Author Topic: Aha Aa  (Read 3330 times)

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Offline UB

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Aha Aa
« on: February 10, 2012, 01:49:29 PM »
Michel van der Aa is a young - born in 1970 - Dutch composer who seems to be very much up and coming - especially in Europe.

I find his music to be a kind of blend of minimalism, spectral, and electronics. I like it more than I expected when I first started to listen to his music in earnest. He is not a plink, plonk, screech composer. Although there are times when that happens it always seems to be for a purpose and not just for effect. I think that his music might be a good introduction for someone who is honestly interested in moving into what is often called ‘challenging’ modern music but it is not for someone who thinks Shostakovich went too far with his late String Quartets.

The best way to get to know about him and his music and to see if he might fit into your listening world is to go to his very well constructed website and just browse around.

If you go into his multimedia section you can listen to clips from most of his works. There is a good 12 minute interview by the NY Public Radio in English lets him tell you about his music. The biography by Jonathan Reeder is also very informative. But of course the best way to get to know him is to listen to his music.

So before you buy anything you can go to YouTube and listen to a number of his pieces. I suggest you listen to Auburn from 1994 which is the earliest work of his that I have on CD and then to Mask which is from 2007. Both of these works are for acoustical instruments and soundtracks. Then watch Transit, also from 2007, which is for piano and video projection. Aa seems to be moving from mainly sounds to sights and sounds. By the time you get through these three pieces you will know if you want to hear more.

If you do decide to expand your listening I suggest you buy the “Here Trilogy” and the “Spaces of Blank, Mask, and Imprint” CDs that are available as downloads from Amazon. If anyone springs for the “One chamber” or ‘Up-Close" DVDs please let me know if you think they are worth the price.
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2012, 02:42:47 PM »
I have a few of disks and there are some definite hits. I haven't made my way through all of them yet, but I really enjoy both Spaces of Blank and Imprint. Spaces of Blank is a really nice song cycle that also uses electronics (used very tastefully). Imprint is a unique work, in that it calls for a baroque orchestra with a solo violin that also doubles playing a positive organ (the keys are held down with weights and serves as a sort of pedal point). Imprint is a great work that reminds me somewhat of Lutoslawski. I don't really hear the minimalist influence in either of these works. It does have a very eclectic sound to it, though, which definitely gets my ears perked up.
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Offline starrynight

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2012, 11:01:53 PM »
Imprint sounds like it has more interest to me than some of his other work that I've heard.  His music can sound a bit abstract and lacking the individuality to make it have emotional impact for me despite his professionalism,  Imprint though might appeal to me more, seems a bit different.  Glad you think he is young as well, that means I am. :D

Offline springrite

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 05:51:28 AM »
He will probably be first in most composer alphabetical listing, I guess.

Well, Bing A of China will probably retain that honor for me.
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Offline UB

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 07:14:13 AM »
Imprint sounds like it has more interest to me than some of his other work that I've heard.  His music can sound a bit abstract and lacking the individuality to make it have emotional impact for me despite his professionalism,  Imprint though might appeal to me more, seems a bit different.  Glad you think he is young as well, that means I am. :D

What works have you heard of his? Have you heard his early piece Oog for cello and soundtrack? In his music the soundtracks integrate well with the instrumental parts so that I find that they add to the experience.

Since I was born over 3 decades before he - and it seems you - were, I consider him young.
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Offline starrynight

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 11:04:23 AM »
Ok, I'm not complaining about it anyway.  :D

Anyway this piece.  It does have some interesting changes of texture and mood, it certainly needs a good performance with intensity and energy (maybe the case for other pieces then).  Justa de Jong I like in it, Xenia Ensemble I just don't.

Offline violadude1

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Re: Aha Aa
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2022, 02:19:12 PM »
Lately I've been listening to my composer playlists in alphabetical order (by last name). First up is Michel Van der Aa. Here's what I got so far

Auburn for Guitar and Soundtrack (1994) This is a really fun little piece. One of the things I've found really great about Aa's music with these first 5 pieces I've listened to is he has a great sense for pacing and momentum building. This piece starts with hypnotic guitar figures. It's not long before the guitar breaks out into violent ecstatic strumming. This is when the electronics come in, which are at times complimentary to the atmosphere of the guitar and sometimes slice through the guitar's lines like a knife. The piece builds up to a rhythmically explosive finale that both parts contribute to with a small, haunting atmospheric, and somewhat peaceful epilogue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsX0Dy4PX6M

Oog for Cello and Soundtrack (1995) This piece is like a cello version of "Auburn", not that it's the same piece transcribed, but the same concept. Unlike Auburn, In this piece I get the impression that the relationship between the cello and electronics are much less complimentary and much more adversarial. Throughout the piece the electronics are continually threatening to "swallow the cello alive" so to speak. I'm reminded of the Cello Concertos by Lutoslawski or Schnittke which have a similar concept. Again the dramatic arch and buildup in this piece I think is very well done.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT3-2dLDc2Y


In Between for Percussion ensemble and soundtrack (1997) This one uses a percussion set that contrasts groups of high twinkling percussion (glockenspiels etc.) with groups of lower drum-like percussion (toms mostly I think but it's hard to tell sometimes). The concept is the same as the last couple pieces, there's still a slow build to an exciting climactic ending, but I somehow find this one less convincing. It feels more fragmented and less focused. Maybe it will grow on me as I keep listening. One of the expressions that really sticks out about this piece and distinguishes it from the others is the meditative, zen-like quality of the "high-percussion" sections, which brought to my mind a composer like Somei Satoh or Hosokawa in a quiet mood.

Couldn't find a link on youtube unfortunately but it's on spotify if anyone is interested.

Caprice for solo violin (1999) To be perfectly honest, solo instrumental is my least favorite medium in all of classical music. I love the sound of musical lines interacting and blending with each other and solo instrumental just doesn't have that as much. There are a handful of composers that I think pull off the genre really well (Bach, Hindemith, Berio) but for the most part the genre doesn't really hold my attention. So that being said, this piece was okay for what it was but I don't think I'll be coming back to it. It's 2 or 3 minutes of angry violin scrubbing and it's enjoyable enough but nothing special in my estimation at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNzrHuZ06cQ

Above for ensemble and soundtrack (1999) Oh ya, now this is what I'm talking about! Get the whole ensemble in here. This piece is written for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Trumpet, 2 violins, viola, cello, contrabass, a percussion ensemble and soundtrack. This is by far my favorite piece in this series of "x with soundtrack" pieces. It begins slowly with a nervous, agitated two note staccato motif, out of which grows a web of musical lines that entangle, conflict and collide throughout 3/4ths of the piece. This work, like the others, builds to an eruptive climactic moment, but the way this restless two note motif is beaten around the different sections of the ensemble gives the high point of the work an extra sense of inevitability, like rushing headfirst into your fate. The last four or so minutes of the piece is dedicated to a more eerie atmosphere in which the music winds down and comes back to its simple beginnings as a single two note motif on one instrument. The electronics in this piece are very well integrated into the music.

Since Auburn and Oog are pieces written for electronics and a single instrument, the narrative is framed as "one versus the other", whereas in this piece it's a "free for all" so to speak, with all the instruments combating against each other, and the electronic element is just another part of that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kllil-SMRWU

To be continued....