Dutch composer Hans Bakker has written music for chamber groups, orchestra, carillon, and choir, including the choir cycle Prasasti. He has been featured on Navona Records albums eight times, most recently appearing with Peter Greve on LINES TO INFINITY. Today, Bakker is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to hear his thoughts on composing.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
In my life, I have [always] improvised music, [starting as] a youngster at church organ during my music study, [to] later mainly at the piano, solo and with other musicians. That was a kind of “instant composing”. I occasionally wrote a piece to process the musical feedback of the things I was doing. Around my fiftieth, I came into contact with the philosophical works of the German writer and painter Josef Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bô Yin Râ. It hit me deeply, and then I knew what I was looking for in life. Initially, I wanted to make something to support a text. And that became – as if a source was sprung up – an inner urge to compose music after I wrote some piano pieces and Mantra I for flute and piano.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
During a trip from Aleppo via Palmyra and Damascus in Syria on the way to Petra in Jordan – in 1996, when still possible – we visited a very well-preserved Roman amphitheater in Bosra, with seating for 15,000 people. Invited to sing something, I stood on the marble circle on stage. While I improvised a kind of aria, the sound was greatly enhanced by the natural acoustics, and I felt around me an air column vibrating like a glass bell, up to the hair of my head. This sensation impressed me more than the applause of the many tourist audiences that applauded me.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Everything that is delicious and pleasing, especially if I think it is necessary to do something else, such as composing, which I like too.
What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?
If the character of the particular piece is extrovert or excited, I would appeal to the player’s artistry. I would say just to play for his own fun, or that it would be hard to say whether the written music or the performance itself was responsible for the joyful experience of the listener.
If the character of the particular piece is more contemplative or dramatic, I would say to the artist: “Play it as if it were a mantra to tune the listener’s soul as an instrument.” Because a mantra is not so much about its meaning, but it refers to the soul of its form and its sound, which you do not need to understand, but you have to experience.
What does this album mean to you personally?
It is so good to note that on this album some musical-spirit related composers have been brought together by PARMA Recordings, which show – each by his own personal voice and expression – that classical music in the 21st century can certainly hit a broader audience, than just a group of involved insiders. For me, it represents what I myself would like to hear if I was sitting in the audience. Although I never forget that listeners are free to judge as they want, I strongly believe – and hope – that the music on this album deserves to be performed many times.
Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?
I believe in the power of artistic beauty and lyricism. In my view, music need not necessarily be easy for the ear, but it should be accessible to the mind; and must be able to tune the receptive listener. My intention as a composer is calling forth the listener’s deeply personal feelings with the intention to awaken his/her emotional nature, so that he/she may come to himself/herself for a moment.