On February 26, the piece Parallax will be performed by Het Collectief and soprano Katrien Baerts. We spoke with composer Jan-Peter de Graaff about conspiracy theories, the new Amare and his collaboration with Katrien Baerts.
Your piece Parallax is about conspiracy theories. Where does your fascination with this subject come from? Were you already fascinated with it pre-corona?
In Parallax, someone gives a Ted-Talk-ish presentation in which she tries to take the audience along into believing that the earth is flat. She will launch herself in a rocket from the Earth’s surface to witness her supposed truth with her own eyes. I myself have always had a fascination for science and pseudoscience. After seeing a report on ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes (a man who has tried to launch himself from the surface of the earth twice to see with his own eyes whether the earth is a sphere, the second attempt was fatal) I had the idea to turn this subject into a musical dramatic performance. I also found out about the existence of the ‘Flat-Earth’ society, which also has many followers in the Netherlands and is growing. How people can fool themselves, but at the same time the vulnerability of it and also the idea that it could happen to all of us motivated me to use this topic to create this piece. See what is happening in today’s society where it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish fact from fiction due to the algorithms that are directing our lives.
Did you write the piece with soloist Katrien Baerts in mind? What is it like to work with her?
All the music I write is inspired by the artists I get to work with. Katrien is an amazing singer who completely and fearlessly interprets the most complex scores with a beautiful sound, flair and charm that few people have. In addition, she completely gets into her role and is very convincing on stage, even when she has to sing the most confusing theories with the sometimes difficult vocal antics that I have prescribed. Katrien is very professional, has absolute pitch and works very well with other musicians, also due to her experience as a violinist. Het Collectief is an ensemble that has also been working with Katrien for many years, so the chemistry will soon burst of off the stage.
Many people have not been to the theater for a while due to the pandemic and of course we hope to see them all again in Amare. What will they experience at Parallax?
The public will be taken into the delusion of this person who is here proclaiming her belief in the flat earth in an almost religious way and hopes to convey her passion to the public, supported by ensemble Het Collectief, who play a sometimes equally virtuoso part. She is looking for empathy and connection, precisely what we have been missing all this time! But for what purpose? Ultimately, I hope to challenge the audience to ask themselves to what extent they can distinguish contrasts in the sound of the text and music and the meaning of the text. Because to what extent are you as an audience prepared to go along with this delusion, this absurd belief even if it is something that draws you from reality for a while? Music can build a bridge between different worlds, but do we really want that bridge? Or would we rather stay in our own bubble?
Amare has been open for several months now. What do you think of this new theater and what is it like to be there with Parallax?
So far I have been extremely overwhelmed by the size of the building and the many possibilities which are available. I look forward to seeing my work come to life in this building. By the way, one of the things that gave me the idea to make this piece in the beginning were the pamphlets that (still in some places!) had been pasted against the fence around the construction site in recent years. Rattling words which made no sense at all, but carried a kind of abstract beauty with them. But still sheer (even offensive!) nonsense. However?
Parallax by Jan-Peter de Graaff will be performed on February 26 at 8:30 pm in the Amare studio. More info & tickets