It has been a very fresh year out here in Amsterdam and the Hague. I have moved 4 times so far, all in different parts of the city of Amsterdam and perhaps this has been the best way to really connect city-parts together. Also along the way, I know a lot more people now – musicians that work here in the fields of improvisation and electronics. Visual artists and baroque players and many of the musicians organise their own events. Music is very much alive in these cities, especially through the musicians themselves by making sure events are numerous.

The OCCii is one such place where a group of musicians and djs and the like gather together to bring lots and lots of good gigs. Art is very much involved as is the small label – Toztizok Zoundz – who put out their own vinyl and tapes and cds with beautiful artwork. They are an initiative to support the local community, and are the basis for a whirlwind of, sometimes dementedly crazy, music.

Dance is very much present too. Many groups, some based at the OT301 with a well-known figure such as Katie Duck, have been here for years.

There are random screen showings in small hidden places, just enough for 20 people to sit comfortably. You have to be quick, some that are free to go to, are generally full instantly.

The musical community is based on trust and goodwill. Players are constantly supporting each other and this is great to see. Some pool together to buy some real estate and turn these into beautiful venues to help bring about new musical expressions and experiences. One is called Splendor and this popped up last december. Anne La Berge, who is part of Shackle with Robert Van Heumen, and her daughter Diamanda La Berge Dramm, who is a lovely violinist, are members there and regularly play new concerts that tour, as well as one-off events. My last home was filled with free, jazz, noise improv musicians who, having been around for at least three or more years, some very much longer, are really connected to many many groups and regularly play in different scenarios around the city and abroad. I like the spirit of they being asked to join so many groupings in so many different ways, home and abroad, keeping busy, writing music and generally keeping it alive.

I had the grace of keeping in touch with Frank Vis whom I would bump into at various gigs. I would be offering my cello services all the time. He obliged with the Plattetozti Orchestra that played in April. We played at OCCii and that was great fun, and yet again I would meet more musicians. I was asked in July to play a Dagora gig, a band revolving around three core members. It was at the Vondelbunker in VondelPark. That also was a very fine night. And again some musicians new and some I’ve known before. Frank Vis on that occasion saved the day by setting up the PA system that wasn’t playing at all by the rules of transparency, and just before the gig started, it did actually start working. phew.

Plattetozti Orchestra then asked me to play at the festival aptly named Land of Jewels – or rather, Landjuweel – which was also aptly positioned very close to where I was living. This is a ‘stichting’ of inhabitants whose history came from a group of people who squatted the village and have since been allowed to stay. The festival is a yearly thing amongst other events.

And then all the events on at STEIM. I have tried this year to go to as many workshops as possible. Especially in January where there were two workshops I went to. January was the Modular month – looking at analogue modular systems, and also how to design and etch your own pcb. The latter one was very intense. Eight hours of pure concentration to try get the design right. The actual burning off extraneous parts of the board was quick and easy. Great two days there and very excited end result.

Using Eagle software to design the board I proudly present to you – the Cacophonator.

Frank Vis also organises the SOTU festival every year – Sounds of the Underground, using venues such as the Vondelbunker, and OCCii. He is known to drive around in his three-wheeler batmobile and can safely squeeze in where no other automobiles can. Sometimes seen with a loud speaker in the back of the car screaming into a microphone.

Going to Den Haag, The Institute of Sonology has its history vibrantly coming from the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven. It was then called STEM – ‘Studio for Electronic Music’ – where Gottfried Michael Koenig became its leader. Dick Raaijmakers, another eminent composer, helped bring about the Sonology at the Royal Conservatorium and also was co-founder to STEIM  – ‘Studio for Electro – Instrumental Music’. It is really interesting how the two places are so very connected with each other but have also firmly kept to their own path.

Kees Tazelaar has published a book about the history of this time – On The Threshold of Beauty.

The one year course that I have been attending in the last year has been so incredibly full of information that I cannot obviously put it down here. All the staff are incredibly knowledgeable in such wide topics. It occasionally becomes too much to even try understand and know everything. There is a lot out there. A lot of symposiums and festivals and intriguing events that go on underneath the guise of many other things but it almost always feels underground in some form or another. There are an incredible amount of papers and books to read, and huge amounts of computer software available…. and some mathematical beauty – such that I will never really know…but if you want to find a direction that connects to you, it seems almost impossible to wade through all of this stuff. It needs time to digest, and then to naturally choose wherever it feels right when the time is right.

I have also not linked everybody I have met here. Perhaps I will add to a list as time goes by. But many thanks goes to the Katherine McGillivray for giving me the opportunity to experience this time away, in such a wonderful amalgam, or hotchpotch, of exciting things.