Inspired by the Christmas Holidays, I wrote a new piece for organ.
This small work for solo organ, Renewing Resolutions, is dedicated to organist and pianist Jelena Bazova. She is a great musician who taught me a great deal over the course of my six-year apprenticeship with her. Although she is no longer officially my teacher, her voice and ideas are still reflected in my thoughts.
Renewing Resolutions is thematically inspired by New Year and generally features three ideas. The first is the idea of a vow: a kind of promise is taken, possibly religiously, either for one self or for one other. The second is the idea of doubt: there is a critical reaction on the vow, either by yourself or other people. The third is the idea of fracturing: the vow violently shatters under the influence of doubt and criticism. The interaction and evolution of these three ideas result in a story, appropriately called Renewing Resolutions.
Ideally, this piece is to be played on an organ with at least two manuals and pedals. A swell is preferred, but not necessary. A voix céleste or tremulant stop is preferred to aid in characterizing the celestial sections, but reed stops are absolutely necessary to bring out the character of criticism. The pedal needs a bourdon 16’ or something similar and can be coupled to (one of the) manuals.
Written for organ and soprano. Commissioned for Ruud Huijbregts.
Bright Lights is inspired by the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria, who as chaste and devoted young Christian woman was persecuted and put to death under the reign of Roman emperor Maxentius (306-312). She was exposed to numerous horrors, including imprisonment, starvation and torture. Remarkably, when sentenced to death by a spiked breaking wheel, the awful device shattered upon her touch. As last resort, she was to be beheaded. Upon execution, a milk-like substance flowed from her neck. St. Catherine is remember as a martyr ever since.
Sharp contrasts characterize Bright Lights. Transitoriness is put against the everlasting, conflict against peace, grief against joy. The incredible main organ of the St. Cathirine church is the perfect medium to express all these extremities to the fullest. After a quiet, heavenly and innocent start, conflict kicks in. Constantly interrupted by mourning but hopeful episodes, Catherine witnesses the various horrors. After her decapitation, a bright musical light appears, whereafter the music calms down, as if starting from the beginning again. A voice from high and far appears, bringing a short but glorious message about Catherine. The apotheosis is completed.
For piano solo. Nominated for the Tera de Marez Oyens Award 2021.
Kobucha is a work for piano solo written in 2020, in a period when I was diving into Japanese art and culture, especially aesthetics and the influences of Zen-Buddhism. In addition, I was taking Japanese lessons from a native speaker. In one of those lessons, my teacher gave me a Japanese kelp tea to drink, Kobucha.
Drinking this tea made a deep impression on me. I couldn’t say that the tea was delicious in the way people commonly call foods and beverages delicious – that is the antonym of tasteless. It wasn’t sweet at all and it wasn’t easy to drink. Each sip was a salty hurdle! However, the direct, impulsive and authentic taste was intense, even mind-blowing. In fact, I did like the tea. It was a pleasing experience. Not because of its questioned deliciousness, but because the tea was itself, its authentic self. Taking into account the tea’s pungent aroma, I was forced to do nothing but drinking this tea, swallowing one drop at the time.
For guitar solo. 3rd prize in II International Competition among composers “THE TIME OF THE GUITAR” 2021.
The name of this guitar work, Hoshi no kage ni (星の影に /In the Shadow of the Stars) is Japanese, but tricky to translate into English, because kage can be translated in multiple ways. It could mean shadow/silhouette, reflection (in water) or even light (of stars or the moon). This means that the title of this work could translated to In the Shadow of the Stars or In the Reflection of a Star or even In the Light of Stars. Personally, as English translation of the title, I prefer In the Shadow of the Stars. However, it does not really matter how you translate it when studying or performing this piece. Whatever your preference is or what inspires you the most for the ultimate guitaristic cause, in the end it matters it matters than you include all these meanings into one title: Hoshi no kage ni.
As composer, I am enchanted by the coming together of Western and Eastern cultures. While there are plenty similarities between East and West, there are striking differences too. While Western thinking is characterized by rationalizing, analysing and classifying, Eastern thinking (by which I specifically mean Japanese Zen Buddhism) is characterized by quite the opposite: engagement in all practical daily experiences in the most simple form. In short, Zen strives to enlightenment, or ultimate freedom of the mind. Without intellectually conceptualizing and rationalizing, things and reality can become itself instead of abstractions, concepts, categories or representations. Things are not problematized, things are not discriminated, things are not dualized. If things are themselves and not excluded, the possibilities are endless. Bluntly speaking, Western thinking tends towards exclusion, while Eastern tends towards inclusion.
Hoshi no kage ni strives to include both worlds of thought while discovering the acoustic possibilities and expressions of one of the most gracious and nuanced instruments known.