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Barely Dry Ink (3) Bianca Bongers

In the many concerts during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, a lot of works are performed of which the ink is only barely dry. We talked with several composers about the composition that we commissioned them to write. This time we are speaking with Bianca Bongers.

At the age of seventeen she already knew that she wanted to study both cello and composition, while she secretly cherished the dream of becoming an artist in residence at Gaudeamus. She soon became active as a composer and wrote a piece for our call for scores for accordionist Vincent van Amsterdam. A new composition assignment for the Kugoni Trio followed a year later. Those works were a success, so a third commission followed: this year she is writing a work for the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA) that will premiere on 6 September.

Casa de Musica

She didn’t have to think long about taking this assignment, but where do you start? “Certain pieces have a specific context or program that it must fit into.” But in this case she was completely free to do what she wanted in the piece. She kept asking herself: what do I really want to write? “I imagined large composite sound objects and hand-shaped bows in sound.”

In this complete freedom, her older wish to write a work inspired by the Casa de Musica in Porto arose. “That building appealed to me enormously. The visual is the same as the musical. One aspect of that building is that it has both heavy and lightness in it at the same time.” An interesting fact on which the title of the work is based: to the ..light .. and the HEAVY !!

Drawing music

The visual aspect is very important for Bianca. Normally she starts with a visually detailed preliminary study, but for this piece she had a different approach: “I wanted to see what would happen if I would draw with the music. I am a visual thinker. So this time I immediately projected my visual representation onto the music, instead of first drawing the visual to compose the music from there.”

She explains: “The piece is about the balance between light and heavy. It is linked to abstract material forms, such as in architecture. Think of a building that has a very large mass but still gives a light feeling. At the same time, the music is also an ode to both light and deeper emotions that you can feel. ”

Sound objects

She took on a new challenge for this piece. “It is interesting to me if I make something that I do not know beforehand. It is a reason to look for something new and that makes the process exciting.” For this piece she has focused a lot on the technical aspects of the instruments. It is in this piece that she uses glissandi and quarter tones for the first time. “It was the first time that I needed these quartertones. I wanted to create hand-made ‘sound objects’, for which twelve tones were no longer enough; hence the quarter tones. In the heavy parts there are moments of musical activity that almost become tangible. ”

The collaboration with IEMA gave her the opportunity to explore these new ideas. For this she traveled to Frankfurt to attend a seminar with the ensemble. International Ensemble Modern Academy was founded to train musicians and young composers and to help them achieve their goals. This was a new way of working for Bianca. As a true perfectionist, she tells me: “I never actually make new versions, because I want to do well in one go. This time I had prepared several excerpts and could test with them what worked best. It felt uncomfortable to rehearse something that wasn’t finished yet. Normally you give instructions to the ensemble as a composer, now it was the other way around. We rehearsed with the complete ensemble and conductor Lucas Vis who guided the process and gave tips. We spent three days searching for the optimal version of what was written then. Such an intermediate phase is a huge difference with my normal work process but at the same time a huge opportunity.” To the ..light .. and the HEAVY !! will premiere on Friday 6 September during the Lunch Break concert.

More info & tickets for the premiere of To the ..light .. and the HEAVY !! on 6 September in TivoliVredenburg