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TELESONIEK ATELIER RELAY NO. 03 (update March 2017)

JAAP VINK

INTRODUCTION
In recent years the historical development of Electronic Music in the Netherlands has gained much attention through new studies, books, and special cd-box releases. Not much has been written however about Jaap Vink, one of the key figures concerning the practical education in tape and voltage control techniques during his work at the Institute of Sonology. At the same time, Jaap Vink produced significant pieces of electronic music that need our attention; music that earns its place in the Dutch electronic music repertoire.
The following article will provide information about his work, collected through fine hours of conversation with Jaap at his home, by talks with his former colleagues, and of course by listening to his music.

Born: Den Helder, North-Holland, February 12, 1930,
nowadays living in a small village located in the north-east of Groningen.


IN GENERAL
Together with Gottfried Michael Koenig technician Jaap Vink worked at the CEM studio for electronic music in Bilthoven during the 1960's, started combining the electronic equipment (mainly from Dutch radio broadcasting, and physics labs), assembling special electronics, performed maintenance, assisted composers etc, while Koenig took care of the educational part.
Through this work and the contacts of Koenig, Jaap visited most other important studios at that time, and met Werner Meyer-Eppler and Bruno Maderna, to name only a few.
Then some years later he transferred to the Institute of Sonology (Utrecht State University) to work as a studio technician, assisting visiting and resident composers in sound composition and production techniques.

There, during the late 1960's, the first of his own compositions evolved, of which today Screen is known best (to be found on the famous Philips 4-lp box 'Electronic Panorama').


SONOLOGY
By then, the Institute of Sonology became an important center for research and production of electronic music techniques and theory, among the other European electronic music studios (Cologne, Paris, Milan, etc).
Jaap Vink worked together in the team with Koenig, Stan Tempelaars, Frits Weiland, Jo Scherpenisse, Wim van Kuilenburg, and Werner Kaegi, and many others who came by for the exchange of knowledge of this young medium.
One of Vink's assignments was to take care of the development of analog electronics, soon taken over by Jo Scherpenisse, but Vink's main task was to teach analog sound synthesis techniques, and assisting many composers and students in sound production of the works developed in the analog voltage control studio.
Jaap also assisted in electronic sound production and montage for several films (he recalls films on Mondriaan and Karel Appel, and corporate films e.g. for Shell).
In 1986, Sonology moved to The Hague to become part of the Royal Conservatoire, where the Institute is still running. Jaap Vink officially retired in 1986 but continued his activities at Sonology until Kees Tazelaar eventually took over the lessons in voltage control techniques in 1993.


WORK
During his Sonology years Jaap composed and worked on several electronic pieces. Some are 2-track stereo, some are 4-track spatial recordings, all on analog tape. Most works were re-mixed/re-worked during the composition process, so several versions have been produced, nearly all documented on tape.
Infact, the recordings are results of continuous sonic/technical exploration, experimentation with the medium, and those recordings allow us to be part of Jaap's search-process and sound-world; during that process, the road was of more importance to him than the final destination. The works could therefore be denoted as 'process documents'.
Some of his compositions have been performed several times in the Netherlands and at international venues, e.g. in Czechoslovakia, Norway and Belgium.
Most of the titles are set, some have been called 'improvisation' at first. The title (for the final version of) Tide has been suggested by Gottfried Michael Koenig, the title Screen was suggested by Ruth Koenig.


WORKS:

- Screen 1968
- Objets Distants 1970-1972
- Granule 1970
- Residuals 1970-1972
- Tide 1980-1985 several versions
- Stroma 1982 several versions
- En Dehors 1980-1985
- Requiem 1980-1985 unfinished


ANALYSIS INTRODUCTION
In general, one hears long pieces consisting of gradually evolving sound-fields, both abstract and/or slightly harmonic/chordal/tonal, but most pieces continuously balance between those two facets in an interesting way, creating a underlying tension, holding the attention.
A basic ingredient is the experimentation with long tape delay feedback systems (both with 2-track and 4-track recorder set-ups), where sound transformation devices were put into the feedback loop (later these systems have been used extensively by composer Roland Kayn ('Cybernetics' series) who, with Jaap's assistance, worked in Sonology's studios during the 1970's). A complex of sounds was mixed into the feedback/transformation system to build up a sound field, and at several time points transformed into a different phase of complexity. Raw sonic material was divided into low, mid and high ranges, which were later combined.

In almost all of Jaap's pieces we notice dramatic accelerations, and increasing and decreasing volumes, all adding up to a constant undertone of tension. On the other hand one can find a particular point in the sound masses of Stroma where a single short sound object denotes a caesura, a comma, in the piece, only once and only on that particular point. A single simple gesture with a dramatic result.
All this creates a wide field with rich textures of layered sonic movements in time, eventually fading out.
He also experimented with acoustic spatial phase movements resulting from tiny controlled differences in tape speed between two similar recordings (the 'mother' A tape and its' copy B), the watermark technique for Screen.
Another favorite tape technique was the application of the Tempophon (temporegler by A.M. Springer).

An interesting musical phenomenon from physics has been Jaap's main inspiration for his sound synthesis:
the specific sonic complexity in pitch and harmonic/non-harmonic spectral texture from a violin string on the moment at which a bow sets the string in motion; what is happening in both the time- and frequency-domain, and which microscopic phenomena evolve during those phases of motion? As Jaap explains, during string motion as the string tension increases the harmonics slightly rise in pitch, where those harmonics slightly lower as the string tension decreases, creating that liveliness/vivacity in spectral contents.
This simple but highly complex element drove him to extensive experimental patching by means of Sonology's highly specialized equipment and fine tape recorders in its analog studios. Ofcourse filters and amplitude modulators, manually- and/or voltage-controlled, were important items for sound transformation processes in the studio. (The rich 'vocal' character of some of Sonology's filters is important to note here).
He also understood and explored the idea of stochastic micro modulation (a term coined by Meyer-Eppler) and which was incorporated in nearly every controllable synthesis parameter, resulting in a high degree of soni
c detail.

Time is streched out in his work to be able to let us listeners gently perceive all those microscopic sonic elements and details that surface during the process. Many things happen and one has time-space to listen and enjoy them.
Objets Distants for instance contains a very long and slow downward glissando combined with spatial phase movements, to be perceived as architectural form; in my humble opinion perhaps the most beautiful glissando of the electronic music repertoire.

Apart from more abstract sounds, Jaap also produced layers of 'tonal' harmonic fields, built-up chords of individually tuned elements consisting of oscillators, filters and modulators. All precisely tuned and leveled at the mixing desk; not generated by some sort of keyboard controller. This technique easily enabled gradual departure from equal-tempered scaling to other arbitrary scales/octave divisions if asked for by the course of the evolving piece. Stroma and En Dehors are examples of this method.

Below a sketch from memory (by Jaap, from a few years ago), illustrating string synthesis in a typical Sonology patch notation.


SOME SONOLOGY TECH
It is worth to mention here some details on the equipment Jaap utilized, and who built it.
Apart from commercially available signal generators and filters (Philips, HP, Bruel & Kjaer, Peekel etc) Sonology's studios contained a large amount of unique analog/hybrid function modules for most part designed and built by the technician Jo Scherpenisse (*1938).
Jo had already built devices for the first electronic music studio in the Netherlands (Philips Research Laboratories 1956-1960), but was eventually hired by STEM in Utrecht in 1965. Jaap still admires Jo for his skills with the -at that time new- (discrete) transistors and first analog and digital integrated circuits. Ideas for functions would grow out of the necessity to solve specific synthesis or control problems most of the time, or were suggested by Sonology's staff, visiting composers or students. It must have been an exciting time.
The list of modules Jo has built is quite long, ranging from amplifiers, multipliers, mixers, modulators and demodulators, to comparators, trigger devices and pulse scalers.
Jo took care of the second version of the Variable Function Generator (a dual-channel 100-step special sequencer originally designed by Stan Tempelaars) together with Wim van Kuilenburg, another important technician at Sonology (very skilled in technical drawing as Jo showed me, and responsible for the special-purpose mixing desk design).

The functions were built into standardized modules based on 19-inch rack systems used at the Utrecht State University's physics department. Jo recalls the extensive use of special-built audio transformers (Hercules Radio TLL1/37) to allow for the interconnection of all separate studios through long-distance cabling. The interconnecting Tuchel patch panel could be found in the kitchen. The power supply system was designed for +/- 24V (eventually +/- 30V) due to the transistor-based function module designs, and due to the application of amplifier-units by Alisson.
After Sonology had moved to The Hague in 1986 Jo designed a completely new line of rack-based function modules (the unique analog VOSIM modules among many others), a patching system, and a custom mixing board, all based on new analog and logic (TTL) IC's, and most of these are still in frequent use. Jo also took care of the electronics maintenance and experimental software programming of Sonology's PDP mainframe computer.
Jo continued designing special circuits for both Sonology and artists and composers until and beyond his retirement in 2003. He has published some of his designs in Interface / Journal of New Music Research.


LANGUAGE
The sonic result of Jaap Vink's works is always perceived as musical, and as the product of someone who naturally masters the equipment and synthesis techniques at his disposal. Allthough trained as a radio technician, he always had a special interest for the piano and violin, and the sounds of his two step-sisters studying violin and piano have accompanied him early on.
Jaap's aim has been the focus on searching for rich 'acoustic' sounds using that electronic medium, hence his use of the stochastic micro modulation techniques.
Instead of composition, his works could perhaps better be describe as 'guided improvisation', because during his research he would come to certain complex synthesis set-ups, and over and over improvised with the sound-fields until it would hit him to be right. As the magnetic tape recording system was part of the synthesis model as such, the improvisations were directly registered on tape to be filed as final work, as document, or as material to work on further or to review.

Whereas most of Jaap's pieces are generally perceived as one flow, the amount of detail in the overall sound is remarkable. It is nearly certain that his long solo sailing journeys in the North Sea and around Scotland have been influential in his concepts of time flow, and that he probably merged his observations of all details in light shades and characters of the waves and the clouds into his sonic palette.

Compared to his contemporaries, Jaap Vink's improvisational approach was quite opposite to the more systematic (and sometimes rigid) composition/production practice in general. He believed that his works were merely temporary outcomes from his ongoing search for that violin string sound, as opposed to being (important or groundbreaking) 'works of art'. Together with his humble attitude as a person, this has made him stand aside somewhat in recognition within the circle of electronic music, although his colleagues did much admire him for his technical knowledge and sonic skills, and so did his many students and composers he has worked with. In fact, he would often produce sound synthesis systems and materials for visiting composers when operating the equipment became a problem for them. But, in Jaap's words, the whole field of electronic music was new, many things had to be discovered, through study or by pure serendipity.


TOMORROW
Still today, his music is not only recorded perfectly, but also musically and sonically it is intriguing, worth to be heard and appreciated by the electronic music community and audience. Plans are being developed to make his work public at this moment, I hope the results will come soon.
Meanwhile, Jaap enjoys his quiet life behind the dikes, reading books on physics, philosophy, and English literature. This humble article could not be concluded better than by citing Jaap Vink's most favorite quote
(from William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5):

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more;
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


POST SCRIPTUM (May 2014):
By reading my notes for the initial article (Feb 2014) once more, I decided to add more details on Jaap's works and techniques, and to add a little special on Jo Scherpenisse and his important technical work at Sonology, generating the unique equipment to be explored and used by many.
With many thanks to Kees Tazelaar (electronic music composer, author of On the threshold of Beauty: Philips and the Origins of Electronic Music in the Netherlands 1925–1965, and head of the Institute of Sonology The Hague) some important data in this article have now been corrected.
Finally, Kees kindly supplied specific details regarding the developments that eventually lead to the Institute of Sonology, and where exactly Jaap Vink entered the stage.
As a result I can conclude this article with some additional historical facts:

- March 1956-October 1960: in use, the studio for electronic music at the acoustics department of Philips Research Laboratories Eindhoven (NatLab) is in use (famous for the works of Henk Badings, Dick Raaijmakers and Tom Dissevelt)
- November 1960: this studio is continued at the Utrecht State University under the name STEM (Studio voor Elektronische Muziek), from 1960-1962 directed by Roelof Vermeulen, from 1962-1964 by composer Henk Badings, and after September 1964 by composer Gottfried Michael Koenig (artistic director)
- October 1967: STEM becomes the Intitute of Sonology (Utrecht State University)

Meanwhile a second line of development evolves:

-July 1956: founding of CEM (Contactorgaan Elektronische Muziek), the initiator of the electronic music education studio at the Technische Hogeschool Delft, running from 1957 until 1960, led by Willem Kok.
- Early 1961: founding of the CEM electronic music studio in Bilthoven, actually a continuation of the Delft studio.
It is here Jaap Vink becomes studio technician, and where (starting from 1961) several lectures and courses concerning electronic music repertoire and production are provided by Koenig.
- When STEM becomes the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht in 1967, Bilthoven's educational program is transferred to Sonology, and Jaap Vink becomes part of that great team of people who made the Institute of Sonology the center of electronic music research, education, and production in the Netherlands.

POST SCRIPTUM (July 2014):
During my recent fine visit to Jaap, together with Ernst Bonis (that other sound synthesis master in PLL patches and especially FM-synthesis for bells and carillon) we discussed some details regarding topics in this article that called for the minor corrections effective as of now. More details and illustrations will be added soon.

 

REFERENCES:
- Personal communications (visits, phone, e-mail) with Jaap Vink, Jo Scherpenisse, Ernst Bonis, and Stan Tempelaars during the last 20 years
- Jaap Vink & Bill Buxton, Studio Manual, Institute of Sonology, 1974
- Peter Peters, Eeuwige jeugd: Een halve eeuw Stichting Gaudeamus, Donemus, 1995
- Frits Weiland & Stan Tempelaars, Elektronische muziek, Bohn Scheltema & Holtema, 1982
- Wim van Kuilenburg, A new studio mixer, Interface I, 1972
- Jo Scherpenisse, An eight-channel level monitor, Interface II, 1973
- Stan Tempelaars, A double variable function generator, Electronic Music Reports, Institute of Sonology, 1970
- Kees Tazelaar, On the Threshold of Beauty: Philips and the Origins of Electronic Music in the Netherlands 1925–1965, V2, 2013
- Gerard de Wit, Nieuwe muziek, A&O boekje 1221, 1968

My sincere gratitude goes to Kees Tazelaar, who did a tremendous job editing the text in terms of historical facts, but most of all corrected style and translations. This article has gained quality by his efforts.
Special thanks to Marion Verhees and Joline LeRovan for work on the initial version of the text.

Dedicated to the late Stan Tempelaars, who encouraged me to draw attention to the works of Jaap Vink,
Hans Kulk, February 2014/May 2014.


Update july 2015: find some small information on the work Tide II, performed during
Ars Electronica 1984: >>http://90.146.8.18/en/archives/festival_archive/festival_catalogs/festival_artikel.asp?iProjectID=9321

During a phone call with Jaap (july 5, 2015) we talked about his work Screen. Jaap pointed out that his basic focus had been a process of 'colouration', the carefull combination of the various sound sheets (comprised of third-octave filtered low, mid, and high frequency parts). Those were intuitively combined and adjusted for dynamic movement during the piece at the mixing desk.
The instrumentation and tone colour genius of Ravel has always inspired Jaap.

Update august 2016: during another phone call (aug 27 2016) Jaap mentioned working together with an important Dutch writer Harry Mulisch. For the 1980 book 'Compositie van de Wereld' (Composition of the World, transl. HK) Jaap composed/produced music at the Sonology studio's, together with the voice of Mulisch being the second part of the book. It was released with the book as a 45 rpm single to accompany the printed first part. As this comes as another surprise to me, I've directly ordered this release through a surplus book site, and hope to inform you soon.

Update november 2016: The recording contains no music, but various combinations of sine wave tones and glissandi to illustrate Mulisch's proposed theory of 'octaviteit'(octavity? transl. HK) being one aspect of the ideas in the book. The topics addressed are too extensive to discuss here, but e.g. the glissando starting from silence and sub-audio gradually going up towards ultra-audio range into silence again is to be an illustration of the though that those two silences are the same, yet still they have become different through the temporal process in between.

Harry Mulisch, De Compositie van de Wereld, 1980, Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam.

Update january 2017-1: Jaap (phone call january 8th 2017) is very happy to have received a CD-box with works performed by the great Dutch oboe player Han de Vries (*1941). It contains a 1972 recording of 'Residuals' with Han de Vries and Polo de Haas, so a combined electro-acoustic performance. As I'm very curious I'll try to get this recording soon and get more details on this.

http://www.attaccaproductions.com/product/han-de-vries-the-almost-last-recordings-2016-148/


Update january 2017-2: With many thanks to mr. Peter Bree I've had the opportunity to listen to the 1972 recording (by VARA Radio) of 'Residuals'; A live first performance of an instrumental composition by Polo de Haas to the tape from Jaap, Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Ensemble line-up:

Rien de Reede (flute)
Han de Vries (oboe)
Willem van Manen (trombone)
Harry Sparnaay (bass clarinet)
Polo de Haas (piano)
Martin van Duynhoven (percussion)

These performers are well known for their exceptional contribution to new music in The Netherlands. From the first impression of the recording the instrumental composition containes notes-phrases-sounds to be used freely by the musicians in a 'guided improvisation'; several sections/blocks are clearly noticeable in their transitions.

The overall instrumental music is well balanced along the tape part; (happily) you'll find sections where the instruments are all silent and the tape sound come forward. Also very nice is the addition of piano and drums/percussion only appearing at the
final third section of the piece, so introduction of a new sound palet.
The tape by Jaap stands out through his exceptional timeless sounds and the use of his phase-shifting-flanging spatial stereo sound, clearly there.

Peter Bree kindly provided his notes on the piece, to be found in the sleeves of the CD-box:

Residuals is a 'shared' work: Jaap Vink first wrote the electronic composition and
Polo de Haas added the instrumental parts.
Jaap Vink set up the Studio for Electronic Music (STEM) in Bilthoven in 1961 and
was in charge of this studio till 1967. He followed several courses about electronic
music with Gottfried Michael König and was on the staff of the Institute for Sonology
of the University of Utrecht, which in 1986 was taken over by the Royal
Conservatoire in The Hague. He continued to work there till 1993.
Polo de Haas initially made a career as a pianist (he was a pupil of Jacques Février
and Eduardo Del Pueyo, among others) and later also composed pieces of an
improvisatory character. He ranks as an advocate of contemporary music.
In a programme note Jaap Vink wrote: "The name Residuals is borrowed from
chemistry. It is the indication of a 'residue or rest', as a result of a chemical reaction.
These remnants are often unwanted. An analogon is found in electronics where the
concept of 'leakage' referring to remaining tension or remaining sounds is by and
large synonymous with residue. Leakage can often be attributed to an inaccurate
construction or adjustment or both and is therefore not wanted. The 'strengthened'
remnants of sounds are the sound material for Residuals. The remarkable thing is
that these sounds often give the impression of being contorted instrumental sounds.
However, no concrete sound whatsoever has been incorporated."
The producer of the recording (in 1972) noted: "the tape upon which this work is
based has been designed purely stereophonically. The recording of this work may
therefore not be compatible, i.e. listeners in mono will not always hear a correct sound
picture."

Han de Vries – The Almost Last Recordings (18CDs, 1DVD):
Attacca Records ATT 2016.148
http://www.attaccaproductions.com/product/han-de-vries-the-almost-last-recordings-2016-148/


Update feb 2017:

In a recent email contact with Jim O'Rourke (Japan) Jim provided a link to an electronic piece he has dedicated to Jaap in 2016.
It is a fantastic piece, and can be found here:
'It's the Story All Night' https://steamroom.bandcamp.com/album/steamroom-25

AND: We are so happy to see the announcement of the double LP with the works of Jaap!
It will be released on may 5th. See here for details: http://editionsmego.com/release/REGRM018EXT

Also read the excellent text by Kees Tazelaar:

The Institute of Sonology in Utrecht has earned its international reputation mostly for pioneering work in the field of computer-assisted algorithmic composition and digital sound synthesis by composers such as Gottfried Michael Koenig, Werner Kaegi, Paul Berg and Barry Truax. Anyone familiar with the music of these composers would have to admit that even within this ‘genre’ there were no stylistic dogmas. The stylistic range of Sonology’s artistic output becomes even broader when the work of other staff and frequent guests is taken into account, for example the compositions based on field recordings and audio-visual projects by Frits Weiland, the radiophonic works and pieces for tape and instruments by Luctor Ponse, the cybernetic tape compositions by Roland Kayn, or the experiments with computer graphics by Peter Struycken, to name just a few. And then there was Jaap Vink.

Jaap Vink (Den Helder, 1930) studied engineering at first, but then became interested in electronic music. He attended courses in electroacoustics at Delft University of Technology and installed a pedagogical studio for electronic music in 1961 at the Gaudeamus Foundation in Bilthoven with the help of the Nederlandse Radio Unie (NRU). He was a staff member at the Institute of Sonology as a teacher in analogue studio techniques from 1967 until his retirement in 1993.

Jaap Vink always tried to break out of the periodicity of the sounds so abundantly available in the electronic music studio. Although his music was entirely produced with purely electronic sound material, its textures resemble the richness of orchestral sounds, or large natural sound-complexes, as a result of recursive processes. The density of this sound material increases and decreases by careful control of feedback networks with configurations of analogue tape recorders (delay lines), filters and modulators. It should come as no surprise that his work is being rediscovered at a time when a new generation of musicians has conquered the stage with modular synthesizer setups and ‘no-input mixers’, in which feedback of audio and control signals plays an important role. And although Jaap Vink’s music wasn’t performed live but produced and recorded on magnetic tape in the studio, it is exactly the human interaction with feedback processes that connects his work with the current generation of live electronic music performers. To some extent Jaap Vink’s pieces are indeed recorded live improvisations, and extending his patches and ‘rehearsing’ with them was an ongoing process. To see Jaap Vink at work in the studio was to hear the studio coming to life. After his composition Screen (1968) had been performed at concerts and released on the famous Electronic Panorama LP-set (Philips 6740 001), Jaap Vink was asked regularly to contribute to Sonology’s concerts in the Netherlands and abroad. It was for these occasions that his recorded studio improvisations were brought to the level of fixed compositions and given titles. The selection presented here gives an overview of Jaap Vink’s works made in Utrecht, ranging from his first composition Screen up to Tide 1985, produced during the Institute of Sonology’s last year in that city.
Kees Tazelaar

 

 

to be continued




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