Michel van der Aa


February 2016

The Book of Disquiet – first performances in the US and UK

Samuel WestSamuel West

The Book of Disquiet has recently received its first US and UK performances, in a new English-language production starring Samuel West. One of Van der Aa’s most critically acclaimed works, The Book of Disquiet sets the posthumous “‘factless autobiography” of Bernardo Soares, alter ego of the Portuguese novelist Fernando Pessoa.

After the work’s US premiere at Montclair State University, New Jersey, in January, James R. Oestreich of the New York Times wrote:

“The films, directed by Mr. van der Aa, create a sort of dream world, and they are where the multiplicity of characters come in, as well as the wonderful fado singer, Ana Moura. […] The music, too, relates mostly to the beautiful films, underlining scenes of agitation, for example, with liberal dissonance and in general fomenting a mood of, yes, disquiet.
Memorable it will be, for its very strangeness, as well as for Mr. van der Aa’s imaginative production and for Mr. West’s riveting performance.”

The first UK performances took place on 24 and 25 January at the Coronet Theatre, London, performed by the London Sinfonietta, and were well received by the British press.

“[Pessoa’s] manic intensity beneath a seemingly static surface is wonderfully captured in Van der Aa’s score, which has bouts of violent, jagged-rhythmed writing following by luscious, saccharine passages of calm. Sadly, only two performances. The Book of Disquiet deserves to be booked for a disquieting reprise.” (*****)
— The Times, Richard Morrison

“Sinfonietta shines in beautifully crafted Van der Aa theatre piece […] Both aspects are projected through Van der Aa’s wonderfully accomplished dramatic reworking” (****)
— The Guardian, Andrew Clements

“The Coronet […] generously embraced Michel van der Aa’s multidisciplinary extravaganza […] The Dutch composer has consistently and ingeniously combined music, film-making and words – all under his direction – into single works of zest and beauty. [Actor Samuel] West, delivering a meditation from the Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, is breathtakingly competent.[…] It is hard, and perhaps wrong to try, to separate Van der Aa’s music from the whole experience: you come away with an aural image of long brass lines riding across lurching, urgent unison string figures. It’s only an impression. There’s so much more. At the end all is suddenly darkness. Stepping from this mesmerising interior fantasy into the roar of Elephant’s urban verismo is quite a wake-up call.” (****)
— The Observer, Fiona Maddocks

Book of Disquiet Montclair


Michel van der Aa (Netherlands, 1970) is a truly multidisciplinary figure in contemporary music. A unique voice, he combines composition with film and stage direction, and script writing. Classical instruments, voices, electronic sound, actors, theatre and video are all seamless extensions of his musical vocabulary.

upcoming performances

  • 19 April 2018
    New work (world premiere)
    Wende Snijders, voice. Michel van der Aa, guitar
    Nieuw Amsterdams Peil
    Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 19 April 2018
    Dormant (world premiere)
    Nieuw Amsterdams Peil
    Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer, clarinet. Mick Stirling, cello. Michel van der Aa, guitar.
    Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 19 April 2018
    For the time being
    Nieuw Amsterdams Peil.
    Wende Snijders, mezzo-soprano. Heleen Hulst, violin. Gerard Bouwhuis, piano. Dario Calderone, double bass.
    Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam, Netherlands



  • tonight the brilliant @ned_kamerkoor and Peter Dijkstra will perform 'Shelter' at the @klarafestival -
https://klarafestival.be/en/programme/the-psalms-experience-suffering tonight the brilliant @ned_kamerkoor and Peter Dijkstra will perform 'Shelter' at the @klarafestival - https://klarafestival.be/en/programme/the-psalms-experience-suffering


  • the thing with playing guitar through an epic looping delay is that the fuckups also haunt you for ever 05 July 2017
  • and here am I covering Klaus Maria Brandauer in paper boats https://t.co/WarKXl6POv 04 July 2017
  • preparing "The Book of Disquiet" for Lucerne Festival. Came across these 'making of’ photos.… https://t.co/f16zqUmda9 04 July 2017

recent video


upclose TNSol Gabetta, cello. Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Candida Thompson
31:11 min.

recent audio


Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel & Kyver
Latest update 20 March 2018