Since January 2013, I am working as ‘artistic collaborator’ at the Huygens-Fokker Foundation, centre for microtonal music in Amsterdam. I will be assisting at the concerts and other activities and I’m looking forward to collaborate on many great microtonal projects in the future. Thumbs up!
It’s exactly three months after MicroBlues and it feels about time to share a track from that memorable concert. It took a while before I dared to listen back to this concert because it can be confrontational: what if the recording is not inline with my feeling about the concert? But this week, between Christmas and the New Year, it was time to not only look back but also to listen back to my most significant concert of 2014!
I am happy to present my solo arrangement of the piece Nuages by Django Reinhardt in extended meantone, played on my 31-tone guitar.
Weijters took charge of the bellows with, first, a MIDI guitar controller then, later, a pair of Wii game controllers as he and Janssen acted out a game of table tennis, their gestures being interpreted by computer to play the organ pipes.
Read more from Todd Harrop’s MicroBlues concert impression here!
I was very surprised to see a review of my concert in the Dutch national newspaper NRC. The title: ‘Hallucinating effects in meantone tuning’, by Joep Stapel. See below for translation.
The core of the blues is the blue note, the third which is major nor minor, but which floats somewhere in between. This moaning blue note doesn’t exist on the piano and doesn’t fit the equal tempered octave. Actually, all blues is microtonal.
The project MicroBlues of jazz guitarist Melle Weijters extends beyond this. He plays his own compositions and adaptations of standards in meantone tuning (with a pure seventh) or in 31-tone tuning on a fretless guitar*. This gives a hallucinating effect.
The concert of Weijters with composer/keyboardist Guus Janssen was the first of a series of sunday morning concerts around the Fokker-organ which dates from 1950. Since its renovation in 2009, it is housed in de Small Hall of the Muziekgebouw. The piece Stuitervariaties (Bouncingvariations), a theatrical piece for ping ponging Wii-controllers based on chords from organ designer Fokker, proved that the organ can now be controlled digitally.
The concert had a messy start, with a lack of synchronisation between both players and sometimes seemed to be too much in its experimental phase.
Numerous beautiful moments however point to an exciting future. Like Mean Monk, Weijters’s fantasy about jazz giant Thelonious Monk who would crawl behind an old church organ in meantone tuning, with a hilarious pedal solo by Janssen. In Downhome Blues, Weijters played a beautiful century old acoustic guitar from the Mississippidelta, with 10 retuned sympathetic strings.
I am happy to announce that I will be playing a concert at the Huygens-Fokker Foundation (Centre for Microtonal Music) on September 28 together with Guus Janssen.
The point of focus during the concert ‘MicroBlues’ is improvised music within the meantone and 31-tone tuning system. Guus Janssen and Melle Weijters jointly explore what kind of new opportunities these systems offers for improvised music, especially the blues. As a regular performer on the Fokker organ musician and leading composer Guus Janssen has already ample experience with ‘light music’ on this 31-tone organ. Jazz Guitarist Melle Weijters dedicated many years to fretless and microtonal guitars and is a specialist in this field. The varied styles of improvisation and themes are supported by the use of the latest computer technologies that will lead to a surprising result.
On January 3rd, the Huygens-Fokker Foundation participated in an event organised by Lost & Found. Next to my short introduction to the 31-tone Fokker-organ, there was the performance of the composition ‘Forma’, by Danny de Graan. Please visit this page to take a look at the other contributions as well as some beautiful photographs of this event!
My first act as artistic collaborator at the Huygens-Fokker Foundation is the production of the upcoming concert, Laboratonium:
In our ‘Laboratonium’, young talented composers will put both the musical and technical possibilities of the Fokker-organ to the test. They search for new sounds in the rich palette of microtones and they combine it with the organ’s state-of-the-art computer technology if necessary.
Solo works for Ere Lievonen will be juxtaposed with pieces performed by laptops and there will be duets between them, too!
Besides the obligatory organizing on the productional side, there was also some real musical organizing to do. We were in contact with German electronic musician Felix Kubin who recently finished a player piano piece commissioned by Luis from Care in the Community-record label. What’s the similarity between a player piano and a microtonal organ? The organ has been equipped with computer technology which makes it possible to play from a MIDI-file: a digital piano roll! It was my job to prepare his piece (originally composed in 12-equal temperament) for the concert.
I am recently appointed ‘artistic collaborator’ at the Huygens-Fokker Foundation, centre for microtonal music in Amsterdam. I will be assisting at the concerts and other activities and I’m looking forward to collaborate on many great microtonal projects in the future. Thumbs up!