Louis Andriessen

Louis Andriessen: Hout

I'm not sure why the Dutch are so prominent in contemporary composition, or at least the style of contemporary composition that sets my ears and hands on fire, but they are, and Louis Andriessen is one of their most distinguished ambassadors. 

Louis Andriessen was born in Utrecht in 1939 to a family of esteemed musicians. He currently lives in Amsterdam and works as a composer/pianist/professor at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, his alma mater. In 1969 he co-founded STEIM and became one of the foremost exponents in classical music that features electronics, multi-media, genre integration, and above all else focuses on the possibilities of now in music.

I recently had the opportunity to perform for him during an honorary concert at the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore MD. I was performing on an electric guitar alongside a tenor saxophone, piano, and marimba. The piece is entitled Hout and is featured above. A picture of my quartet and I alongside the composer is posted below.


Hout is a canon in four parts that displaces the instruments one sixteenth note apart from each other. In other words, the tenor sax leads the charge while the subsequent three instruments echo the same material in immediate succession creating a sort of dribbling tail effect. It is madness to perform, sheer madness. All of the musicians had giant scrolls and poster boards of sheet music on stage littered with the little black dots that comprise the mania of this work. 

The compositional style of this work is derived from the minimalist aesthetic, but places no emphasis on process while borrowing phrasing, melodic gestures, and harmonic motion from the jazz idiom. While this is typical of Andriessen, not all of his compositions are so relentlessly frenetic. 

The biography of the man is interesting, and the music theory and processes driving his compositions are beautiful and thought provoking, but the most important thing one can do with this music, and all music, is simply to Listen to it. For a brief encounter with further biographical information check out his Wikipedia page linked here

If you wish to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, his music is for sale on itunes here. You Dig?