Aa, Michel van der
Born in 1970, he is a truly multidisciplinary figure in contemporary music. A unique voice, he combines composition with lm and stage direction, and script writing. Classical instruments, voices, electronic sound, actors, theatre and video are all seamless extensions of his musical vocabulary.
Before studying composition (with Diderik Wagenaar, Gilius van Bergeijk and Louis Andriessen), Van der Aa trained first as a recording engineer at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. In 2002 he broadened his skills with studies in lm direction, at the New York Film Academy, and in 2007 he participated in the Lincoln Center Theater Director's Lab, an intensive course in stage direction.
He has worked with leading classical performers such as Sol Gabetta, Barbara Hannigan, Janine Jansen, Christianne Stotijn, and Roderick Williams, as well as the Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura, pop acts Kate Miller-Heidke and ese New Puritans, and well-known European actors like Klaus Maria Brandauer, Samuel West, and João Reis.
His most recent partnership is with the English novelist David Mitchell, with whom he is writing his fourth work for music theatre, Sunken Garden, an "occult-mystery lm-opera" commissioned by the English National Opera, Toronto Luminato Festival, Lyon Opera, Holland Festival, and London's Barbican Centre.
His music has been performed by ensembles and orchestras worldwide, including Musikfabrik, ICE, Tokyo Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, BBC Symphony, Seattle Chamber Players, SWR Orchestra Baden-Baden & Freiburg, ASKO | Schönberg, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Philharmonia Orchestra, and Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. He has been a featured artist at the Perth Tura New Music Festival and Holland Festival. He is a regular guest of the Berliner Festspiele, Venice Biennale, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Gaudeamus Music Week, Lyon Opera, Huddersfield Festival, and Warsaw Autumn. Additionally his compositions have been performed at the festivals such as Paris's Festival, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Series, Lucerne, Tokyo Suntory Summer Music Festival, Schleswig-Holstein, Moscow Music Week, and Oslo's Ultima.
He has won acclaim for his multimedia works for the stage and concert hall (not only the operas One, After Life, and The Book of Disquiet, but also UpClose and Transit for piano and video). He has directed both the filmed and staged elements of all of these works. His operas have been staged in more than a dozen countries.
In 1999 Michel Van der Aa was the first Dutch composer to win the prestigious International Gaudeamus Prize. Subsequent awards include the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize (2004), a Siemens Composers Grant (2005), the Charlotte Köhler Prize for his directing work and the interdisciplinary character of his oeuvre (2005), Paul Hindemith Prize (2006), Kagel Prize (2013), Grawemeyer Award for UpClose (2013), and the prestigious Johannes Vermeer Award, the Dutch state prize for the arts (2015).
In 2007 the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra commissioned the song cycle Spaces of Blank, and since 2011 he has been a resident composer with the orchestra. is association will lead to several major new works, among them the Violin Concerto (2014), written for Janine Jansen. Over the last few years he has also developed strong ties with the Barbican Centre, with performances of After Life and UpClose, which led to the premiere of Sunken Garden in April 2013.
In 2010 he launched Disquiet Media, an independent multimedia label for his own work, and in 2012 developed Disquiet TV, an online virtual auditorium for contemporary music events.
Spring 2016 saw the premiere at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ of Blank Out, a new chamber opera for soprano, baritone and 3D lm, performed by Miah Persson, Roderick Williams, Nederlands Kamerkoor, and Dutch National Opera.
Van der Aa's musical materials are hard to tease apart, constantly switching between stasis and high energy, concrete and abstract, acoustic and electronic, "pure" and processed, brand new and half-remembered. Many of them are as visual as they are aural. Thepossibilities of digital and audiovisual technology often feature, not as a surface gloss to his work but at the core of his artistic outlook. "Here is no avant-gardist who mercilessly frightens o his audience, no esoteric metaphysician, no gushing neo-Romantic. Instead, here we have a powerful seeker on a quest for the meaning of life who combines austere sounds with a preference for whip cracking rhythms and dense tonal atmosphere." (Reinhard Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung)
Selected works: Auburn for guitar and tape (1994), Oog for cello and tape (1995), Now [in fragments] for soprano, clarinet, cello and tape (1995), Sparing at the Space for chamber orchestra (1995-96), Span for ensemble and tape (1996), Between for percussion quartet and tape (1997), Wake for percussion (1997), Solo for Percussion (1997), Quadrivial for flute, violin, cello and piano (1997), Double for violin and piano (1997), Faust for ensemble and tape (1998), Above for ensemble and tape (1999), Caprice for violin (1999), Writing to Vermeer, soundtrack (1999), Attach for ensemble and tape (1999-2000), Self rough for orchestra (2000), The New Math(s), lm music (2000), Here [to be found] for soprano, chamber orchestra and tape (2001), Vuur for ensemble and tape (2001), Here [in circles] for soprano and ensemble (2002), Just Before for piano and tape (2002), Passage, lm music (2002), One, chamber opera for soprano, video and tape (2002), Memo for violin and portable cassette recorder (2003), Here [enclosed] for chamber orchestra and tape (2003), Solitaire for violin and tape (2003), Second Self for orchestra and tape (2004), Imprint for baroque orchestra (2005), After Life, opera (2005-6), Mask for ensemble and tape (2006), Spaces of Blank, song cycle for mezzo-soprano, orchestra and soundtrack (2007), The Book of Disquiet, music theatre for actor, ensemble and video (2008), Rekindle for flute and tape (2009), Transit for viola and piano (2009), UpClose for cello, strings and lm (2010), Sunken Garden, lm opera (2011- 12), Miles Away for mezzo-soprano, violin, double bass and piano (2012), And How Are You Today for mezzo-soprano, double bass and piano (2012), Hysteresis for clarinet, ensemble and tape (2013), Violin Concerto (2014), The Book of Sand, digital interactive song cycle (2015), Blank Out, chamber opera (2015-16), Reversal for orchestra (2016), Shelter for choir (2017), Inside Someone Else's Head for violin and double bass (2017).