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Published on Oct 8, 2014
Jos Kunst (1936-1996)
Solo identity I : for bass clarinet (1972)
Stephan Vermeersch, bass clarinet
dedicated to Harry Sparnaay
Program note (English): Solo Identity I is meant to become one of many musics that, combined in an effective way, will one day form a "musical-theatrical situation" in which it will be confronted with other "identities" and with "space in which to lose itself". It maintains a 6-part polyphony, indicated by the numbers in the score, based on clear-cut oppositions in 5 parameters. Ambiguities are only used in the beginning (rhythm) and the end (articulation). Each of the 6 parts goes through a history of changes which, of course, creates feed-back effects in the overall system, and which is different in nature and degree for each of them.
Jos Kunst was a Dutch composer, musicologist and poet. He studied Roman languages and literature before studying composition with Joep Straesser and Ton de Leeuw at the Amsterdam Conservatory. He was awarded the Composition Prize in 1970 and went on to study sonology at the University of Utrecht. As a composer he was attracted by the extremist approach to sound and structure taken by composers such as Varèse, Webern and Xenakis. In pieces like Insecten (1966, awarded the AVRO prize at the Gaudeamus music week, 1967), Arboreal (1968, awarded first prize at the Gaudeamus music week, 1968) and Elements of Logic (1972, composed in collaboration with Vriend), Kunst, in pursuit of Xenakis, employed his knowledge of mathematical and logical theories. Underlying this approach was his conviction that complex music could be a tool to help the emancipation of the lower social classes. Partly because of the lack of social response to his austere and structural music, from musicians and audiences alike, he stopped composing between 1975 and 1989. In 1976 he began teaching 20th-century music at the musicology department at the University of Utrecht. In 1978 he obtained the doctorate with a brilliant thesis Making Sense in Music: an Enquiry into the Formal Pragmatics of Art. A first attempt to formalize the process of aesthetic perception by the listener, the work made extensive use of mathematical formulae. Due to, again, lack of response, Kunst withdrew from teaching in 1989, after having formulated his ideas in a more colloquial style in Filosofie van de Muziekwetenschap (Leiden, 1988), and began to compose again. His music remained austere and non-tonal, but he also allowed repetition, tonal direction and warm sound colours (Concertino, 1994–1995). His creativity and intelligence were always driven by the ambition to prove himself solely by quality and integrity. Never an accessible artist and scientist, he was a profound thinker whose influence has not as yet been accorded its full value.