music in theatre productions such as the award-winning Silence Moves and Der Ort ist nicht der Ort. In 1999, they reaped much success with the entirely collaboratively composed Polaroids, which was premiered by Ensemble Modern. From the early twenty-first century, Ter Schiphorst concentrated again on her own compositions.

In it, she washes our ears clean with unexpected sounds and blurs the boundaries between electronic and acoustic music. Ter Schiphorst creates an almost industrial atmosphere rooted in avant-garde rock. In this big-city music full of abrasive, haunting, sometimes stomping-rhythmic sounds, almost no instrument sounds "natural". At the same time, we hear mysterious voices of band. From this, she weaves organic, poetic compositions that draw you irrevocably into the story and exude an enormous joy of playing and living.

Oppressive worldview

Ter Schiphorst also sometimes hooks into social themes. For example, in Zerstören (2006) on the attack on the Twin Towers. In her view, this led to the rise of a new form of irrationality, which made politics revert to primitive violence. At the same time, various religions cast themselves as guardians of archaic norms and values. Especially for women, a "fatal, frightening development". The musicians play - electronically amplified - noise sounds, which should sound as 'dirty as possible'. She thus creates an oppressive worldview by musical means.

In 2017, she wrote Das Imaginäre nach Lacan for soprano, orchestra and live electronics. The singer performs two roles: an Arab and a European woman. She recites excerpts from classical Arabic poetry, at times clad in Arabic than in European attire. The musical material is often repeated verbatim, but spoken in a different guise. In this way, Ter Schiphorst holds up a mirror to us. Are we independent in our judgement or are we guided by prejudice?

Zeynep Gedizlioğlu: powerful gestures

Zeynep Gedizlioğlu was born in Izmir in 1977 and studied composition with Cengiz Tanc in Istanbul. She then moved to Europe. There she took composition lessons with Theo Brandmüller in Saarbrücken, Ivan Fedele in Strasbourg and Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe. She won several prizes and participated in the renowned Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. She also studied electronic music at IRCAM in Paris. She has lived in Germany since the end of 2001.

Gedizlioğlu's work has a strong spatiality and uses powerful gestures. Often the musical material is highly contrasting. For instance, long drawn-out lines are intersected with sudden eruptions that flare up out of nowhere. Stillness and furious activity alternate, with her regularly reversing the roles of the various instruments.

'Dark darkness'

Like Ter Schiphorst, Gedizlioğlu sometimes reflects on current affairs. In 2007, she composed her second string quartet, Susma ('don't be silent') for the Arditti Quartet. It is dedicated to Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, who was murdered earlier in the year. Fierce onsets, jarring dissonances, popping pizzicati and slithering glissandi create an uncanny atmosphere. In this way, she makes the sweltering climate and increasing unfreedom in Turkey almost physically palpable.

In 2014, she composed the equally oppressive Kelimeler ('keyword') for Neue Vokalsolisten Stuttgart. It was created during the same period as Erdogan's powerfully suppressed protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square. Gedizlioğlu developed the piece from the character of the Turkish language, choosing words of darkness and determination. The five vocalists utter icy cries, hum nasty high notes and interrupt each other with mysterious whispers. The restless, raw music gets under your skin.

'There is no compromise between darkness and darkness,' she said of this herself. 'There is no light or white darkness, just a dark darkness. I love the fact that there are no compromises.'

I wonder what kind of world Gedizlioğlu and Ter Schiphost will present us with in their new pieces for Ensemble Modern.

Good to know Good to know
To be attended on 8 November during November Music. Information
The concert can also be heard a day earlier in Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ

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: 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

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)