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FAQ in Den Bosch: An alchemists' festival full of niches, nerds and drones #novembermusic

Not everyone thinks music is also something to look at. Not a crazy idea, considering that some music is so layered and complex that you need all your attention for listening. So modern electronic music largely takes place in the dark, I experienced during two evenings of FAQ Festival in Den Bosch. There, I discovered that I really enjoy being able to watch live music as well.

Electronic music is about modulations, loop stations, wave generators low pass filters, sample&hold and oscillators. I grew up with it, devouring the glossy leaflets of brands like ARP, KORG and Moog as classmates delved into illustrated magazines about making people. So I understand something of the obsession of the electronic music maker.

KORG MS-20

Once upon a time, in the early 1980s, I was a customer at Staffhorst Muziek in Utrecht, the legendary music shop that then had its synthesiser department in a little building under the smoke of the Jacobi Church. The nerd on duty, type Rick van der Linden of Ekseption, started demonstrating to me his favourite, a brand new Korg MS-20, with few keys, lots of buttons and a real patch panel where you could plug in plugs. The last words he spoke to me before disappearing into the device were, "That church here goes wild every 15 minutes. With this synthesiser, I can imitate those bells exactly."

An hour and a half on, a time I spent breathlessly beside him, he had adjusted the ring modulator and the pink noise so well that the low C key sounded exactly like the big bell of the Jacobi Church. Or maybe actually better. I was sold.

Colin Benders

So Den Bosch is not only the mecca for electronic music lovers during the three days of FAQ either. The Willem II studios, located in the old Synagogue of the Episcopal city, now house the Valhalla of electronic music, from a room full of Korgs and Moogs, to a studio with the primal ARP and, the absolute attraction, the thing from the Philip laboratories on which Stockhausen made his first works.

Synthesisers at the Willem II studios, Den Bosch

You can rent the studios, and work with the machines yourself. There seem to be waiting lists. I can imagine and understand how fascinating it is to be there live. After all, Colin Benders is also creating a furore with his Beast, a ridiculously large analogue synth full of plugs and flashing lights.

Laptop

A laptop can do all that too, modern man will say, and modern man is right about that. However, during FAQ it also became clear what is lost with that: there is nothing left to see. We see, in backlight and smoke, a faceless person bent over a laptop, and hear a loud drone - type of old air conditioner, combined with A12 and schiphol airport during the summer holidays - and have to believe that this wall of sound is made live for us at that moment by the person behind his black box, and that this person also cares that we are in that space with him or her.

It will be my theatrical impulse that I like to be fooled by someone who's screaming awesomely behind knobs that aren't connected to anything, but I would like to see on the spot how that music is made, and not have the idea that the musician on duty is just sitting doing his bookkeeping or watching cat videos while playing a home-made track.

So please next year mirrors above those laptops and spotlights on the performers' faces. Then I will definitely come and watch again. And ahead, listen too.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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