Chamber Music


Whereas African musical tradition is mainly concerned with rhythm (often in a counterpoint of three or more rhythmical levels), and Asian tradition with melody (developing an acute sense of microtones), European tradition deals with harmony.

Writing for philharmonic musicians requires a convincing solution for the harmonic problem. It is the Schoenbergian problem of twentieth-century music. (See also: 'Een zanglijn overzee' in 'Het componeren van de hemel'.)

Writing for individual musicians in a chamber group allows the composer more harmonic freedom, even to the point where harmony becomes irrelevant. For many modernist composers harmony becomes the arbitrary result of counterpoint, with only one rule to follow: avoid the consonant!
Schoenberg's 'emancipation of the dissonant' became in fact the discrimination of the consonant. (See: 'In de zon gedroogd' from the same book)

I like virtuosity in music, that heroic reaching for the impossible by the Olympic athlete for the impossible. As a trained piano player I've always written music that was too difficult for me to play. I never became a piano champion, and one needs to be that to play my three piano pieces, as they can be found on the cd's:


The piano is my life's instrument, although I've only written three solo piano pieces to date, and a concert piece (Etudes). For more information, see under CD-chamber music and the tenth Hour - Design.

Inscriptions (1959), Anathema (1969), and Polonaise '81 (1981).

Program notes

Inscripties, op. 6 (1959)
for piano
duration: 7'

Anathema, op. 19 (1969)
for piano
duration: 10'
commissioned by the city of Amsterdam

Polonaise, op. 29 (1981)
for piano
duration: 12'
commissioned by the Dutch Government

For solo recorder and tape I made a piece for Frans Bruggen, called
Hypothema for recorders. It is a repetitive piece about the elimination of the past in music.

Hypothema, op. 20 (1969)
for recorders
rec-t tape
duration: 9'
commissioned by the Dutch Government


In 1957, while still working as a student with Kees van Baaren, I was a conscript for a year and became a hopelessly inefficient assistant of the 'selection officer'. I then wrote a piece for solo flute SERIAL SELECTIONS
With a duration of about ten minutes. It has no opus number, but I still like it as it was rediscovered and premiered by Eleonore Pameijer in 2000.


My ideal of piano playing was always: how to make the instrument sing and I never thought of it as a percussion-instrument, as all 'Stravinskyans' do.

Singing is my life-long preoccupation, and I was already in my thirties when I started to take singing lessens. How could you aspire to be an opera-composer if you can't sing yourself, I thought, knowing that many of my colleagues didn't even bother to find out whether they had a tenor, a bass or a baritone themselves.
In l977, after the Houdini-experience, I decided to write a complete song-cycle. The text was suggested to me by Harry Mulisch: his own series of eleven poems, called

KIND EN KRAAI (Child and crow) It is a monodrama of about 40 minutes for high soprano and piano, dedicated to my seven year old son, who later told me it had given him ugly nightmares.

Program note

Kind en kraai [Child and Crow], op. 26 (1977)
a song cycle
sopr pf
text: Harry Mulisch
duration: 35'
commissioned by the Dutch Government for the Holland Festival

For Lenny at 70
For Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday I wrote a song for tenor and piano, on a text by Constantin Cavafy.

Program note
For Lenny, at 70, op. 35 (1988)
a song for tenor and piano
text: Constantin Caváfy, Eng. transl. Rae Dalven
duration: 8'
for Leonard Bernstein's 70th anniversary



After many years of opera- and symphony-writing I decided to return to chamber music and wrote a duo for violin and piano, called
The title is a reference to my life-long fascination by genetics and evolution-biology.
See also the seventh Hour: CURRICULUM.

Genes for violin and piano,
opus 47, 2001
Duration: 7'


Shocked by the brutal murder of Salvador Allende in 1973 by the monstrous Pinochet, I wrote a lament for soprano, violin and piano, on a text by Pablo Neruda:
The more than half hour long piece became a classic of the seventies and is available on cd.

Program note

Canto General, op. 24 (1974)
in memoriam Salvador Allende
for mezzo-soprano, violin and piano
text: Pablo Neruda
(from Alturas de Macchu Picchu),
Eng. transl. Nathaniel Tarn
duration: 35'
commissioned by the Buma Fund


The Letter Scene from Houdini, an arrangement for two singers and piano from the opera Houdini.

De briefscène
[The Letter Scene from Houdini)
op. 25d (1976)
for soprano, tenor and piano
text: Adrian Mitchell
duration: 7'
originally for soprano, tenor and orchestra;
arr. by the composer


As an ambitious pupil of Kees van Baaren I wrote a string quartet in four movements, of which only two have survived: Introduction and Adagio (1954). As does another quartet: Two Pieces, for flute, violin, trumpet and percussion (1959).

Program notes

Introduction and Adagio, op. 2 (1954)
for string quartet
2vl vla vc
duration: 6'

Twee stukken [Two Pieces], op. 7 (1959)
for flute, violin, trumpet and percussion
duration: 6'
for the 50th anniversary of Walter Maas



In 1959 I went to London for a year to study with Matyas Seiber, and to get away from the then very provincial musical climate of my homeland. There in the Wigmore Hall I heard a wind quintet by Harrison Birtwhistle and immediately decided to write one myself. It became the
for wind quintet and is also available on cd.

Program note

Improvisations and Symphonies, op. 11 (1960)
for wind quintet
fl ob cl bn h
duration: 16'
commissioned by the Amsterdam Arts Fund at the occasion of the Dutch Composers' Guild's 50th anniversary


Back in my hometown, early 1960, I participated in a dadaist group called the Mood Engineering Society, for which I wrote a Sextet for three musicians and three actors. But I was so ashamed of the result and the performances that I took the next train to Basel, to Boulez, to really get to work. I immediately withdrew the piece, though it had the first 'clockwise' notation I ever used.



In 1956, while still a student of Kees van Baaren, I wrote a Septet, just as he himself had done some years earlier. It was premiered in the Gaudeamus-week the following year, and received with it my first prize (of 125 guilders). It was also my first piece that was publicly hailed (by Hans Reichenfeld) as a 'masterpiece'. On top of that it was the first piece to cross the small Dutch borders for me, as it was played at an international festival of ISCM in 1958.

Program note

Septet, op. 3 (1956)
fl ob cl-b h vc pf perc
duration: 9'


The prize for the Septet inspired the Dutch government to commission another septet from me. While still being a pain in the ass in the army, I argued that I couldn't work for two national departments at the same time. Besides, I humbly asked if it could be an additional 'tet', and lo and behold, I was freed within a fortnight from the military and wrote an Octet for winds (1958), a 'mobile' score that was premièred at Gaudeamus that year. This really is a civilized country!

Program note

Octet, op. 4 (1958)
fl ob cl bn h 2trp trb
duration: 10'
commissioned by the Dutch Government




I wrote three pieces for public places:

Passacaglia and Fugue for organ. It was premiered in the Dom-cathedral in Utrecht in Gaudeamus 1954, and was my debut as a composer.(Also on cd)

Program note

for organ
duration: 8'


COLLAGES for 31-tone organ (1962); Written for the unique organ of prof.A.D.Fokker in the Teyler Museum in Haarlem.


THE TONE CLOCK, for a public clock in Almere (only realized on the computer.)

Program note

The Tone Clock, op. 34 (1987)
for a mechanical clock


ALARM for carillon (and ringing bells ad lib.) A protest against racism and the ongoing ethnic cleansing. First performed on the three carillions I can hear from my attic. (See also the eleventh Hour - DUTCH).

Program note

ALARM, op. 40 (1994)
for carillon and ringing-bells, op. 40 (1994)
duration: 14'
written for Amsterdam carillons; a warning against right-wing extremism
with indications for a performance by 3 carillons with ringing-bells ad lib.
based on the 17th-century song 'Est-ce Mars'
commissioned by Opera Mundi.