Samuel Vriezen (b. 1973)



Within Fourths/Within Fifths [MP3] (2006) | Score [PDF]

Dedicated to conceptual composer Tom Johnson, Within Fourths/Within Fifths is a Johnson-like systematic chord progression in two movements, each consisting of five parts. The five parts present chorales in one, two, three, four and five voices respectively. In the first movement, all voices are restricted to three pitches, a fourth apart. In the second movement, the voices are restricted to four pitches, a fifth apart. The piece is a very gradually descending ordering of all possible combinations of pitches among the voices. Due to the nature of the ordering process, the resulting music is remarkably rich in tonal color and complex in phrase structure.

This recording is of Samuel Vriezen's performance at Roulette, New York, october 28, 2009.

20 Worlds [MP3] (2005) | Score [PDF, 45mb]

Samuel Vriezen: "Two pianists journey together through a circular universe of twenty possible worlds. The worlds appear and disappear one by one, echoed between the two piano parts, and up to four of them may be present at the same time in a gradually shifting multi-cultural mosaic of musical worlds.

In this piece, just as in the 5 extremely short "possible world" pieces I wrote in 2003, a 'world' is identified by a typical basic motivic gesture. Each 'world' varies on its basic gesture according to its own laws. These twenty worlds (Possible Worlds nr. 6-25?) are then intertwined to appear in eighty numbered sections. The eighty sections are arranged in a circular way: section 1 can follow section 80. The odd sections are only played by pianist I. Pianist II plays the even sections. Taken together, the odd and the even sections make use of the same material.

20 Worlds is dedicated to Dante Boon. If not for the many conversations we've had about Cage, Xenakis, Sibelius, etc. and his wonderful insights and intuitions about music, a piece like this would have been unlikely."

The recording is of the first performance at Mellotone Studios, Amsterdam, december 18, 2005 with Dante Boon and Samuel Vriezen playing.

Possible Worlds, nr. 5 [MP3] (2003) | Score [PDF]

Samuel Vriezen: "I wrote a series of five extremely short piano pieces called each Possible World in 2005. They last between 15 and 20 seconds each, with the exception of the slower nr. 4, which lasts around 30 seconds. Possible World 1-4 are for one piano. Possible World nr. 5 is for one, two, three or four pianos, with each pianist playing a different ordering of the same material."

This particular performance was recorded in Vienna during the Wiener Tage der Zeitgenössischen Klaviermusik in 2005, Samuel Vriezen and Dante Boon playing.

Begin [MP3] (1996)

A student work, Begin showcases an interest in extreme virtuosity and precision of gesture, exploding melodic contour to the point of imperceptibility. The piece was initially planned to be the first movement of a projected four movement piece, hence the title, Begin ("Beginning"). The other movements were never written.

This performance took place at De Posthoornkerk, Amsterdam, on april 27, 1997, the amazing Dante Boon playing.


Crawling [MP3] (2010) | Score [PDF]

A completely modular piece performable by almost any group of instruments and designed to have highly variable duration. The form is open-ended with a set of pages that can be used in any combination and order, opening up the piece to further democratization as interpreters are invited to bring in material of their own.

No matter what you put in, the piece is a loose kind of variable, semi-improvised canon, with performers independently playing gradually shifting loops out of the same materials, opening up the most primitive musical materials to rich multidimensional polyphonies.

The recording is of the performance at De Badcuyp in Amsterdam, as part of the Karnatic Lab series, on november 9 2010. The performers are Dante Boon, piano; Naomi Sato, saxophone; Taylan Susam, clarinet; Samuel Vriezen, melodica.

The Weather Riots [MP3] (2002) | Score [PDF]

Samuel Vriezen: "The Weather Riots was written for Number Night, which was part of Concerten Tot en Met, a concert series I organized dedicated to new and experimental chamber music in Amsterdam. The idea behind Number Night was that the notations invented by John Cage for his late works such as Music For... and the "number pieces" could be seen as defining a genre, just like Mass, Fugue or Sonata Form, that can have stylistic meaning beyond Cage's own style and aesthetic interests. I asked six composers to write new pieces based on Cage's stopwatch notation, The Weather Riots being my own contribution.

The piece is written for a minimum of two and a maximum of a few thousand high instruments, which may include flutes, clarinets, oboes, pianos, vibraphones, violins, etc. In The Weather Riots, each performer plays his/her own version of the same part which (s)he has prepared in advance, choosing for each 'time bracket' a number (1 to 6) of melodic fragments from a given collection of fragments. These can then be combined in many ways. Inevitably, there will be echoes or other relations of similarity between the parts. The fragment collections themselves change shape slowly over time, sometimes foregrounding certain contour types, sometimes certain harmonies, sometimes certain articulations, sometimes broadening scope, sometimes narrowing scope. They define the musical space that the performers each can articulate in their own way: a counterpoint of personalities."

This recording is the original performance at Concerten Tot en Met by the incidental ensemble for the concert, the Number Night Ensemble, at the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam on february 24, 2002.

Hoe de oevers over de sloepen treden/en elk een mond vol kersenpitten (2011) Score [PDF]

Samuel Vriezen: "Piece for 4-8 whistlers or woodwinds. Composed at the request of Annelein Pompe as part of her final exams at the Rietveld Academy. Her project was a study of the relationship between title and work. I was given a title chosen by Bernke Klein Zandvoort for another work of art; then I composed my piece; then Maartje Smits chose yet another title for my piece. The two titles turned out to fit nicely together, hence the full title, which in English would read something like 'How the shores are rising above the sloops/and each a mouth full of cherry-stones'.

The piece, which by Annelein's stipulation, had to be composed in a single day, is a study of breath and ascending lines that exponentially ascend less and less as the piece progresses."

Ensemble (2008) [PDF]
Local Orchestra (2008) [PDF]

Samuel Vriezen: "Ensemble and Local Orchestra are the two pieces that comprise the Sites Series so far. In these pieces, the attempt is to make the music as much as possible about the interaction between musicians according to rules, so that the social structure of the performance situation may become audible as such. The rules are simple but result in very complicated musical situations, as every single performer is given maximum responsibility for the entire performance as possible.

'Ensemble' studies the situation for 4 or more performers who make up a group that one can still think of as an ensemble. 'Local Orchestra' is similar, but here the idea is that the group will be too big to be able still to function as one organic whole, so that the interaction can not be between the single performers by themselves and the group as a whole. Instead, the piece will be a tapestry of local groups of musicians woven together into one giant group, who will play a music too vast for any single musician or listener to encompass.

The pieces look very simple on paper, but they are quite hard to perform well and take a lot of time to prepare. Local Orchestra in particular is so utopian in this respect that I do not think I'll live to see an actual performance of the piece."


4 Weeks / 16 Minutes (Documentary Actions for 4 performers) [MP3] (2011) | Score [PDF]

4 Weeks/16 Minutes lets 4 performers attempt to collectively document their lives during one single month, just before performance of the piece. Every day at a time determined in advance, three performers record words to be spoken during performance, and one performer records a short sound clip, recording the enviromental sounds of whatever place s/he happens to be in at that moment.

The 16 Minutes refer to the public performance, in which those 4 weeks are condensed into 16 minutes of music, each week becoming one 4-minute "movement". The recordings are cut-up, spliced together, and played back by the 4 performers, each controlling a separate piece of consumer audio electronics.

The recording is of the first performance of the piece, at Theater Kikker in Utrecht on march 11, 2011, and documents the lives of the four percussionists of Slagwerk Den Haag: Fedor Theunisse, Juan Martinez, Frank Wienk and Pepe Garcia.

Motet [MP3] (2004) | Score [PDF]

The medieval motet form often featured multiple texts being sung at the same time. Often a fragment of Gregorian liturgy would function as the base for the other melodies and texts. In modern times, of course, such a hierarchical organization of textual roles is to be avoided.

In Motet, three speakers independently choose a prose text. The score specifies how to cut up the prose text among the three speakers, so that during performance an elaborate new super-text emerges, full of intricate canonic effects.

This performance by Dante Boon, Martijn Voorvelt and Samuel Vriezen took place at Marci Panis in Amsterdam on octboer 14, 2004.

10 Readers (2008)
  1. Part 1 [MP3]
  2. Part 2 [MP3]
  3. Part 3 [MP3]
  4. Part 4 [MP3]
  5. Part 5 [MP3]
  6. Part 6 [MP3]
  7. Part 7 [MP3]
  8. Part 8 [MP3]
  9. Part 9 [MP3]
  10. Part 10 [MP3]
Score [PDF]

Ten readers, each with their own book, sitting in a wide circle or semi-circle. Every now and then, on a cue from their .mp3-player, a reader will read one word out loud. A very basic social situation: a collective of private reading universes, punctured according to a very simple rhythmic plan.

Samuel Vriezen: "10 Readers is part of a series of pieces in which I use spoken text. In many of those pieces I do not actually prescribe the text, but I specify how performers put together texts that each of them bring to the occasion. What you get is something like a chance encounter of texts, and out of it might emerge a super-text or a diagonal text, which is no longer part of a single text stream but evokes a community of texts.

In this piece in particular I thought of the typical coffee house environment, where people might sit together sipping coffee and reading their book or newspaper or magazine. Everybody is in a private world but at the same time, these very private worlds form something like a social scene. In such situations we seem to be on the very border of being private and being public, and that is precisely one of the most fundamental borders to our modern culture. We're private individuals or public citizens, and the drive in how we organize our culture is towards making those two spheres as separate as possible. And that divide can actually be quite problematic.

Practically, what I was interested in were two things. First, the idea that you could "puncture" those private worlds, and so play with this fundamental divide. Second, there was the idea that we could produce a text that has no conscious author whatsoever. This is an ideal that can't ever be quite reached, I think. Of course, in the history of experimental poetry there have been all sorts of techniques by which an author would try to divest him/herself of his/her authority, like chance procedures etc. Usually however those techniques will always select from a consciously chosen source text and the choice procedure itself will reflect some kind of literary bias. Here, I thought it would be interesting not only to relinquish my own control over what the source texts could be - the only thing I specify is, it should be books and none of the readers may influence one another in their choice - but also to put the readers in a situation where they can't actively control what fragments will emerge in the process to be part of the final text. For that reason I used the click track rhythm, with its unpredictable clicks guiding the choice of word. Which has the additional theatrical advantage of evoking people listening each to their own music as they read - something that people do, always to my slight amazement.

The most interesting thing I learned from the piece however is that it can actually cause new social situations. Not merely in performance. But it's a real work of performance art that does not take high-level performance skills or too much preparation - you only need to run it a couple of times and make sure everybody is comfortable and able to pronounce the words well and that's more or less it. So it's very easy to organize and you can organize the ensemble by just calling friends, friends of friends, etc. Often, the piece brings together an unexpected group of people, who get to share a very odd responsibility. So it creates these social bodies that can of course be evanescent, still they exist. I feel that music in fact can be a great way of thinking and experimenting with social structure, and my experiences with this piece have strengthened that conviction."

Grind (2007) Score [PDF]

Ten minute performance poem for four voices in Dutch and English. The Dutch words and the English words are almost, but not quite, translations of each other. The title itself is a word in both languages with a different meaning - the Dutch word 'grind' meaning pebbles.


Between Chords [MP3] (2006) | Score [PDF]

A string quartet of chords that are never quite there.

This is the recording of the first performance in Düsseldorf, june 12, 2007 during the Wandelweiser Sommerakademie by a wonderful pick-up quartet of composer/performers consisting of Johnny Chang, Marc Sabat, Julia Eckhardt and Stefan Thut.

Eindig Stuk [MP3] (2004)

String Quartet and Electric Guitar.

Eindig Stuk: Finite Piece.

This piece is about counting down. Section numbers run downwards instead of upwards; players count these numbers out loud.

The piece is structured as a sequence of blocks, in the present version running from 29 to 23. The odd-numbered blocks last 20 seconds each. The even-numbered blocks last 10 seconds x the block number, so 28 lasts 4'40", 26 lasts 4'20", 24 lasts 4'00". The electric guitar player counts out the block numbers.

Within each block, each of the string parts plays a number of count-down sequences (either 2 sequences of 6 counts, 3 of 5, 4 of 4 or 5 of 3). These sections, too, systematically get shorter.

The blocks and sequences within the blocks are articulated musically by a diversity of means, giving each block a unique character, though all blocks express the exact same counting structure.

The present version of the piece ends at block 23. Should the rest of the structure be composed out, the end of the piece will be 25 minutes and 20 seconds after the end of this version. The composer may or may not decide to extend the piece at a later date; it is possible that he will compose out blocks from among 22 to 1; possibly blocks 30, 31, ... will be added at the beginning of the piece.

The piece is finite, not finished.

Eindig Stuk was written for het Zephyr Kwartet en Wiek Hijmans and commissioned by the Dutch Fund for the Creation of Music (Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst).

Panoramic Variations (2004)
  1. Part 1 [MP3]
  2. Part 2 [MP3]
  3. Part 3 [MP3]
  4. Part 4 [MP3]
  5. Part 5 [MP3]
  6. Part 6 [MP3]

Six pieces for the unlikely combination of two trombones, two flutes and two clarinets (one bass), exploring the possibilities of stopwatch coordination and simultaneously layered tempo change. This recording presents The Barton Workshop and the NODUS ensemble at the 2004 ISCM Miami on april 9, 2004.

Terug! (2003)
  1. Movement 3 [MP3]
  2. Movement 4 [MP3]
  3. Movement 5 [MP3]
  4. Movement 7 [MP3]

Samuel Vriezen: "Written for Orkest De Volharding between 1999 and 2003, Terug! (Dutch for Go back!) was a study of the tragic in fundamentalism, that is: of the impossibility of reducing complex material to a supposed core.

The idea for this theme reflects the history of Orkest De Volharding ("Orchestra Perseverance"). As I saw it, left-wing parliamentary politics seemed to be in search of its foundations, and seemed quite unable to find them. Likewise, the once revolutionary New Music Ensemble culture of The Netherlands had by the late 90s seemed to become rather complacent.

De Volharding was founded in the early seventies by Louis Andriessen, as a project to merge the radical politics and advanced experimental music of the day, by an instrumentation that resembles something like a small-scale big band or a street wind band. At the time, they were playing minimalist and experimental works, often playing at political demonstrations and the like.

By 2003 however, the politics of the orchestra had changed dramatically if not disappeared entirely, running parallel to the political developments in the Netherlands over those decades. The later 90s had landed the country with the almost completely de-politicized Purple Coalition, a combination of leftwing and rightwing parties, which was more or less the Dutch incarnation of the international Third Way in labor politics (which itself was basically a form of treason to left-wing ideology by left-wing politicians, made possible by the high general level of affluence in society). Similarly, Orkest De Volharding had all but abjured its political background. Yet something like a hunger for real politics was in the air, and certainly so by 2003, by which time the Neocons had taken over the world and in the Netherlands radical xenophobic populism was on the rise. When in 2010 the populists finally came into power, the re-politicization of the country was complete and to mark the event, the populists forced their coalition partners to enact radical cuts to the country's arts budget from which groups like De Volharding were subsidized. (The group itself had by then been defunct for a few years already.)

The original version of Terug! was in 7 movements, but it is presented here as a 4-movement suite. Coordination in the piece is done by stopwatch throughout, making room for individual timings. Most of the piece is thought as ultra-polyphonic tutti.

The idea of 'reduction' is heard most clearly in movements 3, 5 and 7. 3 is a sort of fugue in which each of the parts systematically leaves out one more note with each statement of the melody - but nobody seems to be able to agree on which notes to leave out, so these reductions of the melody end up making the whole much more complex than it started out.

Similar things happen in nr. 5, but here the movement is started anew a number of times - backtracking to ever different beginnings.

In nr. 7, the very origin of Orkest De Volharding is brought into play: the trill that started Louis Andriessen's original founding composition. All the material in the piece gets compressed, 'sucked up' by this trill, and so the piece ends with a microscopic final chord, full of microtonal motion and beatings, that you may or may not think of as the True Core of Music finally achieved.

The original sonic inspiration for the 4th movement came from hearing an early Feldman piece, and hearing it as marine life forms seen moving through unclear waters. The movement combines reductive processes with canonic techniques to produce a continuously morphing field of total polyphony. The processes are much harder to distinguish here: perpetual reduction leads to an opaque, but very pretty, ever changing field of sound. This was the first movement where I used independent accelerandi and ritardandi in all voices. (such as, later, in Panoramic Variations)

Terug! was commissioned by the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst. The recording here presents the 2nd performance of the piece at Theater Kikker, Utrecht, on march 27, 2003."

Toccata III [MP3] (2001)

Two Glockenspiels play similar lines in different tempi and cause the material to echo back and forth between the two of them. Each section uses a different selection of materials, interlocking them in generally simple, repetitive ways and causing diverse interferences (harmonic and contrapuntal relations) between the two voices. The result is a dense web of illusory voice leadings, types of motion and harmonic shadings. The sequences are interrupted by pauses and crumbs of solo writing.

The piece was written for Duo Vertigo: percussionists Claire Edwardes and Niels Meliefste. This recording is of their performance at Bethanienklooster, Amsterdam on june 3, 2004, in the final concert of the "Concerten Tot en Met" series, which was curated for seven years by Samuel Vriezen. The first few seconds are unfortunately missing; in spite of that it is the best-sounding recording of the piece so far.

2 Suites (2004) Score [PDF]

A short six movement piece for violin and piano. Total duration: 7 minutes. Consisting of two suites that are intertwined: there is the Twines Suite (Twine I, II, III) and the Pieces Suite (Soft Piece, Fast Piece, High Piece). The Twines tend towards implosion, getting shorter (30", 20", 10"); the Pieces tend towards expansion, getting longer (1', 2', 3').


Rachmaninov Tableau [MP3] (2003)

Samuel Vriezen: "Rachmaninov Tableau consists of 20 superimposed versions of the same recording of a beautiful Etude-Tableau by Rachmaninov, played by Dante Boon. The 20 superimpositions form a 'canon' in which the distance between consecutive voices first decreases (leading to higher densities) and then increases again. This result was then time-stretched using 4096 bands with SoundHack.

Sergei Rachmamninov was, intriguingly, called an "irrelevant genius" by Morton Feldman. The piece can be heard as an attempt to further open up the contrapuntal and harmonic richness of the original piece by transforming its conventional pianism into a mesmerizingly rich sonic hall of mirrors.

Rachmaninov Tableau was composed in a single afternoon, in order to prove some point about conceptual composition in an internet discussion. I don't recall if I won the argument."

Toccata VI [MP3] (2003)

Samuel Vriezen: "The most beautiful, strange and unheard of thing that electronic music has made possible for us probably is still the perfect sine wave tone, which, like the perfect circle, is just too pure a thing to appear in nature.

Here, it appears in four voices in descending overtone scales, fast at first, slowing down, and then speeding up again - rising this time. After this first section of 3 minutes, the process happens again, but lasting 8 minutes, being a bit more dense and with gradual shifts of the scale fundamentals, resulting in very rich harmonies."


Samuel Vriezen (1973) is an Amsterdam-based composer. Vriezen's work shows an interest in non-standard ways of organizing performer coordination and interaction and in exploring the panoramic contrapuntal possibilities that such methods of ensemble playing give.

Vriezen is also a poet and a pianist. He has written text compositions (or polyphonic poems), and his writing (including poetry, translations and essays) has been published in many literary journals including the Dutch Parmentier, the Flemish nY and the French Action Poétique. As a pianist, he is most known for his unique virtuoso rendition of Tom Johnson's Chord Catalogue. Together with Dante Boon, Vriezen produced the CD recording of Johnson's Symmetries on Karnatic Lab Records.