foto: Nienhuis


At this moment I regret not to have collected reviews about my work - good or bad, the latter probably being now the more interesting ones.
But indeed, since my debut as a composer, now nearly half a century ago, I must have felt that they were not written for eternity, so why bother to glue them in clipping books.
Besides, reviews are always bad for you: when they're good they damage your character, and when they're bad they damage your stomach. So try to ignore them (which is of course impossible for a caring father, but one can at least try.) I only remember that five of my children were publicly called 'masterpieces': Septet (1956), Canto General (1974), Aap (1980), De Hemel (1990) and Arch Music (1996). But to me this is unfair to all the others, so I don't quote them.

For the rest there are of course some composition-prizes
around, but they are so few and so poorly equipped in this blessed country (certainly when compared to the umpteen big business litterary prizes every week - yes I'm jealous, but the pride and dignity of my profession compels me to be; and I'm mad with a fat, rich country that in four hundred years never produced a composer that the rest of the world could remember!) that all composers in Holland worth their mettle get most of the available prizes before they reach their second jezus-life, and I'm no exeption.
So I got the Gaudeamus Prize 1957 for my Septet (125 guilders, nearly 60 euro now); the national Matthijs Vermeulen Prize 1973 for To You (3500 euro); the DDR Von Weber Prize (1100 euro); the Frysian Fortuyn Prize (3200 euro), both in 1980 for Aap, and the German Vondel Prize 1989 (10.000 euro) for my litterary work. All in all some 18.000 euros in half a century - nearly one euro a day, which equals a third world income.
But already as a boy I knew that Schubert probably had no more than three hot meals in his whole life, so I never dared to complain. Besides, since the nineteen eighties I get a yearly grant from our dear national Composers Fund (Fonds voor de scheppende toonkunst), so I can manage these days. New notes (in Dutch: nuts), just like eggs, are now subsidized in this country - after we started to open our big mouth in the fifties. And as a result we have now some very interesting and productive composers like William Jeths and Rob Zuidam around.

Far more important to me than reviews, prizes or grants are the reactions of musicians and audiences, that listen to my music with open minds and open ears - when they get a chance. Their reactions are often positive, sometimes very moving. (The others, of course, don't come to me, post concert.) Some truly generous colleages sometimes also tell me honestly what they think, as I myself always try to do in reaction to their work.

But none of them ever reacted like the leading New Zealand composer and theoretician Jenny McLeod. She went through the exacting process of learning Dutch, to be able to translate my main texts in our common language.

See seven o'clock curriculum

In 1990 she wrote her first essay on the tone clock, explaining its mechanism (rather than its ideology, since there is hardly any.)

She writes:
"Now Peter Schat has isolated all the possible triads in the chromatic system and named them. What a very simple and sensible thing to do! Why did we never think of it before?'


After demonstrating the twelve triads (see Clockwise ), she continues:
"Schat was then to isolate the musical equivalent of the life principal in the phenomenon he calls 'steering'… 'it is the combined musical principles of 'growth' and 'reproduction'…
"Schat now found that eleven of the twelve triads, transposed three times, produce all twelve notes of the chromatic scale'…'This was really a remarkable discovery'…'nobody suspected there was a much larger series of natural symmetries hidden within the chromatic scale - a natural twelve-note harmony' …'and we had no idea of the incredibly organic pupose this natural order could serve, by way of the steering process.It was pure genius on Schat's part that he latched on to this.'…
"Thus we now have an extremely flexible chromatic tool, a twelve note harmonic language freed from the frustrating 'paralysis' of the old style note-row, with its so often arbitrary vertical relations, a language in which both vertical and horizontal elements obey the same laws - laws moreover which are in principle identical with those of the old harmonic tonality! No one ever dreamed that this was possible.'…
"The clock is the next step in (a) natural evolution: Schat did not 'invent' the triads or their harmonic properties, anymore than Pythagoras invented the harmonic spectrum, or Rameau the common chords. He was simply bright enough to isolate and name them all, and to see that Rameau's principle also worked for the chromatic scale. These were the two strokes of genius - and simplicity - that make him the major musical theorist in this century after Schoenberg. And these are the musical (mathematical) facts, objective facts, capable of being taught, and freely available to all.'…
"Indeed, clock analyses of the music of the past and present shows that we were speaking a common language all along: the clock simply elucidates what this language is'…'It explains the paradigm, provides a 'map'".

Writing about my music McLeod concludes her essay with the following remarks:

"When listening to Schat's more recent compositions'…'you may pay close attention to his pure tone-clock melodies and harmonies. If you do, I feel sure that their very distinctive character and their rich diversity will strike you as they did me, when I first heard them. They have a profoundly riveting quality. I seemed to 'recognise' them somehow, as one sometimes recognises a perfect stranger, as though one had always known them. The colours, the progressions, the atmospheres are peculiarly evocative. The notes have a 'rightness' somehow, they feel right. Even knowing nothing of the clock one can sense that this is the new tonality, that the music is permeated by some unknown but supreme logic and constancy: the harmonies have real substance, they move as a living tissue, worlds away from diatonic tonality, yet possessing
the same authority and coherence. It is a language that makes sense at last!
"The reason is that they are sollidly grounded in the chromatic deep structure. Yet no 'system' can ever guarantee that one will write good music: the reason is also that Schat is a wonderful composer.
"But the real good news, for all the many composers who today are 'stuck', is that there is a natural chromatic order, exixting of itself, by virtue of the almighty power of Number. It belongs to all, and it can work for anyone. A vast and prodigious universe awaits us, and I, for one, am hailing it daily with shouts of jubilation."




On 3 november 2001 an article by Anton C. Zijderveld appeared in Het Financieele Dagblad that opened with the following paragraph:

"For the true music lover there is not a more delightful experience than the musical discovery. One hears a musical piece by a composer one didn't know until then and one is immediately 'lost'. You want to hear the piece again, but it is, because it's so new, not yet available on cd, and it won't be performed in a concert hall soon again. So you start searching for other pieces of this composer and that opens a whole world of fascination and hearing delight."

Zijderveld then gives an adequate description of my orbit, some of my main works and my musical theories. He concludes that this music

"is of great professional stature, sounding truly contemporary in its modern tonality, and yet immediately appealing (-) an oeuvre of international standing(-) we're waiting for a cd-cassette of the complete works."

For the true music maker there is not a more delightful experience than to be rediscovered at the beginning of your third Jesus-life!

As a consequence of Zijdervelds article a small working-group has been formed to realize this lofty goal in connection with this consummate website.

© Peter Schat
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