Anyone who’s ever seriously played around with the guitar will immediately sense how thoroughly and naturally this piece exploits its physical and technical potentials. As Kevin Whitehead (in New Dutch Swing) has taught us, new-and-improvised music from Holland has a ruggedly Western-Zen-like side to it—an embrace of the spare, if not the delicate, a stripping down of pomp and Romantic rapture to the ludic and hands-on crafty. Termos fits that m.o. and works it for all it’s worth, by taking the time required to coax rich music out of the instrument’s barest bones.
As the title suggests, the top and bottom E strings voice the piece’s central tone; the four open strings and two open octaves between them provide the rest of the pentatonic scale motivating it. Sounding them from high to low and vice versa, they function like a raga with no tala; the time is as open as the strings, one moment falling off the other. Other such electric guitar-specific musical elements are the building blocks of the piece: the sound of sliding the fingers up a string to its open neighbor’s fretted equivalent, the way the left hand can sound a run of notes on frets with only one or even no plucking right, the unfretted touch of overtone spots on the strings, the tinks behind the bridge. Termos and Hijmans conspire to show the guitar’s own mind, and how serious noodling and the arts of composition and performance can be one.
The denouement is in the last three short tracks, the Monk/Sweelinck/Hijmans sequence. After immersing us in his instrument and the communions of other musical minds with it, the player turns here to speak with his own voice most completely at the fore, first as the jazz improviser, then as the Dutchman rooted deep in his country’s rich musical legacy, on which he surely cut his first musical teeth as a young music student, then as the composer himself. From Monk’s Harlem to Sweelinck’s Haarlem, we end on Hijman’s “From Here to There and No Return”: transatlantic, transtemporal, transpersonal, and the most adventurously conceived, free, and realized. When it ends, more than enough has been said.
Gipsy on clogs
Compositions of Van der Aa, Murial, Andriessen,
(X-OR cd12) In classical music, also known as serious music, the electric guitar has been a teddy boy (nozem) among instruments for a long time, and therefore a problem . There have been composers who employed it in their music (from Stockhausen in Caré to Schat in To you), just like the existence of rock bands that used an electronically amplified violin, but eventually it always came to the same thing: it sounded awful. At the best, the electric guitar was treated as a loud classical guitar, and despite all good intentions, it still sounded rubbish. The explanation was simple: most composers of serious music were (and are?) not at home with natural domain of the electric guitar, rock music, through which the possibilities of the (jammerplank, whiningboard ???) remain hidden to them. In recent years things change for the better. Composers, who haven’t been able to escape pop music in their youth and have taken advantage of it, are ever-increasing. In the United States composer/guitarist Steven Mackey has created furore with pieces for guitar and orchestra, that have been performed by high-class ensembles like San Francisco Symphony.
In the Netherlands we got Wiek Hijmans, a native of Amsterdam. He also maintains to commit himself with unstoppable enthusiasm to the emancipation of his instrument. Wiek Hijmans, well-known as guitarist of the Maarten Alten Ensemble, but also active as a solo musician, has recorded a cd, Electric Solo!, which all composers in the world should purchase, lest they get an idea of what is possible on this electric guitar and above all what perfectly unique music it can deliver. Hijmans plays pieces of the young Dutch Michel van der Aa (who is also a guitarist), of Louis Andriessen, of Danish Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, of Tristan Murail and of himself, and the result may in all ways be considered as extraordinary.
Auburn from Michel van der Aa is a piece with many aspects. The sound opportunities of the electric guitar are exploited with a sort of imprudent matter of course. There are stilled ‘arpeggio’s’ and different kinds of plucking, there are sparkling note lines that end with a humming low bass tones, there is whipping jazzy chord play, and always the lightly estranging tape sounds on the background. Hijmans plays the piece masterly and virtuously, like a moustached gipsy on clogs: with exaltation, but at the same time crystal-clear.
Vampyr! of the French spectral Tristan Murail is the most surprising piece on the cd, because the composer requires from the guitarist a heavy overdriven (overstuurd?) rock sound, ‘with matching energy and decibels’. This did not fell on deaf ears with Wiek Hijmans. Effortlessly he transforms his Gretsch 1967 model Chet Atkins Tennesean into a ruthless yawing-, squealing- and screaming board. Heavy metal lovers will also feast upon it, because the intelligently applied rock sound of Hijmans convinces perfectly here. This is way beyond merely a loud classic guitar. This is an axe with brains.
The finest (and with mor e than 14 minutes also the longest) piece is Solo for el-guitar of Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, which is from a period – 1971/1972 – wherein composers had no idea how to write for electric guitar. In Solo for el-guitar he builds to a soft and poetic, rhythmic finely darned disquisition, wherein particularly the down-tuned E-string delivers evocative moments. And how Hijmans Gretsch sounding here, just as in Andriessens Triplum per chitarra, and in his own graceful capricious improvisation Upward, is again exceedingly beautiful.Erik Voermans
De Volkskrant – Thursday 26th September 2002 Flangers and Feedback
Wiek Hijmans: Electric Solo! Works from Van der Aa, Andriessen, Murial, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Hijmans.
X-OR.In the area of electro-instrumental music there’s ongoing search for new ways of making electronically generated sound practically manageable and visually attractive. It’s curious all these pioneers seem to be unaware that the most interactive and manoeuvrable instrument has already matured in the sixties – the electric guitar.The cd of Wiek Hijmans, which just came out on the X-OR label, proves that this instrument – handled by a virtuoso – in respect of versatility could at most be excelled by the piano. Hijmans repertory extends from compositions originally written for acoustic guitar to the wild world of improvisation, were flangers, feedback and other electronic effects are freely deployable. The cd opens with Auburn of Michel van der Aa, in which the guitarist has to fit in the staves carefully between sounds of the soundtrack created by the composer. Compared to the acoustical version by Donemus that was released last year Hijmans version sounds a lot more robust, however with the preservation of the subtle formation of tones. The same goes for Louis Andriessens Triplum, a piece that was originally composed for acoustic guitar in 1962. This is confronted with a frantic piece of the French composer Tristan Murail, Vampyr!, which has more to do with the sparkle firing idiom of Jimmy Hendrix than with civilised, neatly polished playing of the academy of music. Nevertheless, as always Hijmans doesn’t relax the control for a moment here.