Alea Iacta Est is a piece for soprano saxophone, live electronics, soundtrack and six dice and is written for Iván Sánchez Iglesias.
A long time ago, Julius Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon, a small and insignificant brook located in Italy. He was a general and governor of the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul. The river marked the boundary between the province and Italy, which was controlled directly by Rome and the Senate. Entering Italy as acting general was illegal and would be a capital offence. Stating iacta est alea (the die is cast), Caesar crossed nevertheless. This lead to a civil war and eventually to Caesar becoming dictator for life. The Republic as it existed for 500 years would be no more.
Recently, something similar happened in the USA, when president Donald Trump verbally invoked a storming on the Capital, housing the Congress and Senate. Path dependency theorizes that once certain paths have been taken, it’s hard to change direction. What will this means for the future of the only 250 years old United States of America?
Both stories are connected in a compelling narrative in the soundtrack, but that’s not all: the live performer deals with exactly the same problem: he throws six dice, one for each of the six performance sections. The dice decide how he should improvize in each section. However, his improvisations are recorded and played back in each consecutive section. There is no way back after throwing each dice and playing each section. Given these circumstances, the performer’s job is to meaningful interact with the pre-recorded improvisation, whilst simultaneously determining the future of his performance.
Hibernation is a work consisting of film, soundtrack and live piano. I created the work as part of the course Multimedia and Compositon, taught by Dutch composer Celia Swart.
In autumn 2021, someone told me about the amazing view from the top floor of the highest building of Tilburg University (called Koopmans), which looks over the Oude Warande, a local forest. I went to check it out immediately, was mesmerized by the autumnal colours and decided to go there again and capture the sights and sounds with a video camera and a tape recorder. Until six months later, I didn’t really know how to process all data into something I liked. Then, suddenly, I knew what to do and how I wanted it. Thus, Hibernation came into existence.
The film and soundtrack are fixed, but the live piano consists of parts sections which need to be synchronized with the film and sections which are essentially guided improvisations. The recording below features one possible execution of the piano part, but there are many ways to realize it. In an actual performance or exhibition, it’s preferred that the performer is visible. In addition, the work is also cyclical, so could be performed multiple times after each other, or even endlessly.
Inspired by the current global actualities, I wrote a small piece for organ.
Unifying Appeal is characterized the juxtaposition of stern rhythms, organic melodies and lively signals. This material is inspired by the national hymns of Ukraine and Russia. The population of both countries are suffering. And the efforts of both peoples are needed to bring about peace.
Performed on 6 March 2022 by the composer on the organ (Pels) of the Petrus Donderskerk.
For guitar solo. 1st prize in III International Competition among composers “THE TIME OF THE GUITAR” 2022.
From Clouds is a guitar solo work of highly dynamic nature, dedicated to Ekaterina Uvarova. Many composers are influenced by clouds. Indeed, when one takes into account all their different shapes, intricate layering and sublime internal dynamics, sometimes smooth and hidden, sometimes violent and apparent, they are very fascinating phenomena. The guitar is an equally fascinating, dynamic and surprising instrument, although its possibilities may seem restricted at first glance. Thus, this piece honours both the possibilities of the clouds and the guitar.
After a thrilling and explosive opening, seemingly emerging out of thin air, way is made for a more seductive and exotic story. After gradually calming down more and more, a certain tragedy materializes. The shallow and intangible reminiscence of the explosive opening theme constantly alternates with more trustful and moving passages. An attempt at harmonizing with fate is made, although some kind of reconciliation only seems to take place after a few stern remarks. Suddenly, whirling winds take over, carrying the story back to the beginning, but this time more agitated and expressive.
Enjoy playing From Clouds!
It’s not possible to listen to a live performance of From Clouds yet.
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.
Sencha is a work for piano solo written in 2021, in a period when I was diving into Japanese art and culture, especially aesthetics and the influences of Zen-Buddhism. The piece is a successor to the earlier tea piece called Kobucha. Both types of teas are distinctly different, but there are many similarities too. With green tea, it’s common practise to brew multiple cups from the same portion of leaves. I could enjoy the first cup, the strongest, but also the last cup, the mildest. To me, the green tea captures both sides, which is only possible if you use the same leaves for the first and last cup.
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.
In the period that I was engaged with a choir in my hometown, playing the piano and organ in religious services, I was inspired to write a piece for organ, because I was fascinated with the instrument’s possibilities. A tone can last as long as you want to, and combined with a colouring/registration of your own choosing, I was enchanted completely.
In this piece, I work with expanding and contracting time. The changing meters throughout the piece make this clear: the number of beats in each ‘bar’ gradually diminish, increase and fluctuate. I wanted the music to have something illogical and unpredictable, like the breathing of something living, be it an living animal or something more abstract like a forest or ocean. This piece consists of two big breathing cycles, with in between smaller cycle of fluctuating time. Not only the harmonies accelerate and slow down: the pulse in the pedal follows the expanding and contracting of harmonic time virtually parallelly. The slow stable walking of the melody in the third layer and is a constant reference point for the other two elements.