Shambling Emerge

When nominated for the Gaudeamus prize, one had to write a piece for the ensemble in residence. In 2017 Kluster5 had the challenge to premiere 6 new pieces by both the nominees and Georgia Koumara, one of the composers in residence.

I instantly loved the combination of instruments: guitar, violin, baritone sax, percussion and piano. The band like quality was one I could easily worked with but didn’t feel like writing a heavy, rock oriented piece. Instead I wrote out a solo played by Dutch jazz pioneering pianist Misha Mengelberg, played in the last phase of his life. Suffering Alzheimer he sat behind the piano and played the most heartbreaking piano duo together with Emily Glerum, daughter of Ernst Glerum with whom Misha played numerous concerts in the ICP orchestra. The old man and the little girl were filmed by Bas Andriessen who coined the beautiful moment ‘after party’. This I turned into ‘after after party’.

The piece won the Gaudeamus award in 2017, beautifully played by Ensemble Kluster5.

The observant reader may immediately spot the anagram in the title Shambling Emerge: Misha Mengelberg, who died on 3 March 2017. He was a composer, pianist, improviser and co-founder of the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra. He made his name primarily in the field of free improvisation, but he was also a creditable composer: he won the Gaudeamus Award in 1961 for his work Musica Per 17 Instrumenti.

Now, fifty-six years later, Aart Strootman (nominated this year for the Gaudeamus Award) has written Shambling Emerge. He based the piece on a short film about Mengelberg made by Bas Andriessen. After a concert in the Bimhuis on 1 June 2014, Misha, dressed in an orange jacket and black cap, sits down at the piano in the café. After about a minute, Emily Glerum, the daughter of ICP bass player Ernst Glerum, joins him at the piano, and an extraordinary duet ensues. As Andriessen explains on You Tube, this is an example of informal music, such as Mengelberg heard in the late 1940s during the interval of a Duke Ellington concert in the Concertgebouw: ‘Misha observed Ellington’s totally spontaneous way of making music […] The fact that it was possible to make music so informally made a deep impression on the young Misha.’

The ‘afterparty’ film in turn made a deep impression on Strootman: ‘This duet, involving

an old man consumed by Alzheimer’s and a young, playful, innocent girl, was for me the purest music I’d heard in years.’ The title is not only a reference to Mengelberg, but also to the figure of Emily ‘shambling’ shyly towards the piano.

Text: Jan Nieuwenhuist
Translation: Robert Coupe

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