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experimental space /Music, Space & Architecture

that coloured and shaded the sound source, like a filter. By having the woodwinds in the other rooms, their sound was literally taken by the room. You couldn’t simulate that in any other way. You had to be in the church, in that space, to experience that.’ Grahl’s main goal was to teach people to see music, without being able to see the musicians. He smiles: ‘Ironically, they were looking at the space, which blended well with the subject of this project. It’s interesting that we live in a culture where you don’t have to see the source of the sounds you hear. They’re just there, on the radio, in the supermarket – everywhere. But when you have real musicians play real music people have different expectations. When they hear sound played by real musicians who can’t be seen, they act in complete surprise: wow, what’s happening?’ Twenty-three year old Rens Tienstra wanted to use the space as an additional instrument for his composition, which focused on a choir spread throughout the church. To him, thinking about space while composing music is not unique. ‘I think the overall picture is very important. The position of a reading desk, for instance. Or a musician’s outfit. The way coffee tastes during the break. I try to devote attention to every seemingly unimportant detail.’


‘But when your music is performed in a church,’ he continues, ‘you have to use the space, since the space has an influence on the music, whether you like it or not. The Noorderkerk’s acoustics are obviously not suited for chamber music – that would just fade away in space. But it’s perfect for large fields of sound.’ One of the ways in which Tienstra used the space was by composing the 4.6-second church reverb in his work. On another level he created, like Grahl, an unorthodox set-up for his musicians. But unlike Grahl, Tienstra wanted movement on stage. ‘Having singers all over the place immediately created a feeling of space. The audience didn’t know where to look, before even one tone of music had been played.’ Also, movement throughout the space added an extra dimension to his piece. During the concert the choir started to sing in small groups, after which each member disappeared behind the choir pews, until one person was left in the middle. ‘That’s where the impact of this huge space could really be felt,’ Tienstra says. ‘It was a beautiful image: you could still hear the others while the last choir member

stood there all alone. That’s how I constructed a certain social space. The song, which is about the darker side of love, starts with a large group and ends with one person who is left alone. I’ve never been so close to creating a composition with such political significance.’ Tienstra learned to make use of silence in the church, since silence takes up a certain space too. ‘One of the lecturers before the concert said churches are the guardians of silence,’ Tienstra says. ‘That really stuck with me. If you wander through a crowded city like Amsterdam, walking inside a church makes all sound disappear. The space is not defenceless against all the sound on the outside. As a composer you kind of battle this silence. Silence has become an increasingly more important subject to me when I write music.’

Music Space Architecture  
Music Space Architecture