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LECTURE

Jaap Blonk


Dates:

07.04.17

Jaap Blonk (born 1953 in Woerden, Holland) is a self-taught composer, performer and poet. He went to university for mathematics and musicology but did not finish those studies.

In the late 1970s he took up saxophone and started to compose music. A few years later he discovered his potential as a vocal performer, at first in reciting poetry and later on in improvisations and his own compositions. For almost two decades the voice was his main means for the discovery and development of new sounds. From around the year 2000 on Blonk started work with electronics, at first using samples of his own voice, then extending the field to include pure sound synthesis as well. He took a year off of performing in 2006. As a result, his renewed interest in mathematics made him start a research of the possibilities of algorithmic composition for the creation of music, visual animation and poetry. As a vocalist, Jaap Blonk is unique for his powerful stage presence and almost childlike freedom in improvisation, combined with a keen grasp of structure. He has performed around the world, on all continents.

Jaap Blonk reflects on an early performance he gave of artist Kurt Schwitter’s celebrated sound poem Ursonate and the reception he received from the crowd:

“The reception of these first public performances was varying widely. On many occasions I was performing at rock or punk clubs as an opening act for a band, and lots of people were not at all into it. Their preference was either to just talk with their friends or hear their habitual kind of music. So they started to scream and protest, and often throwing things at me, especially beer, which fortunately was mostly given out in plastic, not glass containers. The culminating point of this kind of experience was a performance of the Ursonate, opening for a concert of The Stranglers at Vredenburg Music Center in Utrecht in 1986, for an audience of about 2000 fans. When I was announced, even before I had opened my mouth, people started calling out: “Rot op!” (“Fuck off!”), and when I started, the atmosphere became very much that of a football match, but clearly an away game for me. With massive roaring they tried to drown out my voice, but of course the P.A. made me louder. Six stage guards were working hard to keep people from climbing the stage and hitting me, and hundreds of half-full plastic beer glasses flew about me. But in the course of the performance I managed to win over at least a few hundred people, who were roaring in my favor. The next morning one newspaper had the headline ‘Jaap Blonk Shocks Punk Audience With Dada Poetry’, which for me was a nice testimony to the fact that Schwitters’ piece was still very much alive, in spite of its age.”

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