Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Wad (an impression)

It was cold on Sunday morning when Jos and Diego bravely ventured into the low-tide Waddenzee to dance and make markings in the mud - naked. Three musicians on the shore (dressed) accompanied them. The whole project was video'd, from preparation to execution.
Only brief impressions of each project will be published at this point. More information and images will be provided soon.

The dunes (an impression)

Chiel and Nicoletta explored the acoustics of the dunes landscape: how sound and space influence and inspire each other. They made a composition together to be sung by all participants, and worked with Horst and Elvira on using the space of the dunes for enhancing the experience for the audience in the centre of the dune bowl.

Only brief impressions of each project will be published at this point. More information and images will be provided soon.

From bunker to Vredenhof (an impression)

This is where the birdsong came back into the project. Under leadership of Chad the students made a procession along the path down to the cemetery. Graphic notation was made unto banners by Sjuuls and Jimi. The banners served as 'inspirational scores' for musicians. While walking down together, Sjuuls would make small icons in the path where the procession would stop briefly to contemplate the transition from the transformed bunker to paying our respects to the unknown soldiers in Vredenhof.

Only brief impressions of each project will be published at this point. More information and images will be provided soon.

Vredenhof (an impression)

Vredenhof, one of the most inspirational and emotional places on the island, turned out to be quite a challenge. Not only to the students on how to deal with this place of death and contemplation, but also because the islanders were (understably!) protective of the respectfulness for Vredenhof. Eventually, with the kind permission of the Vredenhof Foundation, a short and simple ceremony was performed by five musicians in the group: three flutists, a singer, a cellist and a guitarist. They would address the graves of the unknown soldiers and give each of them a voice by means of a short musical theme. It was a beautiful moment, and one of the most profound experiences in the project.

Only brief impressions of each project will be published at this point. More information and images will be provided soon.

The bunker (an impression)

The aim was to make the bunker a lighter, more peaceful place instead of a heavy, agressive icon. A start was made by... a windmill. (Coincidentally the only windmill fabricated on Friday that was purposefully used at a later stage.) Other activities at the bunker included the 'decoration' of the outside of the concrete structure and - more importantly perhaps - a musical production/improvisation inside.

Only brief impressions of each project will be published at this point. More information and images will be provided soon.

How many students does it take to make a windmill?

(Apparently quite a few.)

As sparkingly as Thursday ended and Friday began, quite so confusing was the rest of the Friday afternoon. The students threw themselves on making windmills with materials they found on the beach and dead branches from the surrounding bushes. The teachers and researchers stood wonderingly by as a lot of energy and focus was given to producing windmills of all shapes, sizes and materials. It completely transformed the fire station from a 'home base' into a workshop. Of course, this is what happens with laboratories: they are for trying things out.

As Horst Rickels would remark that evening and also the following day: sometimes this kind of creative stagnation is needed in order to contemplate where to go next. It was up to him and Elvira to make sure that the group would come back to their concepts of what to do on the island, and why, and how. A few main projects came out of the reflective talk on Friday morning:

1) The bunker - The bunker Wassermann was built on the highest point of the island during the second world war. It was never used for war purposes but still its inherent meaning was that of war, agression, suffering. The students wanted to change this.

2) Vredenhof - The peaceful cemetery near the bunker holds the graves of many (young) men who died during the first and second world war. Many of the graves do not have names on them but say something like 'inconnu' or 'known unto God'. The students thought it would be appropriate to give these men an identity somehow.

3) The path between the bunker and Vredenhof - How to connect those two places? The idea of a procession was forming.

4) The dunes - The natural environment of the island does not only provide many points of beauty but also acoustic opportunities. The dune bowl that was originally envisaged as a project location was abandoned because swallows were nesting there. A new location was found near the village.

5) The Wad - From mud we are born and to mud we will return. This was the basic idea behind a short performance piece in the muddy Wad to the south of the island.

Ideas and concepts

While Thursday was a day for collecting impressions and the conception of early ideas, Friday would turn out to be a day of reflection and contemplation. In some shape or form.

Every day Leo would start by making a short reflection on the previous day, linking the activities to examples and theories in the arts. Then the ideas of the previous day would be discussed further under the guidance of Horst and Elvira.

One clear idea coming from the preparation phase, was to make use of the bird sounds of the island. This is why on Friday morning some of the students went out into the nature park and recorded the sounds of the birds. They were 'translated' into graphic representations by Sjuuls Oonk, a student of Minerva Academy, and in turn served as inspirations for musicians. At this stage it was still not quite clear how the bird song would be used later in the project.

Another idea that prevaled at this stage, was the idea of working with windmills...

Thursday May 13, part II

!!! - Please note that for now a preliminary (image) report will be given, with comments to clarify the meaning of the pictures. A full in-depth report about the process during the project will be available at a later stage.

A few excursions were planned at the beginning of the week in order to acquaint the students with the island and some of the people who live there. It was interesting for the students to see and hear about the in-depth knowledge that some people possess. There are many stories to tell about Schiermonnikoog and the surrounding seas: North Sea and Waddenzee.

After the ultra-early start on Thursday, a two-hour beach combing excursion was planned. This would open the eyes of the students to what can be found on the shores of Schiermonnikoog, ranging from sea shells to shoes. And many, many plastic bottles. Some of the salvaged 'treasure' was displayed in the fire station.

The same man who took the students beachcombing in the morning, Thijs de Boer, also introduced them to many wonders he found himself on the beaches of Schiermonnikoog and other places around the world. In his beautifully kept Shell Museum he told of wonders of the deep and shallow.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Thursday May 13, part I

The day started very early with a trip to the Kobbeduinen where the group experienced dawn on the island. Around them the birds were waking up and making themselves heard, and the rising of the sun caused the landscape to display a variation of colours and textures. (However, since yours truly was not there, there are no pictures to publish at this time.)

After breakfast at the fire station, a new trip was undertaken. Various locations that were explored during the preparatory meetings were now visited: the dunes, the bunker from WWII, and the Vredenhof cemetery.

At the edge of a natural amphitheatre in the dunes.
Peeping Jimi at the bunker

Chad explores the xylophone possibilities of the bunker, exploring new ways to produce musical sounds on a concrete structure.

Respectful discovery of the Vredenhof cemetery.

Diego photographs Vredenhof. The wreaths from Liberation Day are still at the cemetery.

Getting there

Yesterday was the day for travelling to the island of Schiermonnikoog. Part of the ensemble took the afternoon boat where they busied themselves with grocery shopping, picking up the rental bikes, and getting the fire station ready for use. The rest of us took the evening boat at 5.30. There was a tiny spot of rain but nothing serious. Let's hope it stays that way!

In the evening, we started with a very pleasant meal at Hotel van der Werff. (The kitchen staff really cater to everyone, and prefer to do so at late notice!) At the end of the meal, Horst announced the plans for Thursday:
The day was to start at 4 o'clock in the morning...

This caused a brief shock among the participants but it was quickly turned into enthusiasm and fascination when it turned out that they were going for an early morning exploration, watching the sun come up together and experiencing the waking of the island.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Weather forecast

Thursday 13 until Sunday 17 May

Wolkenvelden, af en toe een bui en vrij koel. Geleidelijk iets hogere temperaturen.

Sunshine (%) Thu:30 Fri:30 Sat:30 Sun:30
Precipitation chances (%) Thu:40 Fri:30 Sat:50 Sun:60
Precipitation (mm) Thu:0 Fri:0 Sat:0/4 Sun:0/6
Minimum temperature (°C) Thu:3/6 Fri:3/6 Sat:4/7 Sun:5/8
Afternoon temperature (°C) Thu:11/13 Fri:12/15 Sat:13/15 Sun:13/16
Wind direction & strength (bft) Thu:N,3 Fri:N,3 Sat:NW,4 Sun:W,4


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

April 17 meeting

During the last student meeting (April 17) before the project on Schiermonnikoog (to take place May 12-16), we discussed the ideas and concepts that came up during previous meetings and some that students sent to us later. Out of it came the framework of 'creating a new culture' on Schiermonnikoog, that has no folklore of its own.

A culture like this would be based on four themes:
- The workings of the tides.
- Nature, notably the birds.
- Life & Death, central in any culture.
- Past & Present, how do people deal now with what has happened before.

The students split up into four small working groups to think out ways of approaching these themes, maybe bringing in some of the ideas that were wrought before and perhaps introducing new ones. The results were presented by the students themselves.

The videos are big to up- and download so a little patience is required. Please note that these are preliminary results from free brainstorms. This means that they are by no means worked-out project plans for the upcoming project work on Schiermonnikoog. Plans may (and probably will) transform greatly once we get to the island and students get to working on the actual location!

Bram, René & Janneke

Diego & Sjuuls

Jon Gunnar & Jos

Jimi, Maaike & Chiel

Langs de vloedlijn

C.O. Jellema

Hoe het voelt voor die eidereend niet meer
op deining te drijven, door het water
achtergelaten te zijn in het slijkgras,
op haar rug, haar vlerken gespreid
onder de zon van september - als wilde
zij, nog niet verregend tot warboel
van botten en veren, nog net eend, maar
niet in staat dat peilloze blauw
boven haar te bevliegen, hier liggend en
dood nu pas werkelijk paren.

Met dank aan Leo Delfgaauw die het gedicht onder de aandacht bracht.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Student meeting Groningen, March 6 2010 (2)

Hereby the link to the musical theme by René van Munster, based on the sound of Schiermonnikoog sand in a little bag.

Student meeting Groningen, March 6 2010

It has been a long time between posts. There has been much a-working behind the scenes. More posts are to be expected from this point on though because the work with the students has begun. There was a kick-off meeting in January which was mainly informational, and the first creative session with the students in Groningen. This took place March 6, 2010. The meeting was held in the director's room in the Prins Claus Conservatoire (thank you Chris Fictoor for the use of your room!) and took up all of the afternoon.

During the kick-off meeting in January, the students had all been given a small bag of sand from the island. I collected it myself on the freezing beach back in December. The students were asked to give this little bit of Schiermonnikoog a place in their own world, and report on that in whatever way they saw fit: image, sound, words, etc.

The Groningen students reported back on March 6 and we were pleasantly surprised by what they had done with the sand. One student had put the sand under the carpet of her new home. Another one had included it in an assignment at the Minerva Academy. One had given it back to the water and the wind and had recorded this with photos and a short piece of prose. Yet another had taken the sound of the sand in the plastic bag as a starting point for a musical improvisation on his cello. (Video to be included later.)

[Picture left: Jos Volkers. Picture right: work by Bram Terra.]

The meeting also gave Horst Rickels and Elvira Wersche the opportunity to present their work and their way of thinking about cross-arts work to the students. In turn, the students were asked to develop some first ideas about what, why and how to do things on Schiermonnikoog in May. These ideas will be brought to the final preparatory meeting in April where we will try some of them hands-on in one of the studios in The Hague.

At the end of the meeting the students received yet another assignment. Elvira Wersche gave them three short sticks from her own garden. The students are to discover the possibilities and meanings inherent in the sticks: past, present and future. Just like an egg, she explained, everything has more and deeper layers than can be observed at first sight. One may consider an egg as an oval calcium structure, or as a potential for new life. It is perception shifts like these that enable an artist to make connections and meanings that transcend sound or image - and that bring together the various arts disciplines.