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. In between his rehearsals we met up with guitarist, improvisor and composer Jasper Stadhouders.
In 2015 Jasper founded the PolyBand, consisting of a changing pool of musicians and performers. For some time he had been walking around with an idea for a new piece to be able to take the next step with this ensemble. Then our programmer Martijn Buser called to inquire about Jasper’s future plans with the PolyBand. “I had already finished the entire plan, but I didn’t know how to execute it. As if he could read my mind,” Jasper explains.
And what a plan. The PolyBand started out as a trio consisting of guitar, drum and dance that gradually grew. The first concerts lasted 25 minutes and they became longer and longer, and the band grew bigger and bigger. But in the background, there was always a fire burning for a bigger idea. “If such a fire lasts so long, then it’s a good idea.” This bigger idea includes double guitar, double trombone and five percussionists. The part of the stage where they will play will even need an extra part built to it, to accomodate for 18 musicians and performers on the stage, plus their own sound engineer who you can consider as an extra band member. “In the beginning I was very scared, how the hell am I going to do that? For example, I had no idea how to compose for trombones, so I always postponed it. Then I thought ‘I’m just gonna do it’ and now I’m very happy with the result.”
This plan does not come out of the blue: “My parents always listened to a lot of jazz in the vein of Miles Davis, so I never listened to rock in my teens, always jazz. That’s how I originally developed as a jazz guitarist. Then I arrived in Amsterdam and turned radically against jazz at the age of 17 – although I am happily reconciled with jazz by now – and I dived into abstract music and free improvisation. Still, I still missed playing grooves and suddenly I started listening to rock from the age of 21. The Ex is a huge inspiration, they have such an energy! At the time I mainly played free improvisations, but I was not yet in a band that focused on groove and polyrhythmics. So I founded one myself, with which we played compositions full of polyrhythmics and tonality. Literally all my musical interests are reflected in this. It is a synthesis of free impro, groove and polyrhythm. ”
Like many composers at Gaudeamus, Stadhouders is not a composer in the traditional sense of the word. “I certainly have notes on paper, but I am practically oriented as a musician. I just wanna do it. Instead of investigating very deeply, I simply tell my musicians what my idea is and they can interpret it. ”Although there is a fixed structure in the piece, there is a lot of flexibility in the concept and in the score. “It is a modular composition. Everyone knows every section and every section is interchangeable, among each other, opposite each other, on top of each other and so on. You can see it as a game. If everyone knows all the sections, eveyrone can also recognize if someone else plays a particular part Then you can make the choice: am I going to participate, am I going to do the same, am I going against it, am I going to improvise or am I going to stop playing?”
“To a certain extent, everyone has a lot of individual freedom. The group consists of pure improvisers. I have a lot of faith in their musical choices, so that makes it interesting to fix less. The previous Polyband was a rigid idea but this feels like a completely new chapter. Since I started it has been one of my most important bands and secretly there is already a plan for Chapter 3. I think this will continue for the rest of my life, with ideas that keep coming up.” But first let’s focus on September 7, because then the new work will premiere with the full line-up during the Saturday Night.