Support letter for Dutch composer grant, January 2013

Where to begin with this dizzyingly prolific composer? One might expect, given the staggering volume of his releases, that there might be evidence of haste, some sense of needing to get somewhere, some unfinished quality, or temporary, or provisional states that give his music an unwanted and unresolved character. Instead, in song after song, his keen ears find a way. I was struck most particularly this past year by the first track in Stroomtoon, which he names simply Een, or one. It is a magic trick of descending tones, and it is in dialogue, or so I’m imagining, with James Tenney’s iconic For Ann (rising), a perpetually rising sine wave glissando in minor sixths. Four decades later Machinefabriek takes up the gauntlet and brings his tones ringing down an endlessly cascading stairwell. The effect is vertiginous, like listening to a sine tone fall in love.

I was happy to work with Rutger as he developed a long form composition for my movie The Secret Photographs. Responding to a suite of still photographs culled from a long ago archive, he was able to take these varied moods and repitch them into a suite of extended passages. Most particularly, he created a complex guitar composition and then slowly picked it apart, teasing out of its hidden depths an extended tonal conversation. This was then rerecorded on analog machinery to lend it body and grace. Many of his monthly releases are created as short form compositions, but I think it is in the realm of longer works that his natural aptitudes as a sensitive handler of drifts are really able to take hold. In the majestic Cello Recycling, for instance, the great rising swell of this drone requires a long period to build and then to release.

There are so many plying the so-called ambient fields at this moment, but no one possessing the care and passion of this singular composer. He listens with his heart. There is a rare touch that lives in his music, a pulse open to the fear and hope of a life, and the sounds of that life, that can’t be known before it is admitted. Could we name it the mastery of surrender? And alongside this, there is an exquisite attention to the details that make the sounds we encounter, the loops we live inside, infinitely varied, each pattern singular and unique even as it takes its place in the larger web. He lives inside the skin of this sound, and lets it touch him so that it can arrive on the other side of his explorations as question mark and proposition. Opening and conjecture. In all of this the sense that the musician is playing. Let him play.