We posed a few questions to PARMA Artists Hans Bakker and Peter Greve in advance of their upcoming split release: LINES TO INFINITY (out January 13th). Both artists were included on last January’s compilation, PINNACLE (along with composers Daniel Perttu, Steven Block, and Kevin M. Walczyk), and since both Netherlands-based composers discovered they lived right down the road from each other (Bakker in Amersfoort, Greve in Wijdemeren), a follow-up split album ended up being a great idea!
You can read their thoughts on the music below as we all get ready for Friday’s release of LINES TO INFINITY:
What was the thought process behind this album’s title: LINES TO INFINITY?
- The interplay of waves, clouds and horizon on Hans’ magic cover photo
- The connection between the title of the CD and the title of the first piece on it: “Leys/Krachtlijnen” (= litterally translated: “Power Lines”)
- The sun, “infinitely” far away, above the horizon as a metaphore for the eternity of the Cosmos
Would you please speak a little about your favorite piece of yours on the album?
PG: I can’t really say: there is quite a time span between the conception of the two pieces, and both reflect my state of mind and beauty ideal at that time: different, but both are authentic and valid.
HB: All three pieces are dear to me as different as they are in shape, occupation and genesis. But I have a soft spot for the fugue in the third part of the Trio. Every time I listen to it I experience a kind of joie-de-vivre.
When did you become familiar with each other’s work?
PG: During the preparation period of “Pinnacle”. I knew Hans by name, but not personally: it was PARMA which brought us together: a most happy coincidence, as it turned out!
How far apart do you now live from each other?
PG: 29 kilometers (30-35 min.) by car
In what ways are your writing styles the same, and in what ways are they different?
PG: I think this is for an independent third party (musicologist) to analyze, but my personal bottomline is: all composers are different individuals and consequently write different music: that is fine and definitely shall remain so, because diversity is essential for all arts.
To say the same in another way (“The Four Basic Freedoms in Music”):
- composers are free to write what they want*;
- executants are free to perform what they want;
- podia are free to program what they want;
- listeners are free to judge as they want.
*Unpermissible however are (“The Four Basic Constraints in Music”):
- poor craftmanship;
- false pretentions;
HB: I agree with Peter that this is for an independent third party (musicologist) to analyze.
“C’est le ton qui fait la musique”. Speaking about instrumental music there are no words, but only sound vibrations that can resonate in the mind of a like-minded listener. I am sure the pieces of LINES TO INFINITY have expressiveness in common. We have chosen PARMA to find receptive listeners all over the world.
What do you most enjoy about writing for flute?
PG: I like all wind instruments (somehow more than string instruments), but the flute has the combined advantages of a large compass, great agility and a large number of flautists, among which many good amators. Besides (a practical reason), the two pieces on the CD were commissioned from me by flautists whom I personally knew and who asked me to write music for them or their ensemble.
HB: It was a challenge to write music for flutists or ensembles, I knew. Sometimes younger music colleagues, who are versed in the present-day flute techniques. For example in Mantra I for flute and piano (CD The Unnamed Source) and Leys/Krachtlijnen on this CD Lines To Infinity. Sometimes passionate amateurs, for example Suite Hinnago.
Which Dutch composers would you say have most influenced your work?
- Willem Pijper (1894-1947): for me, the most important composer between WOI and WO II; one may say: the Dutch representant of the German “Neue Sachlichkeit”. I had liked to be his pupil, but I was too young (16) and not up to it when he died. I liked his directness, conciteness and originality, unfortunately, he was considered too modern before WOII, but out-dated after it, because he endorsed poly- and octa-tonality, and rejected (vigorously: he was a feared polemic critic) atonality and dodecaphony.
- Léon Orthel (1905-1985): actually, my last and principal piano teacher, but also a composer in his own right. He had the courage to return, after years of experimenting, to romanticism and write heavily loaded, emotional music right from his heart. So his music is quite different from Pijper’s, but he highly estimated his elder colleague and let me play Pijper’s piano works (i.a. the Pianoconcerto), rather than his own. Orthel maybe did not influence so much my music as my attitude and artistic standards: I especially appreciated his integrity and modesty. He did not live to see my development to composer, but he would certainly have encouraged me to carry on.
- Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996): he too steered away in the 50’s of past century from the (then) main-stream of “Darmstadt followers” and found inspiration in Indian and other Asian music, but he integrated it into his style and wrote works of great beauty and expressiveness. He also was an eminent theoretician and wrote an authoratitive book on music theory which was, – and probably still is -, a standard work for Conservatory students. I did not pick up his Indian leads, but found inspiration and spiritual affinity to Eastern European music, notably Bartók, Janácek and Prokofyev (as Orthel found in Rakhmaninov). What we have in common is the feeling that one should not be afraid to look over the Western European borderlines in search for new impulses.
HB: Seen directly no Dutch composer in particular. I found inspiration in and had an affinity also to Eastern European music, notably Skjrabin, Janácek, Bartok, Prokofyev and Stravinsky, as well as (old) Jazz and Gershwin. But reading Peter’s story I was somewhat perplexed, because I played Pijper’s Pianosonata, Orthel’s Thirth Sonatina and I studied extensively Ton de Leeuw’s book on music theory (‘Music of the Twentieth Century). So indirectly we have those Dutch masters in common!
What is the atmosphere like for new music in the Netherlands today?
HB: Largely a clique affair.
PG: In one word: unfavourable! To add a second: hostile. Now, the atmosphere for new music was never very favourable in this country, which was and is heavily focused on Trade and (on Sundays) Religion. Sponsoring by state-run funds has significantly been cut by right-wing politicians (yes: democratically elected) in favour of Private Enterprise, orchestras are liquidated or forced to merge, podia are forced to think in terms of commerce and PR, i.e. bring the cast-iron repertoire and avoid new music.
Of course, the music of the modernist-composers of the 2nd half of last century did not improve the situation, nor did the advance of pop music, “easy listening”, jingles, dance festivals, TV, music continuously and everywhere, etc. I can not stop these developments, but what I can do (and I am neither the first nor the only one to do so) is writing music which is accessible and understandable, but also gives the listener something to chew upon (and swallow or spit out, as applicable).
What would you most like listeners to discover after hearing this album?
PG: Basically: something in themselves which resonates with the music.
For more information, check out the catalog page for LINES TO INFINITY, where you can find detailed bios, liner notes, and browse the written music: http://navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6070/
Listen below for a sample, and if you like what you hear, pre-order the album at https://www.amazon.com/Lines-Infinity-Various-artists/dp/B01NAHXUXW/