Willem Boogman


From Scratch I ›Plain Dust‹ in Amsterdam

I am writing a series of compositions based on the working method of visual artist Alexandra Roozen. The Ives Ensemble recently played the first part on November Music and soon in Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam. This part, scored for flute, clarinet, trombone, violin, viola, cello and percussion, refers to the series of drawings entitled ›Plain Dust‹ by Alexandra Roozen.

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Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
Date: December 12
19:15 - Foyerdeck 1, Introduction
20:15 - Grote Zaal, Main program: Willem Boogman, Anton Webern, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Dick Raaymakers, Franco Donatoni, Alvin Lucier. The short film ›Seen by Hand‹ about the working method of Alexandra Roozen is shown in advance.

Premiere From Scratch I ›Plain Dust‹

from scratch_part I

Op zaterdag 9 november speelt het Ives Ensemble in November Music 2019 (Willem Twee Toonzaal) het 13 minuten durende eerste deel van From Scratch (wereldpremière), een uiteindelijk driedelige compositie die gebaseerd is op de werkwijze van beeldend kunstenaar Alexandra Roozen. Alexandra creëert vanuit minimale potloodstreepjes grootse en betekenisvolle structuren, een proces dat bij mij een equivalent krijgt in de ontwikkeling van vele korte motiefjes versus langzaam groeiende lange klankduren. Ik wil de verschillende manieren waarop tijd ervaren wordt vatten in één compositie, zoals Alexandra's werk ook vanuit verschillende perspectieven - van grotere afstand en van dichtbij - bekeken kan worden. Voorafgaand aan deze première zal Seen by Hand te zien zijn, een korte film over de werkwijze van Alexandra, waarin ook de geluiden van het tekenen een belangrijke rol spelen. Reprise op 12 december in het Muziekgebouw te Amsterdam. Zie concerts
De foto toont een onderdeel van mijn werkproces, waarin ik stukjes uit een detailfoto van Alexandra's werk heb losgeknipt om reeksen figuurtjes te bestuderen en hun ontwikkelingen.

Listen to Genieting VI (piccolo solo)

Vuurtoren Texel_Willemsen

New at SoundCloud: Ilonka Kolthof performs Genieting VI for piccolo!
Recorded at my Composer Portrait at the Orgelpark, Amsterdam, February 2019.
Genieting VI was commissioned by Ilonka for her Dutch Piccolo Project.
Read more about Genieting VI
Photo: Ben Willemsen | Lighthouse Texel

Composer Portrait broadcast

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My Composer Portrait will be broadcast on June 10, 2019 at 20:00 pm by the Concertzender: Listen here

The Road To Here (audio)

Enjoy the performance of The Road to Here by Geerten van de Wetering – organ and the brass quartet of neo-fanfare ›9x13‹ consisting of Arthur Kerklaan and Anneke Romeijn – trumpets, Pierre Buizer – horn, Anton van Houten – trombone
Read more about The Road here
Photo: West End, New Orleans

»no la persona, ma la sua figura«

Talk on transformations in music

Willem Boogman talks about transformations in his music on the occasion of ›Composer Portrait: Willem Boogman‹ | February 24th 2019, in the Orgelpark, Amsterdam.
[Voor de oorspronkelijke Nederlandse tekst zie: writings]

composer portrait: talk by Willem Boogman
Willem Boogman | Photo: © Co Broerse

[performance of the Waltz from Nous le chant III arranged for The Busy Drone, organ, accordion and dance]

Welcome to the Orgelpark, sanctuary for music, welcome to my composer portrait. I am Willem Boogman.

You heard (just now) the opening up of the local acoustics, so our auditory space for this afternoon has been somewhat explored. The listening space into which we are going to project another seven compositions for you.

First I would like to tell you something about what is going on in the background of these compositions. It is tempting to go on and on about the different backgrounds which played a role in my ways of composing through the years. Time is lacking though, to sketch all of those developments. I will restrict myself to explain one departing point which to a large extent determined my work in recent years. To do this I will go back to the 13th century.

In a sonnet the 13th century poet Giacomo da Lentini seriously asks himself how his beloved one, »who is rather large«, can enter into him through his eyes, »which are quite small«. He answers himself that just as light penetrates glass, it is »her image, not the person«, »no la persona, ma la sua figura«, that entered his heart through his eyes. [Agamben, Stanze. La parola e il fantasma nella cultura occidentale, Torino, 1993]
I like how he said it: we don’t internalize the person, but the image, ›figura‹, of this person.
Giacomo da Lentini is also very enthusiastic about this phenomenon of the senses. Even if his beloved would actually be absent, she is still present in his imagination. Even better: the image of his beloved awakens his desire and relishing he sings of her in verse and sound with »a never ending joy«, a »gioi che mai non fina«.
When I read this I asked Sandra Macrander to write verses for a madrigal cycle about love with the motto ›never ending joy‹.
From this cycle, of which two parts have already been performed, you will hear the premiere of Liefde een woning, nr. 1 later this afternoon.
This cycle called Gioiosamente Canto [› I sing with joy‹] is about celebrating in song the unity of imagination, enjoyment, word and sound in relation to the beloved one who is present.

But let’s take a step ahead.

The person, ›persona‹, gets a figure, ›figura‹, in our imagination. And our imagination can manipulate this figure. So can I! For me as a composer the figure is a musical figure. It is even tempting to speak of a musical personage. This personage, or figure really exists! It is a melody you can whistle, or can remember, or that pops up in your memory. The fact I can do things with it is because a melody is constructed from elements, the DNA of the musical figure. This DNA contains a very own world. The world of the elements. These musical elements form the material with which I as a composer work and which I handle every day.
The handling of the musical elements is the theme of a series of solo pieces which bare the overall title Genieting (›Enjoyment‹). This afternoon you will hear two compositions from this series: Genieting VI for piccolo and the premiere of Genieting VI for piano. These pieces are, among other things, about discovering and using the physical aspects of the instrument. Resonance is a particular characteristic of the piano: when you press the pedal a softer reflection will ensue above the notes you play, in which notes fade into each other. This fading is something I can compose. For the large part the piccolo itself dictates the dynamics. You can’t do much about that as a player.
The point for a soloist to play a Genieting is to master and use the particular characteristics of his or her instrument to attain a personal, musical expression. On top of that the soloist can show what he or she is capable of. For me all these aspects form the starting point for inventing the notes and shape of a composition.

But let’s take a step ahead.

In my imagination I investigate, test and measure the musical figure. Sometimes I call this measuring investigation ›modulation‹. This is a musical term which has existed for centuries, known already from the start of our era, meaning among other things measuring, measurement, singing and playing. In later days the term also implies a transition from one constellation of sound, figure, to another. Sometimes I use ›modulation‹ as a subtitle, as I did with the Intermezzi you are going to hear this afternoon: Modulationes super Passionem secundum Joannem.
›Modulationes‹ indicates that I used a technique of transition which in this case had Saint John’s Passion of Johann Sebastian Bach as a starting point.
I transformed motives from the arias of Saint John’s Passion into an entirely new music of my own, in which Bach occasionally may sound through.

Let’s take a step ahead and consider what is actually going on here.

What goes on is that I metamorphose musical figures into another musical reality. I can only do this because a musical figure consists of different elements, which can each by itself be composed. This becomes clear as soon as one inactivates one of the elements, by connecting a certain value to it. I can for instance fix the pitch of a melody on one note, while keeping the rhythm active [sings]. In another voice of the same piece I can give the notes an equal duration, thus fixing the rhythm, whereas the melody remains unchanged [sings]. The elements of one and the same melody now move independent of each other, forming a polyphony.
Once penetrated to this musical DNA it is also possible to combine elements of different melodies. The pitch of one can be combined with the rhythm of another [sings]. Thus new melodic shapes are generated.

These and many other transformation techniques I applied in the already mentioned Intermezzi, in Duik langs het Koraalrif, The Road to Here, and somewhat in Genieting VII for piano.

These techniques have been described by Stockhausen in his article Musikalische Metamorphose (1983) and have often been used by him.

But let’s take another step ahead.

I can vary the extent to which the new melodic figures can be related to their donors, also within a certain composition. This means there are many gradations possible in abstracting from the figure which served as a starting point.
This process of abstracting can be compared with the work of the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, in which he makes the transformation visible from a tree to a constellation of small lines, which only remotely reminds one of a tree. Or need not even make one think of tree.

In The Road to Here I stayed relatively close to the different styles of the original melodies. - In other words: one somehow keeps seeing Mondrian’s tree -. Stylistic characteristics are very determining for the identity of a musical figure. In The Road to Here I explicitly wanted to make style the subject of the transformations. Said otherwise: In The Road to Here I transform classical music into popular music and vice versa. Of course I could have had the metamorphoses end in very abstract music, in which you would hardly have recognized anything you ever heard. But in this case, that was not my choice.

But let’s take one more step ahead.

I make musical figures change shape and thus create new music. With modern techniques like transformations and interpolations on the level of their DNA I make the identity of the figures flow like clouds moving along and over each other against a blue sky. I definitely deregulate the identity of the known. And along gradations of abstraction I can make perspectives audible, an ultimate polyphony, in which you experience more than you think you hear at first …

But let’s jump back to what is to come now.

I hope you will enjoy yourselves this afternoon. Enjoy the Orgelpark, the musicians and the sound.

Thank you.

Composer Portrait - Review (Dutch)

Angeline ter Winkel: Recensie Componistenportet Willem Boogman | Gezien 24 februari 2019, Orgelpark Amsterdam

Wetering, Geerten van de_Macrander, Sandra_samen_klein
Geerten van de Wetering & Sandra Macrander
Foto: © Co Broerse

Het concert begint als een wervelwind. Het orgel barst los en performer / zangeres Sandra Macrander wervelt over het podium, terwijl ze zacht teksten prevelt die we – zoals bedoeld- niet kunnen verstaan. Krachtig, dynamisch en intrigerend. Bovendien zijn we als luisteraars meteen opgezogen in de geweldige akoestiek van deze zaal in het Orgelpark. Dit was: ›Wals‹ uit: Nous le chant III voor ›The Busy Drone‹.

Het is een middag waarin we als publiek verwend worden met in totaal acht stukken van Willem Boogman, onderbroken door twee kleine pauzes. Er komt bovendien een keur aan instrumenten voorbij. Strijkkwartet, blazers, een piccolosolo, zangsolo, pianosolo, accordeon en uiteraard: orgel. Het is afwisselend, rijk, interessant: een feest van de moderne muziek.

Willem Boogman (1955) speelt graag met ›het DNA van de muziek‹, zoals hijzelf zegt in zijn inleiding: ›De muzikale elementen zijn mijn materiaal waarmee ik als componist werk en waarmee ik dagelijks omga.‹
Boogman ontrafelt muziek en zet het opnieuw in elkaar zoals Mondriaan de schilderkunst heeft geabstraheerd tot het kern-DNA.
Bij Boogman leidt dit doorgaans tot een geamuseerde blik op muziek. In de kern is het niet ›zwaar‹, zoals veel moderne klassieke muziek, maar licht, positief, speels en esthetisch. Niet voor niks heet een serie solostukken van hem ›Genieting‹. Deze middag hoorden we Genieting VII voor piano en Genieting VI voor piccolo. Met name die laatste vond ik een muzikaal speelse verrassing. Ook hoor je zelden een solo-stuk voor piccolo.

Een mooie rol was uiteraard weggelegd voor het orgel. Nooit eerder hoorde ik het orgel zo anders dan hier. Niet het bekende pompeuze instrument, met de hoekige aanslag zoals het doorgaans te horen is, maar wederom: licht, sierlijk, zacht en speels.
Het tweede stuk van die middag Duik langs het koraalrif, Editie I voor accordeon en automatische orgels (arr. Trevor Grahl) was een prachtig samengaan van accordeon en orgel. Muzikale lijnen die langs elkaar en over elkaar buitelen en in een subtiel spel. Organist Geerten van de Wetering maakte hierin meteen al indruk en bleef dat de hele middag doen. Met grote toewijding speelde deze man alles zoals het bedoeld leek te zijn en ook nog eens, voor zover ik kon horen, foutloos.

Ik ga niet ieder stuk bespreken, maar noem enkele die eruit sprongen. Na de pauze kregen we een goed uitgevoerde performance van Sandra Macrander, ditmaal met sterk verzorgde zang (mezzo-sopraan). Dit vormde een aangename afwisseling met de muziekstukken op deze middag en maakte het pallet aan muzikale vormen en dus ook theatrale vormen aangenaam rijk.

Na de tweede pauze kregen we nog blazers met het orgel in The Road to Here en tot slot het Intermezzi. Modulationes super Passionem secundum Joannem voor accordeon en strijkkwartet. Een prachtig stuk, waarmee Boogman de Johannes Passie in korte stukken heeft onderbroken. Dit heb ik eerder in zijn geheel gehoord in een kerk in Utrecht en vond het toen al indrukwekkend en zeer goed getroffen. Deze middag werd het bovendien perfect uitgevoerd. Het geluid van brekend glas in deze compositie is sterk gevonden, maar had ik liever achter de schermen zien gebeuren, dan in het beeld. Dit was een onbedoelde extra performance, die in concentratie afleidde waar het in dit stuk om ging: geconcentreerd luisteren. Een kleine kanttekening op een middag die al met al een feest was voor de moderne muziek.

Vincent van Amsterdam, accordeon
Janneke van Prooijen en Emma Breedveld, viool
Frank Brakkee, altviool
Eilidh Martin, cello
Ilonka Kolthof, piccolo
Bobby Mitchell, piano
het koperkwartet van Neo-fanfare 9×13
Arthur Kerklaan en Anneke Romeijn, trompet
Pierre Buizer, hoorn
Anton van Houten, trombone
Sandra Macrander, mezzosopraan en performer
Geerten van de Wetering, orgel

Composer Portrait

Compoer Portrait Willem Boogman

The Orgelpark Amsterdam presents my Composer Portrait on Sunday afternoon February 24th, 2019.

We selected eight recent compositions which in very different ways give a good impression of my work and what my music is about.
I will give an introduction based on the pieces on the program.

There are two premieres: Liefde een woning, nr 1 for voice and organ, by Sandra Macrander and Geerten van de Wetering and Genieting VII for piano, by Bobby Mitchell.

The Composer Portrait will be performed by fantastic musicians!


1a. Waltz from Nous le chant III for The Busy Drone (2015)
1b. Introduction ›no la persona, ma la sua figura‹ (Giacomo da Lentini, 13th century)

2. Duik langs het koraalrif for accordion and five or six instruments at choice (2017)
Edition I for accordion and automatic organs, arrangement by Trevor Grahl
Vincent van Amsterdam – accordion

3. Genieting VII for piano (2015 | 2017, premiere)
Bobby Mitchell – piano


4. Liefde een Woning, nr 1 for voice and organ (2018, premiere)
Sandra Macrander – mezzo/performer and Geerten van de Wetering – organ
(Commissioned by the Orgelpark)

5. Genieting VI for piccolo (2015)
Ilonka Kolthof – piccolo

6. De dag daagt for organ (2010 | rev. 2018)
transitional music for daybreak from the cycle Day Daily
Geerten van de Wetering – organ


7.The Road To Here for brass quartet and organ (2018)
Geerten van de Wetering – organ and the brass quartet of 9x13 consists of Arthur Kerklaan and Anneke Romeijn – trumpets, Pierre Buizer – horn, Anton van Houten – trombone

8. Intermezzi, modulationes super Passionem secundum Joannem for accordion and string quartet (2016)
Vincent van Amsterdam – accordion, Janneke van Prooijen – violin I, Emma Breedveld – violin II, Frank Brakkee – viola, Eilidh Martin – cello

Sunday February 24th, 2019 | 2:15 PM
Orgelpark, Amsterdam

The interview ›Virtuoso "Genietingen"‹ Jacqueline Oskamp held with me about the program, was published at Timbres Online, the online-magazine of the Orgelpark (In Dutch).