Musical Utopias - Festival celebrating 15-years Ensemble Klang

December 20th to 22nd, 2018 at Korzo Theatre, The Hague. The home venue of Ensemble Klang. There couldn't be a better place to celebrate their 15th birthday. As the Ensemble wrote: Rather than look back at what we've done, we wanted to look as far into the future as possible. Together with some of the artists we love the most we wanted to continue dreaming about new worlds and new possibilities, from the impossible and the imaginary to the very concrete changes we'd like to see happening tomorrow. And so Musical Utopias was born. Subtitled: A Festival of Sonic Escape.

Thursday December 20th Ensemble Klang XL performed the World Premiere of Environments. The 80-minute magnum opus of Dutch composer Peter Adriaansz. The instrumentation asked for an extra percussionist (Jennifer Heins), bayan player (An Raskin) and an extra acoustic guitarist (Santiago Lascurain). Both percussionists doubled as keyboard player. The middle part of the composition called Watts was performed earlier this year. Together with part one (Mono) and the final part (Stereo) the composition deals with our perception of time. Quiet, repetitive music accompanied by the voice of Alan Watts. Gradually the musicians (piano, keyboards, bayan and guitar) all stop but for Santiago and his guitar playing an interesting tune, which is repeated manyfold. One for the other the percussionists and other players join in. And finally the brass players have their say all with stretched notes. For a trancelike experience. The intensity and volume of the music increases in the last part. Ending with a dronelike finale. Beforehand Peter stated that he hoped the piece would add something to society. And he wanted to confront two autonomous entities the text end the music and glue it together. And see what happens. And something brilliant happened.

Ensemble Klang playing Gulf War Syndrone by Mary Jane Leach

The second festival day the Klangers started with a bang. The Ensemble played Gulf War Syndrone. A composition by Mary Jane Leach. Pete Harden introduced the piece:"". The tape started, with a brassy sound. Anton with his trombone joined in together with percussion like sound from the tape. One by one his fellow Klangers enter the stage, take up theitr instruments and strengthen the drone. But for Michiel van Dijk. Also the tape generates an oriental sound. And the composer added a part of a speech by president Bush SR. A clarinet part brilliantly played by Michiel van Dijk is the upper layer of the music. For which he received an acknowledging nod from pianist Saskia Lankhoorn. A compelling electro-acoustic pulsating piece. Afterwards Pete Harden told: "Her music deals with social teams and political themes. The piece includes field recordings from the anti First Gulf War protest in Berlin, in the early nineties. Mary Jane is recognised more for her work as musicologist. She worked really hard on the music of Julius Eastman, in the last fifteen years. She wrote a book about him and documented his pieces."
Next was the world premiere of a composition by Keir Neuringer. Pete introduced:"Keir Neuringer was on Ensemble Klang's programmes since the very first concert. That we did which is 15 years ago. And ever since then we have been nagging him to write something substantial for the ensemble. And every year he said: I am working on it. It is coming. And it is going te be big. And every year it got bigger, because he had been working on it for so long. And we are really delighted tonight. It is really special for us. It is a special moment. I am not going to say more because he joins us on stage." His piece starts with multiple triangle sounds. They are joined by low baritone saxophone sound by Michiel and Erik-Jan de With. Guitar (Pete Harden) and trombone (Anton van Houten) ad to the belling sound. Suddenly the gongs played by Joey Marijs takes the lead. Piano (Saskia Lankhoorn) and guitar and later saxes and trombone join the percussion. ASnd Keir recites his socially minded text. An donce in a while the brass players generate percussion sounds. After that the brass players create a fascinating layer of sound with long notes, with accompanyment by guitar, piano and percussion. The piano takes up a rhythmical tune. The intensity of the music increases and Keir blurts out his text. The finale of the piece comes with percussion and triangle music and at last only the triangles. The piece was very well received by the audience! Kei:"I think I am calling it for now: Elegies at the border. I have been working on this piece for years. Finally finding a form for it. There is a lot of text in it. That speaks for itself."
Then the stage was set for Ensemble Klang to be joined by Keir Neuringer's band Irreversible Entanglements to play the iconic piece Femenine by Julius Eastman. A composer who - long after his untimely death - attracts more and more attention and earns recognition with his iconic compositions. Poet Camae Ayewa (a.k. Moor Mother) starts to recite a text by Julius. Gradually the music takes over. A repetitive 'signal' is played in a semi-alarming way. This signal, albeit a bit transformed, is embedded in a further development of the piece. A bit like free jazz meets contemporary classical music. The piano adds a certain drive to the music and later the pianist takes the lead for the rest to follow in her musical sequence. Pianist Saskia Lankhoorn:"I was attracted to Julius' music because of the friction. I heard a lot of notes that would not be kind to me, immediately. So I really thought I have to think about how to play this, to perform this the way I like to peform music. But also in order to be honest towards the composer and the written notes. How little they are. The music is very harsh. It didn't immediately appeal to me, but the friction draw me in, somehow." Keir:"I think I was drawn to it by the uncompromising aspect of it. The more popular well known works of the seventies, minimalism, by American composers like Reich or Glass. As a younger listener I found those pieces uncompromising. And then came to see the compromises that they made. I heard Eastman for the first time late. But even saw the space there is by compromising less in composing and presentation and in all the ways that you engage the music making from working together to presenting it and attracting the audience. I want to push back on the notion of rediscovery. Eastman was never undiscovered by people who knew him, I think. And the people who cared about his music. It just became possible is a nice way of saying or fashionable is a not nice way of saying to start presenting him. I think of two moments in my life when I was first confronted with Eastman. The more important time was later, a few years ago. The Femenine recording was released. And Ensemble Klang reached out to me the perform Femenine. So then I started thinking about and listening to him. And I remember that years ago he was presented in The Hague. The only way that that piece was possible to be presented then was in a post-racial world where you can present that work in that context." Saskia:"To me to perform his music - he was a very good performer as well - and you hear and also see in the score it is about gestures. And that he trusts himself and his performers how to play the music. That is really intriguing. That is what I find very interesting in his music."
After that Irreversible Entanglements played their 'regular' free jazz music. Music with a lot of intensity and drive and with Moor Mother reciting.

Ensemble Klang with friends playing Trance by Michael Gordon

Saturday afternoon saw Neo-fanfare 9x13 perform their latest show: Trance. A fanfare orchestra bringing new music to the people via music theatre. In this programme the initiation of soprano saxophone player Ilse Bies. All members are sturdily dressed to match music with outfit, while playing a.o. Nautilus by Anna Meredith, a composition A! La! Marcia! by Marc Kaptijn and a special Battle Fantasy by John de Simone. After that Ensemble Klang, Neo-fanfare 9x13 and students of the Royal Conservatoire The Hague played in the foyer of the Korzo Theatre Julia Wolfe's devastating Arsenal of Democracy. And Music for People Who Like Nature by Andrew Hamilton, which was conducted by Joey Marijs. Pete Harden:"When we were putting together the programme of Musical Utopias, we wanted 9x13 to be playing. We wanted Ensemble Klang te be playing. At some w point we reaslised when we put these ensembles together you get the instrumentation of De Volharding. And we anted to plum into this incredible repertoire of years and years built up. And we picked two pieces out. We doing this pop up wonderful performance for you. About Andrew Hamilton's piece. Imagine yourself wandering high in alpine the mountains, close your eyes. And hear the water falling from the hills. We gonna hear one of the angriest pieces that I know. It is about politics. It is by Julia Wolfe and it is called Arsenal of Democracy." Interesting to think how Michael Gordon's Trance (1995) written in the same period as partner Julia's Arsenal (1993) strenghten each other. These compositions should be ofter programmed together.

Keir Neuringer in the duo Matthew Wright / Neuringer

That evening Fields by Astrid Boons was played and danced, followed by Oliveiras by Magda Mendes and the first gig of two by Saxophone Collective West. who played Rapidus by Hanna Kulenty. Which I all unfortunately missed. I re-entered the theatre during the finale of Trance by Michael Gordon. A magical and spellbinding experience and an even better performance of the piece regarding their first performance a couple of years back in Rotterdam. After that piece you literally leave the hall as a zombie: In trance. In the second set Saxophone Collective West kicked off with B&E by Oscar Bettison from 2006 and arranged for saxophone quartet in 2010. A wonderful piece getting a certain urgency across. With a lot of different tempi, but all uptempo. Sometimes unisono, but allways adventurous. A world premiere followed. Tenor saxophonist Andy Scott wrote Kintamarni. A jazz influenced contemporary music piece. The line up of the Collective was: Alto Saxphone the reknowned Arno Bornkamp; Tenor Saxophone - Andy Scott and Klang members Michiel van Dijk (Baritone Saxophone) and Erik-Jan de With (Soprano Saxophone). Keir Neuringer and Matthew Wright presented their programme: Speak cities. Experimental saxophone en semi-saxophone (Keir replaced the body of his saxophone by a lengthy waterhose) with live-electronics by Matt Wright. Music inspired by city sounds and the claustrophobia of people objected to these sounds. The experimental rockers of Knalpot (Silencer in English) rocked the festival to an end with their program Dierendag (Animal Day). With drums (Gerri Jäger), guitar (Raphael Vanoli) and electronics (both) the ultrarockers produced a wall of sound to close the Festival on a high. A non plus ultra festival.

Gerri Jäger of Knalpot