1975 KRI for mezzo soprano, mixed choir and instrumental ensemble

KRI (1975), for choir and small instrumental ensemble, is the product of yet another influence: Edgard Varèse. I felt that Varèse was equal to – if not more important than – Stravinsky as a pioneer and innovator of 20th century music. Amériques and Arcana would arguably be unimaginable without the Rite of Spring, but the enormous terrain these and other works by Varèse laid bare, and its subsequent exploration, are by far the more daring and adventurous. Soon after the Rite, Stravinsky sought refuge in older forms for inspiration, possibly as a consequence of the dizzying heights he had climbed in his early works. Not only the primitive power and volcanic instinct of Varèse’s music, but also his belief in the utility of technological innovations for the development of new music, strengthened my resolve to follow both the path of Nature (my instinct) and that of Science.

The 1970s were a difficult transition for me. Not only did I wrestle with new approaches to a different musical path (such as in my no longer published composition Worlds) but my faith in the Dutch music scene soured (see my article in the Hollands Maandblad) to the point that I decided to withdraw from music altogether and let my life take another course. In 1980, however, Harry Spaarnaay approached me with a commission for a new trio he was starting up. His encouragement was the deciding factor in restoring my faith in music as a valid tool for the expression of my conception of life, and as a laboratory for experimenting with the very question of ‘life’. To get to the bottom of that mystery, you have to create life yourself, as Dr. Frankenstein would say – and take up the ultimate challenge to Nature.

However, when a commission from the Ministry of Culture for Kri intervened I boldly set out to experiment with yet another approach to choir writing. Under the circumstances it turned out too contrived for comfort: a big, international choir of singers, was mildly intimidated by the complexity of actions they had to perform and of new skills they had to learn, such as reading phonetic symbols. The instrumental part however bears all the hallmarks of my preoccupation with Varèse (and Xenakis!) at the time and I regret I couldn’t match its effectiveness in my writing for the choir.