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If you haven’t heard of Louis Andriessen, it’s time you get acquainted with the revolutionary contemporary Dutch composer and his musical influence and body of work before Metropolis New Music Festival takes over Melbourne Recital Centre this May.

1) He’s a European master with major influence

Born in 1939, Louis Andriessen is regarded as one of Europe’s most eminent living composers and a central figure in the Dutch contemporary arts scene, composing mostly stage, orchestral, chamber, vocal, and piano works that have been performed across the world.

2) His music is distinctive and reveals signs of Stravinsky

A lot of Andriessen’s works show influence of Igor Stravinsky - the revolutionary Russian modernist worked in a vast variety of styles. Andriessen hails from a background of jazz and avant-garde composition, and has evolved a style that employs elemental harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic materials, heard in distinctive instrumentation. There are several recurring characteristics in Andriessen’s work: his preference for winds over strings, his use of bass guitar, electric guitar, and electric keyboard, and use of literary texts as inspiration for his music.

3) He co-founded the Studio for Electro Instrumental Music (STEIM) 

In 1969 Andriessen co-founded STEIM - a brilliant centre for research and development of new musical instruments in the electronic performing arts, located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. 

Electronic music in STEIM's context is always strongly related to the physical and direct actions of a musician. It’s philosophy is "Touch is crucial in communicating with the new electronic performance art technologies” and its this philosophy that has influenced the development  STEIM’s analogue touchable "Crackle" surfaces in the 1940s through to today's experimental Gestural MIDI Interfaces. 

Sound interesting? Find out more about STEIM here

4) His perspective on the role of the composer and new music in society

Andriessen believes the role of the composer extends beyond music and into contemporary society and makes a call to arms for composers now and into the future:

"Many composers view the act of composing as, somehow, above social conditioning. I contest that. How you arrange your musical material, the techniques you use and the instruments you score for, are largely determined by your own social circumstances and listening experience, and the availability of financial support. I do agree, though, that abstract musical material – pitch, duration and rhythm – are beyond social conditioning: it is found in nature. However, the moment the musical material is ordered it becomes culture and hence a social entity."

5) He does not shy away from big ideas, philosophical questions and connections between art and politics, as articulated in this excerpt from The Guardian:

Perhaps most remarkable is Andriessen's willingness to tackle the most thorny philosophical questions: the connection between politics and art in De Staat and the essence of time and matter in the later works: "Unlike a lot of composers, Louis is not afraid of big ideas," says Amy Knoles, founder member of the California EAR Unit, an experimental music group that has premiered many of Andriessen's works in the US.

"He is overflowing with them. And most important, he knows how to weave the seed of an idea into music almost seamlessly, which gives the work its urgency." Not everyone in Dutch music is as delighted about the influence of the school of Andriessen and his particularly boisterous brand of music: "It is a symptom of stagnation in Dutch composition," says Peter Schat, a fellow composer with Andriessen of what is possibly his most controversial work yet, Reconstructie, who has since renounced his experimental early work.

"Like serialism, it has become an expression of stagnation. Dutch musical life is based around performance. We never had a composer the rest of the world could remember, such as Grieg in Norway or Smetana in Czechoslovakia, and that has a big negative influence on composition in Holland. But now people feel we have one called Louis Andriessen."

Enjoy the rest of this article via The Guardian here

Listen to Louis Andriessen's works including De Staat on Spotify here:

And experience Louis Andriessen's works performed live as part of Metropolis New Music Festival

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