Black Vortex Cathedral
(2008) 24'
(A Death Metal Symphony)
metal band (2voc, 2 el. guit, bass guit, dr), extended amplified orchestra:
2fl, 2ob, 4sax, hrn, 3trpt, 2trbn, btrbn, el. guit, bassguit, dr, 2perc, strgs 8 7 6 4 2

I. Narthex - II. Thorax - III. Vortex

written for: Metropole Orkest & Noneuclid
first performance: november 7th, 2008, Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ,
Amsterdam / Netherlands (Nederlandse Muziekdagen)

Commisioned by the Nederlandse Muziekdagen / NPS and the NFPK+

Black Vortex Cathedral is a piece about the impossibility to exist, the primal fear of not being granted a place in the world, and about futile efforts of becoming something, continuously subjected to disturbance and immediate destruction. Instead of a mighty structure reaching into the heavens to bring peace and elevation to the human soul, an anti-cathedral emerges like a gaping hole into nothingness, built from the shape of the empty spaces behind existence, the scars of rejection and the panic of choking outside of reality.

The first instrumental movement, representing the outside shape of this morbid "temple", expresses the constant impossibility to become solid, and the subsequent frustration deriving from it. Musically, it supplies the emotional abyss which justifies the seemingly paradoxical orchestration: the fragility and colorfulness of the symphony orchestra are antagonized by the brutality of the metal band, conjured up by rising fierceness in the string orchestra. A variety of compositional techniques are employed: multiple rhythmical, melodic, metrical and tonal layers and a flood of material undergoing immediate thematic distortion symbolize an unborn mind adrift in a vacuum of half-conceived possibilities which are immediately aborted and cast away.

The second movement forms the main "nave" of the cathedral and verbalizes this bleak universe. The roles in the orchestration are reversed, and the metal band is fully exploited. (Let me note here that when I presented this idea to the NPS, I wanted to avoid continuing a tradition of bands playing with orchestras where the orchestra is not much more than a worked-out keyboard part. Both are of equal value here; nevertheless, that means also showing the metal band for what it is.) According to the world portrayed in this piece, however, the monolithic sound of this movement is doomed to crumble again, which is achieved by a second band throwing the music off track.

The last part depicts the final surrender to this hopeless state of non-existence. All attempts at redemption are abandoned, and the only thing left is a flat heartbeat growing ever fainter, clutching at its last straw - the wish to disappear into the black hole of oblivion opening in the heart, the perverted sanctuary, of this "church". Contrary to the content of this piece, I would like to thank NPS and the orchestra for giving me the possibility to realize this dream, which I've had for decades, and for taking the risk to create a kind of music with us that is considered impossible by many - the (hopefully) purposeful and seamless integration of diametrically opposed styles of music, resulting in a total that is more than the sum of its parts.

listen: BVC live clips
(An official recording of this piece will be available sometime in 2009. Till then, bear with us...)

Here you find a portrait about me and this piece (in Dutch)