residency period November 2022 – February 2023
Interview by Friso Wijnen
Clarinetist and composer Steven Kamperman is currently a resident at the Van Doesburg house. ‘My enthusiasm for this residency is so intense that I have to be careful not to start writing too long a letter…’. This is how Steven Kamperman began his application to the Performing Arts Fund. The musician from Vleuten has been staying at the Van Doesburg house since the end of October.
‘I originally started as a jazz clarinetist with a strong interest in world music. Over time, I gradually began to compose to an increasing extent. That was quite a struggle in the beginning, I learned to compose by trial and error. Theo Loevendie urged me not to become a 12-tone composer. Then the audience will run away from you, Theo mused. I always try to set myself a challenge; composing should not become a fill-in exercise. If you get me to write a tango, it won’t sound like Astor Piazzolla’s tango, but Steven’s.’
Who is Steven Kamperman?
What does that sound like, typically Steven Kamperman?Steven laughs and then seriously: ‘I have a strong sense of what I like and dislike about sound, and I enjoy venturing into the boundaries of structure and intuition.’
On what grounds are you interested in a residency at the Van Doesburg house?‘I have a deep connection with France and Paris. For about ten years I had a French girlfriend and I speak the language. Moreover, I feel a connection with French jazz, which traditionally has less America and more folk music and Messiaen resonates through it. Many French jazz musicians in the past had no jazz training but classical training. There is vigorous improvisation in France, but almost always with a melodic slant. Another reason why I liked this residency is that I love the house.
Do you feel an affinity with Theo van Doesburg?Yes indeed. The conceptual yet playful nature of Theo van Doesburg inspires me. And I think my way of composing fits in well with the undogmatic approach that characterised Theo van Doesburg. What also attracts me to Theo is his versatility. I recognise this desire strongly. For instance, I started playing drums seven years ago, I love writing, I make my own recordings and I like to experiment with video. I sympathise with Theo’s enthusiasm for constantly taking up something new. At the same time, I feel I am milder than the original occupant of this house. Those men of De Stijl did take themselves very seriously and gladly went into battle. There is something attractive about harsh judgements, uncompromising, but I don’t believe the world is like that, so black and white.
What has the residency meant for you so far?What I have realised here in Meudon is that intuition and structure do not automatically have to be opposites, that they can indeed go together. A real discovery that opened up a new world for me. I was able to write and compose a lot here without immediately having to think of a specific target group or audience. This freedom was delightful and I have been enormously productive here. I did as much in four months as I would have managed in a year in the Netherlands. Some days the house was buzzing with activity and I played with various French and Dutch musicians. On other days, I only spoke to the baker around the corner to order a baguette and cherished the rest of the day in voluntary seclusion. I am now working on a solo piece with recordings for different clarinets. And I made a suite of the house. Both will become an album.
What do I imagine a suite of the house to be?In this new composition, I literally make a tour through the house. I start at the entrance to the library, then through the music room to the atelier, on to the kitchen and on to the kettle room. We also recorded compositions in those last two rooms. What was hilarious was playing together with three other musicians in the kettle room, a dark, cramped space in which the sound bounced back inexorably and in which I could barely fit my drum kit. Between the different spaces, I made separate compositions about people and movements that were important to Theo, about his wife Nelly, of course, but also about Piet Mondrian, dada and Bauhaus.
What will you take back to the Netherlands with you shortly?A sense of freedom and a memory of a great house. When I arrived here about four months ago, I thought I would often go to the centre of Paris. After all, by public transport or by bike you can get there in no time. In the end, I visited Paris less and less. More often I thought, the city will stay there for the time being, but the privilege of living and working in this house is finite. For the next few weeks, I will still be playing with French musicians, and I will continue to compose and record. At the end of the month, I will return to Vleuten full of inspiration and new ideas.
here for more information on Steven Kamperman and a blog about his stay at the Van Doesburg. Steven’s residency was made possible by the Performing Arts Fund NL.
Photos by © Jean-Michel Bale