New Composition: Dumuzid’s Tears

New Composition: Dumuzid’s Tears

I hope you like my most recent work for an ensemble of tenor recorders (or any identical recorders), with beautiful artwork by Becky Harris! It gives opportunities to learn some contemporary techniques, whilst (I hope) sounding like nice music as well as giving opportunity for learning about improvisation and theatrical aspects, if so wanted.
The idea for Dumuzid’s Tears first arose when looking for the earliest reference to the connection between the recorder (flute) and shepherds. The earliest surviving texts in the world were written by the Ancient Sumerians. Among their deities was Dumuzid the God of shepherds who is also presented with a flute in Ishtar’s Descent to the Netherworld, making him the earliest flute-playing shepherd that we know of in literature. The composition was inspired by a collection of lamentations for Dumuzid entitled In the Desert by the Early Grass. Related to it there is a hymn called “Lament of the flutes for Damu”, which was sung to the accompaniment of flutes every year as part of the ritual mourning of the dead Dumuzid. My composition consists of fragments of lamenting melodies that paint an aural picture of this mourning.

You can find the composition in my webshop!

Newest Video inspired by PCR test

Newest Video inspired by PCR test
For this composition I was inspired by Marin Marais’s Le Tableau de l’Operation de la Taille, in which Marais describes his experiences on the operating table with text and music. My other inspiration was Partimento, which is a fascinating pedagogical tool for composition from Naples in the 18th century (and beyond). I have been researching how to use this keyboard-centred tool as a solo melody player and some of the results found their way into this composition. At the same time the world was hit by the pandemic and to be able to work we needed to do those PCR tests. For some reason they really freaked me out and it helped me to hear the funny stories from colleagues about things that happened during their tests. So I asked my friends on Facebook to tell me their best PCR stories and that’s how I got to the ‘libretto’ for my piece. I hope you enjoy it!

The Scroll Ensemble YouTube channel

The Scroll Ensemble YouTube channel

These past months we have been working hard to get our message online through YouTube videos: anyone can improvise, we’d love to help you find this wonderful way of making music for yourself.

We did A LOT :):

We interviewed Saskia Coolen about her improvisation CD, we were guessing what Beethoven composed next, improvising a new Bachian invention on a Beatles song, talking about an improvisation theatre game and how to say yes or no in music, we got you to improvise a 17th-century battle piece with only the notes C, E and G, we talked extensively about the Tarantella, and how to improvise it, talked about free apps you could use to learn to improvise, and much more. Find it on our YouTube channel!
Don’t forget to subscribe to get new videos every week :).

Apollo Summer Academy

Apollo Summer Academy

Summer Course in an idyllic Dutch cloister

In 2020 I’m back in Drachten (NL), where we will have our wonderful Apollo Summer Academy. Next to chamber music, tutored by the likes of Catherine Manson, Cassandra Luckhardt and Eric Hoeprich, students can also perform Beethoven’s 7th Symphony under the mesmerising direction of David Rabinovich. There are always interesting evening activities as well; last year I did a presentation about practice techniques for example.

Find out more here.

Recorder Consort: War, peace and lament

Perhaps my favourite element of the course is our Recorder Consort. This year roaring, lamenting and celebrating in colours of war and peace.

War and peace, two situations that are just as important to human history as day and night. In music, the programmatic Battaglia genre already emerged in the Renaissance. How do you imitate a war with your voice or with your instruments? We play the first ever war song by Clément Janequin.

Besides jolly and fiery music, however, also music for grief, for getting better and for peace. Because that, too, is part of the war. With Ignaz von Biber we also hear the drunken jolly soldiers, and their lament.

With Beethoven we also hear the grief of the marching soldiers. With Muffat we heal the wounds, after which we have time for remembrance: my own War Requiem. Nowadays there are still wars raging all over the world every day. The music of countries now at war comes together and speaks of hope for the future. The composition will consist of ordinary, beautifully sounding notes; no modern techniques are required.

Finally, we celebrate peace with John Lennon.

The idea for this programme was inspired by the benefit concert in which Ludwig van Beethoven premiered his seventh symphony, in honour of the soldiers who were injured during the Battle of Hanau.

La Bataille – Clément Janequin
A La Bataglia – Heinrich Isaac

Galliard Battaglia – Samuel Scheidt

Beverage and Lament
Ignaz von Biber – Battaglia a 9

Soldiers funeral march
Symphony 7, Allegretto – Ludwig von Beethoven

Convalescing for the wounded
Concerto grosso Convalescentia – Georg Muffat

War Requiem – Robert de Bree

Concerto Grosso based on John Lennon – Imagine

A new war…
La Battaglia di Legnano – Giuseppe Verdi

Improvisation courses 2019/2020

Improvisation courses 2019/2020

Improvisatie was en is nog steeds voor mij de sleutel om mijn muzikaliteit te ontketenen, het is de speeltuin waar ik me kan blijven ontwikkelen.

Improvisatie hielp me om beter te luisteren, minder met mezelf bezig te zijn, de muziek meer te begrijpen, beter te stemmen. Als ik een nieuw instrument pak, vind ik via improvisatie een weg.

Dit wil ik heel graag delen met iedereen. Het belangrijkste is eigenlijk de eerste stap te zetten. Komend seizoen geef ik cursussen over ostinato’s, versieringen en “wat is nou een akkoord”?

12 Mei 2019 – Proeflokaal – Akoesticum, Ede
Probeer verschillende cursussen uit voor een uurtje! Onder andere mijn nieuwe cursussen “Barokke Ostinato” en “Wat is een akkoord”, een cursus die ik samen met Wilko Brouwer ga geven!
Geef je hier nog op.

24-25 Augustus 2019 – Mechelse Blokfluitdagen
Verschillende workshops inclusief improvisatie!


8 September 2019 – Barokke Canto Ostinato Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Amsterdam
Ostinato’s uit de barok, de chaconne en passacaglia zoals gebruikt door Bach en Purcell, zijn tot op de dag van vandaag nog geliefd.
In deze cursus leer je de basisprincipes van het improviseren via speelse en meeslepende ostinato’s. We leren enkele basis-ostinato’s uit de barok, maar ook hoe je zelfstandig te werk kunt gaan als je een jou onbekende ostinato tegenkomt. Musiceren aan de hand van een ostinato is de ultieme training om (beter) te leren improviseren! 

Iedereen kan meedoen! Alle instrumentalisten zijn welkom. Dit alles doen we in ensemblevorm en stap voor stap: muzikaal, gezellig en makkelijk

Geef je op

11 Januari 2020 – Wat is een Akkoord – Akoesticum, Ede
Denk je ook wel eens bij het horen van het woord “akkoord”, waar hebben ze het over? Vraag je je af hoe akkoorden werken in een muziekstuk en waarom dat zo is?
In deze cursus gaat het over harmonieleer, ofwel over samenklanken, over drie- en vierklanken, over dissonanten en consonanten, over voorhoudingen en oplossingen, en over doorgangstonen. De deuren van de muziektheorie gaan voor je open door eenvoudige opdrachten te doen in het ensemble.
De cursus is voor iedereen, zanger en/of instrumentalist, die graag wil weten hoe akkoorden in elkaar zitten en hoe ze met elkaar verbonden kunnen worden. Je leert de theoretische basis van de harmonieleer en kruipt in de huid van de componist door in de praktijk met akkoorden te spelen.

Geef je op

19 Januari 2020 – Barokversieringen – De Kom, Nieuwegein
In de baroktijd werden niet alle noten die moesten klinken ook daadwerkelijk in de bladmuziek genoteerd. Muzikanten wisten zelf welke versieringen ze toe mochten voegen en konden op die manier hun creativiteit laten zien. 

Versieringen aanbrengen in de muziek is geen eenvoudige zaak, daarom pakken we het in deze workshop stapje voor stapje aan en creëren zo een stevige basis. 
Aan de hand van korte stukjes ensemblemuziek die je vooraf bestudeert, leer je in deze cursus al spelend en onderzoekend verschillende manieren om muziek te versieren. Hoe versier je renaissancemuziek, hoe barokmuziek? Kunnen we zelfs aan muziek van Mozart versieringen toevoegen? Wat zijn de verschillen, de overeenkomsten? Hoeveel schrijf je van tevoren op? Waar vind je je opties? 

Geef je hier op

Practice – the never-ending story

Practice – the never-ending story

Recently my wonderful colleague Susan Williams asked me to be her ‘public guinea pig’ for her PhD defence on Quality Practice. This inspired me to dive into the literature again to look for interesting ideas for practice. I’m hoping to keep up an overview of interesting ideas and books here.

A little note for application: it is important to practice practising. Just like with learning an instrument, don’t right away spend hours on trying to change or improve your practice. Start with a small analysis of your current practice and needs and try out a technique or idea found in one of the books below.

Click the images or the title to go to the link.

Quality Practice – Susan Williams

This wonderful free PDF brings together a lot of ideas about practice in a very concise way. There are practice cards, exercises, charts and enough ideas for the next couple of years.

The book is divided in several areas of practice and can both be ‘read’, but also opened at a random page to immediately apply this practising technique.

My biggest take aways: you must practice practising, and practice should be as fun, creative and musical as you want your music to be.

The Perfect Wrong Note – William Westney

I met this book in the middle of a whirl of improvisation workshops and this changed my entire idea about teaching. I love his image of being a student himself and his teacher flailing arms passionately and never getting him to actually play the way the teachers is hoping for.

My biggest take aways:
– Make juicy mistakes, i.e.: play with full conviction, even when perhaps a mistake might happen. That way potential mistakes will be much clearer in the mind.
– The practising musician must become their own teacher, eventually it is about your body, your music, your ideas.

Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed

This book takes a similar premise as Westney’s Perfect Wrong Note: why are we so afraid of mistakes? Bringing together stories and research in different fields, Syed makes a good case for embracing our mistakes.

Improv Wisdom – Patricia Ryan Madson

I must include this book in all my lists. A very easy, funny read, with great jewels like “Just be Average” and “Just Show up” (i.e. sometimes practice is just about getting to your room and starting to do SOMETHING).

Error Management – Silke Kruse-Weber

This article is all about error and risk management with a specific focus on performance strategies. Lots of great links to scientific research and wonderful ideas.
Great take aways for me: without risks there is no innovation, but with risks there is more chance for errors or nervousness on stage.
Taking risks is something that needs to be practised as well: how far can I go with this particular piece, when I feel this way, etc.?

Surely there is more to come. At the moment I’m investigating the use of storytelling in teaching improvisation; soon more about that!

Let me know if you have any questions, remarks or if there are any mistakes in the text. You can contact me here.

Improvisation course

Improvisation course

Coming November I’m very excited to be teaching an improvisation course in Amsterdam at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ for all level musicians. Everyone can improvise! We will cover the basics of early music improvisation, ranging from canon to ground, imitation to free improvisatory forms like the prelude! A course to open your mind!

More information on taking part can be found here.

NB the course will (most likely) be taught in Dutch.