The next Fokker organ concert is a special one… no organ player is scheduled to pay, but two guitarists are instead. Bram Stadhouders and I take turns in triggering the organ in our own distinctive ways. Bram has an extended MIDI-rig which he has used to trigger all sorts of instruments in the past, including organs in the Orgelpark, the Logos Robot Orchestra and the Big Barrel Organ. This will be a unique chance to hear his style on another one-of-a-kind-instrument, the microtonal Fokker organ!
I have played the Fokker-organ before with my guitars: in ‘quatre mains’ together with Guus Janssen at our concert MicroBlues in 2014 and solo at the concert ‘Pimp my Organ 4Ever!’ in 2016. Another special project was my composition ‘de Stuiter-variaties’ (‘the Bouncing-variations’), an interactive theatrical piece for two Wii-controllers based on the theory and chord progressions of A.D. Fokker himself. His writings continue to be an inspiration for me. My new piece ‘No Strings Attached’ is based on his idea of addition chords. An addition chord (Dutch: ‘optelakkoord’) is a chord in which a ratio number is the sum of the next two lower ratio numbers. The most well known sequence is of course the Fibonacci series:
Musically, the 1 is the root, the 2 is the octave, the 3 is the fifth (plus 1 octave), the 5 is the third (plus 2 octaves), the 8 is another octave and the 13 is a lowered sixth above. This last note is definitely outside of 12-equal borders and that is where the magic begins… There are many other interesting sounding sequences to be found. And besides harmonic versions there are also subharmonic versions available with their own character. In ‘No Strings Attached’ I will present many of these sounds in an adventurous and improvisational piece.
Also on the program are a new version of the Meantone Blues (with lyrics this time!), a 20 minute set from Bram as well as a joint improvisation with him on the Fokker organ and myself on 31-tone guitar. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear something new!
Zondag 26 november 2017, 11 uur in de Kleine Zaal van het Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ
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!
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 actually played on a 31-tone guitar (MW)
Well, I woke up this morning, ready to play some MicroBlues
I said I woke up this morning, to play some MicroBlues
Leaving 12-equal behind me, 31 has lots more juice…
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!