Artist in residence Stepping Stone

Artist in Residence 2021


The platform for music and musicians Dock Zuid in Tilburg organized their first batch of residencies in October 2021. They have been initiated by pianist Rogier Telderman, one of the people behind Dock Zuid. He invited saxophonist, composer and arranger Phil Meadows from London and the Amsterdam based drummer Gerri Jäger for three days of sessions. Meadows started similar activities in London. Jäger has for some time wanted to establish a space in Amsterdam that should work along the same principles as Dock Zuid. In the same period singer-songwriter Aafke Romeijn worked in analog tape studio Het Concreet. They took time to reflect on their experiences during these residencies.

text: René van Peer
photo: Seye Cadmus, Omar

TELDERMAN interplay

Telderman describes Dock Zuid as both a building and a collective. “This residency is a first offshoot to start a movement, generating new ideas through talks. I met Phil online via social media during the latest lockdown. We had a conversation on how to support music and musicians. I was interested in his approach to the scene and music, and his involvement in that. I didn’t know him as a musician.

Jäger met Telderman through a talent project in Breda. He decided to participate only ten days before it started. “I wanted to do it. It is a great idea and a luxury to be able to work three days on music and then present the result, to explore one’s role in such a collaborative effort, and in the process find music that you are comfortable with.” Phil agrees with that. “I like the mentality, sharing and developing musical ideas and discussing the wider cultural ideology. What we are doing here is not predetermined by having to play gigs. There is room to get to know each other personally. The whole structure is quite open. No-one had an expectation of what it would have to be. We just play and explore sound to find a way to communicate. We also introduced ideas that we brought: charts and tunes, abstract ideas. We had a passage based on morse codes. Although I trained as a jazz musician, I don’t consider myself one. On the other hand the skills I learned, are transferable to other types of music. I love all music. To me it’s important to bring different genres together.

It was Gerri who introduced the morse codes as the basic structure for a piece. He connected a delay and a harmonizer to his drums. “Drummers generally have a basic role. For me the challenge is to feel like a producer, using a large array of electronic sounds. Since school I haven’t played ‘jazz-jazz’, but it’s great to apply the tools in the personal genre that you choose. The spectrum is so broad, there is no end or beginning. You just play the music that you love. I choose what sounds I bring, what I like best with my processing gear. Two of the pieces come from a carte blanche that I did with Raphael Vanoli. For one of them I use  the sound of falling raindrops. The rhythms get very sparse at the end. It’s a test of everybody’s patience.

Phil takes a step back to view the residency and Dock Zuid in a broader context. “The wider narrative is to learn what Rogier wants to achieve here. In London we are trying to do similar things. I can take home the thoughts that we share here. It is important that cultures connect, and share their successes and failures. Often, when you talk about things beyond music, it doesn’t open a dialog. I am still processing exactly what I am going to take with me. It will probably be simple things. The idea to make music and create environments without feeling stress. In London I work with the Engines Orchestra, which spends two days of rehearsals on a nineteen minutes piece, nurturing an organic process that allows music to develop itself. Music has its own duration. We bring lots of people from the industry together, who share skills and work together for the collective good. Anyone with creative ideas has access to the ensemble. They can pitch ideas with us, we organize funding and performances. We perform at commercial jazz festivals. But we also work with children from poor, struggling neighborhoods. It all comes  from the drive to make nice things happen.

Joining forces is inspiring, responds Gerri. “I can apply that to my place, using each other’s strengths to get somewhere. The last ten to fifteen years have seen an ever growing individualism. That has an impact on a larger scale. I have been talking to friends to set something up in Amsterdam, but they are afraid of the amount of work that is takes.

According to Phil it is important to seize the opportunity to do something. “Just like what Rogier is doing here and what we do in London. It can create a vortex. We can exchange, do things in return. We can offer to help, find ways to help. Work in a more conversational mode.

Het Concreet x Aafke Romeijn

The week in which the residencies were held concluded with a symposium about the studio as a compositional tool, building on a practice that Edgard Varèse already worked with. There was to be a panel discussion on the topic, but Het Concreet also wanted to have someone work with their studio to provide concrete examples how the concept can be realized. For this they invited singer-songwriter Aafke Romeijn, who had worked in Tilburg before. Het Concreet’s managing director Anneroos Goosen had suggested to invite Romeijn, whom she knew through a collection of poetry that the latter wrote for the Tilburg literary festival Tilt. Romeijn wanted to create music with long lines and duration, something she can’t normally do in the pop genre in which she works. In the analog tape studio she experimented with long tape loops and effects on prerecorded sounds. “Being a keyboard player, I used that instrument for creating the sounds that I recorded and timed. What I want to do is compose music live, on the spot, to process loops live and have them move over each other. I had no idea of the resulting sound. In order to make it work I have to listen to what is happening, and correct that then and there. It is not unlike working with Ableton Live, but in this set-up it has to be right at once. Because it’s recorded on tape in realtime you can’t process it afterwards. It is basically improvisation. I have never worked in an entirely analog environment. There’s no easy way out, no computer to dump the music in. In the end it all has to be put on one single tape. On Friday there will be a presentation, which will be recorded. I don’t know yet how I will use that. It would be great to make remixes of it. I have done residencies as an author, and worked on projects as a composer, but this is the first time that I have been working in an analog environment. The material I use is new to me.

What Romeijn considers of value in this residency is the freedom it allows her. “Here I can create something without having to sell it. Usually there is a team around me that supplies me with everything I need, and there is an audience that expects something from me. Here I can create what I want, make it as long as I want it to be. That is not easy when you have established a career. I can’t take a week to work on this. I wouldn’t have been viable financially. I am not in a position that I can invest in something that I create just for myself. I am happy that this place exists to allow the creative brain to think in long lines, as it would do when writing a novel. I haven’t built and trained that muscle in music. There are only a few places where you can work on long pieces, but there is no such thing in pop, because of the pressure from the market. On top of that, if I want to create an hour-long piece here, no-one has to rehearse it for performance.

Mathijn den Duijf, one of the founding members of the Utrecht based creative space Kytopia, points out differences between the two institutions. “Because we didn’t have any financial support there, we couldn’t realize all the plans we had. Here, support is not a problem. And as we share the location with Dock Zuid, we are stronger as a breeding ground for artistic endeavor, we enjoy a broader support from musicians, organizations and authorities, and through that we can accomplish more. We want to make this our definitive accommodation. If we achieve that, we can throw our doors wide open and invite people to work here.

The author – René van Peer

René van Peer has been a music journalist since 1987. He writes for Gonzo (circus) and various other media in the field of music. He is by definition concerned with eccentric music. Electronic, improvised, sound art and world music. Powered by TINC asked René to reflect on two residency-programmes at Dock Zuid.