Rob van Rijswijk

Composition time and space

Jeroen Strijbos

Composers Strijbos & Van Rijswijk on their collective body of work:

People are always surrounded by sound, wherever they are. Each individual is the centre of a personal sphere, a personal world of sound. In a concert situation, however, it is taken for granted that music comes from one direction. This frontal approach reflects the division between musicians and audience, between performers and consumers. As sound artists we propose an approach that corresponds to the way in which people usually experience their environment, in spatial sound and imagery. We look beyond simply and only composing music. We devise the context and the environment in which we have the music occur, we respond in the design of visuals and sound to an existing context or environment. We do this in compositions, installations and pieces in which composition and installation are interwoven.

Pivotal in our work is the experience of the audience, interacting as active participants with the sounding environment that we create. In our compositions, which vary from pure music to spatial installations, we may incorporate projection on screens, the acoustic properties of the space where a piece takes place. We challenge people to approach it with an open mind. They can walk around it, through it, seat themselves inside it. The sound may come from different directions. It can surround them, engulf them. The sound sources may be distributed over a space - moving around visitors experience the various sonic events.

In order to enable the audience to undergo the sound events in the best and most direct way possible, we reduce the music to the bare essence. Transparency is paramount. Many of our pieces have an open structure. People can decide at which point in time and space they enter them, and how to navigate through them. In the music a continuous tone or basic chord can serve as an anchor, as fertile ground from which sounds emerge, grow and flower. In installations we add an extra layer to the physical reality of the environment where a work is placed. While the sounds and visual aspects of the area remain intact, layers of added sound and imagery open up new perspectives on the surroundings.

Our open approach gives the input of creative minds from various disciplines a field to play around in. We actively seek out such collaborations. Musicians have ample space for improvisation and variation. Visual artists, choreographers, authors and urban designers can contribute to the realization of a piece, a creative process that is always in flux.

We also investigate and develop musical applications through which people can largely influence their experience of an environment. This research has resulted in an app that links GPS navigation with live electronics. The electronics provide a sonic layer that can grow out of sounds around a specific spot, but can also have its own separate character. By moving around this area visitors control changes in the sonic overlay, and as a consequence their experience of their surroundings. They are not simply consumers anymore, but have become performers as well. We provide the components, they build the musical narrative.

Through the various musical, visual and spatial layers in our work we communicate with our audience on several different levels at once. These layers constitute a dynamic complex of stimuli. The flexibility of that process is further enhanced by the interaction between the audience and the work. Communication is paramount in our work. Complexity is not a matter of musical structures, but of the composition of a total experience that corresponds to the way in which people take in their daily environment. That is how we propose to enrich the world they find around them.