Listening Club: March edition

On Wednesday 30 April we perform the UK premiere of Michel van der Aa‘s complete Here Trilogy at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. In this edition of our Listening Club, composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, Philip Cashian, takes you through the last movement of the work.

We want to know what you think!
Do you want to find out more about Michel van der Aa? Or do you have a specific question about the piece? Send your thoughts to us by clicking “leave a comment” on the left hand side of this post and we’ll get back to you!

Michel van der Aa
Here (to be found)
for soprano, soundtrack and chamber orchestra

Written in 2001, Here (to be found) is the final part of Van der Aa’s Here Trilogy, although the first of the three movements to be written. The text (written by Van der Aa) creates a mood of isolation and disengagement that is quite clearly underpinned and amplified by what for me is an uncomfortable and unsettling score. His music doesn’t set the text so much as puts it through a hall of mirrors.

Van der Aa’s music is unmistakably Dutch, showing the influence of his teacher Louis Andriessen, a leading light in the Netherlands contemporary music scene for the past 40 years. A repetitive and economical approach to harmony scored in clear, chorale-like homogenous blocks of chords, typical of Andriessen, can be heard early on in the strings, wind and brass from 01:54 – 02:26:

Van der Aa likes to juxtapose different types of music next to and on top of each other, always with real clarity and for just the right amount of time. Maybe this also shows the influence of Andriessen who often uses hocketing in his music. This is a technique where a single musical idea is chopped up and distributed to different instrumental groups. From 02:33-03:23 Van der Aa places music for the soprano, soundtrack, vibraphone, wind, brass and strings, side by side to almost dizzying effect as well as cleverly using silence.

As a student he studied at film school, and the editing of the soundtrack – chopping up and freezing time whilst disjointing any sense of forward momentum – is clearly a cinematic approach to sound. I think this makes the piece feel like entering into a maze. Listen out from 06:39 – 07:05.

The section from 06:21-06:37 of fast moving ‘chugging’ chords in the ensemble reminds me of Frank Zappa:

Have a listen to Frank Zappa’s The Perfect Stranger from 08:12-08:50:

Here are some other composers who’s music has a lot in common with Van der Aa’s:

Martijn Padding – First Harmonium Concerto:

Louis Andriessen – Hoketus:

Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind is a hugely influential piece as it is structured out of constantly juxtaposed sections of music:

Philip Cashian 

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