Sound sculpture for Jan Wolff

Four years after Jan Wolff (1941-2012) died, he’ll be honoured with a sound sculpture on the border of the Amsterdam IJ. It was designed by the Dutch composer Martijn Padding at the request of Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, and will be launched on Monday 22 August, the day of his death. It was thanks to Wolff’s relentless battle that the iconic glass and steel Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ opened its doors in 2005.

It had taken the former horn player of the Concertgebouw Orchestra a quarter century to realize his dream of an attractive concert hall for new music. This was to replace the small IJsbreker with its dreadful acoustics, that he had established on the Amstel river 25 years earlier. The IJsbreker was the first concert hall purely dedicated to new music and it soon gained world renown, by the quality of its programmes, the visiting musicians and composers.

Jan Wolff (c) Serge Ligtenberg

Jan Wolff (c) Serge Ligtenberg

Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ was officially opened by three solemn strokes on a huge gong by Queen Beatrix in 2005, and was unofficially dubbed ‘Wolffinarium’. Soon after its opening however, Wolff was ousted by other parties, who considered his programming to be substandard. It’s one of the darker pages in the formative years of Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ.  Therefore it is good news that the present management has decided to honour Wolff and do justice to history.

Aptly the sound sculpture is called ‘Huil van de Wolff’ (The Howl of the Wolff) and will be placed on the borders of the IJ, close to Muziekgebouw. Its music will be determined by meteorological data around it, such as humidity and wind speed. On a metaphysical level, it is hoped Wolff may respond from on high – as wolves are wont to communicate in call & response fashion.

Whether or not Jan Wolff will indeed become a ‘howling wolf’, time will tell.

I also wrote an article for Cultuurpers (in Dutch), click here.


About theaderks

Thea Derks is a Dutch music journalist, who studied musicology at Amsterdam University. She' specialized in contemporary music and always has an eye open for women composers. In 2014 she wrote the biography of Reinbert de Leeuw and in 2018 she published 'Een os op het dak: moderne muziek na 1900 in vogelvlucht'.
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