In this edition of the earmark series, we hear from composer Lieke van der Voort on home made radio programs, the identities and possibilities of composition, and exploring dreams for artistic inspiration.
CMC: What got you excited about music at a young age?
Lieke van der Voort: I remember my father playing Paradise by The Dashboard Light by Meatloaf really loudly and my brother and I running around dancing and singing along in our pajamas. My parents always played music in the house, from when I would get up until the last person would go to bed. In the morning we would listen to a Dutch national radio station, but at night it would be Supertramp, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Tim Buckley, Devo, Lou Reed, Roxy Music or Talking Heads.
When I was around eight, I used to make radio shows on cassette, which included anything I could record off the radio on a little boombox with myself chatting away in the breaks. I was allowed to keep my boombox next to my plate at dinner in case the right song came by that I absolutely had to record. I recorded anything from Simon and Garfunkel to 2 Unlimited. I would fall asleep with the radio on at night, which my mom would turn off when she went to bed herself.
As a teenager, my musical taste outgrew the village I was raised in and I would make my way to Utrecht or Amsterdam to explore Black Metal, Industrial, Post-Punk, Synthpop and Cold Wave. I had a thirst for anything that was dark and either completely emotionally understated or very much over-the-top, including a visually strong live show.
CMC: What is an important music concert/event you attended?
LV: At the risk of sounding dramatic, the 2017 Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML) completely changed my life. I had never written music for an ensemble that did not include myself nor had I written for classically trained musicians prior to the workshop. Up to that point I had struggled to connect my musical style to events or people. Someone I had met earlier that year (cellist Amahl Arulanandam) and Olivia Shortt who I knew from the Element Choir, had both suggested that there are people who would be interested in what I was doing and encouraged me to apply to TCML.
I remember being really surprised, terrified and excited when I got selected as a composer! A new world opened up to me by participating. Not only did I find a musical community where I felt like I fit well, but also the idea that I could write music without having to be on stage to perform became known to me; I never thought that could be something I could do. I think I had convinced myself that there was no place where the music in my head could be written down and realized/performed.
I got my first commission less than a month after TCML had finished. From that moment on I have been composing. I still perform as a vocalist, and I do have my project Kontraband Kollektif, where I sing as well as compose, but the fear of performing messes with my creative flow quite a bit when composing for myself. The incredible freedom I feel as a composer without having to be on stage allows me to do exactly what I want.
CMC: What have you been listening to lately?
LV: I listen to a lot of different genres, and what I listen to changes every day. Last week I was listening obsessively to Love’s album Forever Changes and the week before that Die Form’s Some Experiences with Shock. Whatever I listen to, it tends to be a bit on the dark side. At this very moment I am listening to Post-Punk/Goth Rock band Cocteau Twins. After having waited years to see Elizabeth Fraser live, I finally managed to do so in a concert with Massive Attack a few weeks ago. I now have a need to drown my ears in her voice. I don’t think I will ever tire of Blue Bell Knoll.
CMC: How do you define your musical/artistic community?
LV: I tend to connect the easiest to fellow composers and musicians in New Music and improvising musicians within Toronto and Montréal. I am hoping to not only broaden my artistic community here, I would love to connect to art communities in The Netherlands at some point, as this is where I was born and raised.
CMC: Tell us about a project or work of yours that you are particularly proud of.
LV: I have been working on a bigger project that concerns mental health, nightmares, therapy and community. It started with a commission from Thin Edge New Music Collective that I wrote for percussion and fixed media last March about recurrent nightmares and fears I have, IAMTHERIBCAGE. I felt very connected to the subject and when I saw Nathan Petitpas performing it with so much integrity and dedication, I realized I was not done purging my emotions regarding the subject, nor was I done working with fixed media combined with live instruments. I wrote the second piece Thought Replacement Worksheet for An-Laurence and Sara Constant’s Émergences [f. pl.] which was performed in July and August 2019. I was blown away by their performance and the positive reception from the audience.
At this moment I am finishing the prologue Visage/Damage for Émilie Girard-Charest, who will perform it in November in Argentina. There is one part left that I will include which will likely be for voice only. I am hoping to get the full project performed at some point, but I am in no rush. For now, here is the piece that started the project.