STEIM Radio #9: The Founders

STEIM Radio #9 will feature a mix of music by the original founders. The show will be broadcasted at Concertzender on April 18, 2012 at 23:00 and streamed afterwards at this location. (UPDATE) The full program is now also streaming on mixcloud and can be downloaded. Below is the text written for the broadcast.

STEIM started as a work group in 1968 to explore new methods of music through the use of technology. The original group consisted of progressive musicians and composers who would later become some of the most prominent figures in Dutch contemporary music. Compared to the earlier electronic studios that were set up in Eindhoven and Utrecht, STEIM was lead by highly politicized members reflecting the international atmosphere of revolution and local movements such as the Provos. They saw their music and the technology as ways to push social change and demanded authoritative venues to open their doors to the wider public. You can hear this attitude through sounds of shouting and stomping in the recordings of “Hello Windyboys” by Misha Mengelberg or Orkest De Volharding’s performance of “de Volharding” by Louis Andriessen. (A fantastic document by Rudy Koopmans about the their activities can be read here.)

This ideology of the group culminated in the production of the opera Reconctructie (Reconstruction), which was premiered at the Carré Theater in Amsterdam as part of the Holland Festival in 1969. This grand scale project was a huge success, and the momentum and enthusiasm built around it lead to establishing STEIM as an official foundation and studio to support artists with technology. Engineers were hired to build unique electronic instruments such as the flagship device of the 70’s, The BlackBox Modular System (1972) and other custom build equipment for synthesis, amplification, studio production and sensor applications. In 1974 Michel Waisvisz was commissioned to build the first Cracklebox. The institution was loosely and collectively guided by the founders, and family members of the Instant Composers Pool were working as administrative staff.

However, as the passion of the late 60’s cooled down, so did the interests of the original members to work with electronics, and work together. As they all reflect, it was a group of strong individuals with different opinions to begin with, and what tied them together was the urgency to take action rather than musical methods or aesthetics. Although Dick Raaijmakers is often considered as one of the founders, he was never really involved in the formation or direction of the group, but more as a technical advisor and mentor to young artists that would come to STEIM. In the end, it was these younger artists like Michel Waisvisz, Kees van Zelst, Victor Wentink, Philippa Cullen that were trying to establish a their own unique practice in electronic and electro-acoustic music.

Very few documentation is left from the first 10 years of STEIM. Recordings, photos, circuit diagrams are scattered across personal archives or just simple were never made. STEIM’s veteran staff from 1971, Nico Bes would tell me how it was anarchistic and disorganized at that time, where meetings would start in the afternoon with a glass of whisky, then soldering later in the evening. The legend goes that one of the year’s funding applications to the government simply read “give me my fucking money.”

Although with audience members roaring to minimalistic compositions and artists occupying theaters, it feels like another era, their fight for equal distribution of state cultural funding and criticism towards establishments like the Muziekgebouw makes you wonder if anything has really changed.

Text, selection and mix by Takuro Mizuta Lippit (dj sniff)

1. Excerpt from Reconstructie / Louis Andriessen, Reinbert De Leeuw, Misha Mengelberg, Peter Schat, Jan Van Vlijmen (1969)
2. Hymns And Chorals / Reinbert De Leeuw (1976)
3. On Escalations / Peter Schat (1968)
4. Hello Windyboys / Misha Mingelberg (1968)
5. Pianoforte / Dick Raaijmakers (1959)
6. Dialogue / Jan Van Vlijmen (1966)
7. Edited dialogues from Reconstructie / Louis Andriessen, Reinbert De Leeuw, Misha Mengelberg, Peter Schat, Jan Van Vlijmen (1969)
8. de Volharding (edit) / Louis Andriessen (1972)
9. My Baby Has Gone To The Schouwburg / Instant Composers Pool (1972)
10. Rainopus / ICP Tentet (1977)
11. Colonel Bogey / Kid Baltan (1957)
12. Snaps / Steve Lacy (1975)
13. Live in Toronto / Michel Waisvisz (1978)
14. Excerpt from Reconstructie / Louis Andriessen, Reinbert De Leeuw, Misha Mengelberg, Peter Schat, Jan Van Vlijmen (1969)

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