William Engelen ‘Verstrijken voor ensemble’

William Engelen, Verstrijken voor ensemble, 2008, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

12 January, 2008 until 9 March, 2008

From the 12th of January 2008 onwards the remarkable composition ‘Verstrijken voor ensemble’ by artist William Engelen can be seen and heard at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The piece of music can be heard live as well as in a sound installation, in a specially built concert hall. ‘Verstrijken voor ensemble’ is a compositional method based on the biorhythm of the musicians themselves. Their daily activities, rhythms and patterns were followed for a week and translated into music. The line-up of the ensemble consists of a mezzo-soprano, violin, viola, cello, harp, flute, clarinet, synthesizer and computer.

William Engelen (Weert 1964) studied at, among other places, the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. At the moment he lives and works in Berlin and Rotterdam. The author Joachim Krausse very aptly describes William Engelen’s art as ‘the performance of space’. In a recent work William Engelen, in a large-scale advertising campaign, offered people a free ringtone of a blackbird singing ‘Ode an die Freude, or Song of Joy’. He called on the citizens of Bonn to teach live blackbirds this Beethoven melody using the ringtone. The oeuvre of William Engelen moves between the visual arts, architecture and music. Engelen links tones and visual signs without hierarchical distinction. In his musical works there is interaction between the visualization of the musical and the musical interpretation of the visual.

The compositional method of ‘Verstrijken voor ensemble’
William Engelen is interested in the patterns of people’s lives. For ‘Verstrijken voor ensemble’, individual activities, needs and desires form the starting point. The artist asked nine musicians to keep a diary in the same week. Some of the things he wanted to know were when the different musicians went to bed, how well they slept, what time they got up again, whether they had breakfast and for how long, etcetera. The duration and the type of the activity generate the structure of the composition. Every hour of the week was translated into 8 seconds of music. So, in principle, the musicians are the carriers of the score. The various activities and pursuits were arranged in a number of categories, such as eating, sleeping, working, leisure time and waiting.
The sound the artist makes the differences between the categories and the way they are experienced audible. For instance, sound sleep is translated into long, bowed tones with small variations in frequency and average pressure on the bow. All deviations from an undisturbed night’s rest can be heard in variations of bow pressure, shorter and longer movements and differences in pitch.

Specially designed ‘concert hall’
The hall in which the composition will be performed has an oval shape and stands detached in space as an autonomous object. The curved walls are made of wood, smooth and shiny on the outside, looking like the sound box of a string instrument. The space can be entered through a single opening. On the entire length of the wall, the composition can be seen, as a large drawing. This way, visitors can follow the score visually, while listening.

Live concerts
At the opening of the exhibition on the 12th of January 2008 ‘Elapsing for ensemble’ will be played live by all nine musicians.

With thanks to Centrum Beeldende Kunst Rotterdam.