Michel van der Aa / Works / 


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In Above the same note material is repeated literally in the ensemble. Only the soundtrack is changed, providing new surroundings for the ensemble. With this changing soundtrack layer, each of the repeated sections is heard in a different context, with a new meaning and purpose. The soundtrack consists of repeats and previews of musical snippets from the ensemble. Ensemble sounds are lifted and stretched out, allowing new surroundings for the musicians to surface.

The opening of Above exemplifies the extreme economy of Van der Aa’s approach. The first four minutes are based on just one motive: a long crescendo note followed by two sixteenths. From this motive, combined with the ten chords, Van der Aa builds a stretto-like structure in which the short notes draw closer and closer together, until they start to form brief melodies. This structure recurs twice in the course of the piece, each time with a different electronic layer ‘above’ it.

The structure is punctuated by rapidly repeating notes and static, closed chords, which during the first repetition interrupt the flowing development ever more frequently, until they seize power in a passage marked by staccato chords. The ensemble engages in a duel with the sound track. Eventually the music returns to where it started from, only slightly altered.

Above is part of the “Preposition” trilogy – Above, Between, Attach. Each part focuses on a specific positioning of the musical material.

Ives Ensemble


Clear line of reasoning

“Above has a clear line of reasoning. In a very well build up process, Van der Aa makes the most of a small rudimental melodic ingredient.”
— Roeland Hazendonk, Telegraaf, 22 March 2001


for ensemble and soundtrack

1 flute
1 oboe
1 clarinet in B flat
1 bassoon
1 trumpet in C

1 percussion (Vibraphone, 2 metals, 2 log drums, whip, Key chimes, bamboo chimes)

Strings (1,1,1,1,1)

Soundtrack (from CD or laptop)




First performance

20 March 2001
Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Commissioned by

Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst




Last performance

9 January 2010

Above (US premiere)

Opus zero band, Steven Bodner, conductor

New Music Festival, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

All performances of Above