Between was written in 1997, when Van der Aa was composer-in-residence with the Percussion Group The Hague. The model Van der Aa had in mind when composing Between was that of a Chinese ivory ball containing several smaller concentric carved spheres, allowing them to move freely inside one another. The work is comparable to a journey across those concentric spheres. It is a multilayered piece, symmetrical in structure.
The basic idea is set out clearly in the opening section: percussion and electronic sound take over from each other at regular intervals, the one being, as it were, ‘between’ the other. But soon the percussion quartet falls apart, becoming first a duo, then four individual players, each interacting with his own ‘between’ part on the tape. The entire first segment (A) is taken up by metal instruments all playing at a single pitch.
After a climax comes section B, with drums (i.e. without pitch), in which live sounds and soundtrack continually diverge and coincide. Metal takes over again in section C, this time joined by the wooden instruments and adding two tones to the initial pitch. Section D re-introduces the drums, now in a climactic four-layered dialogue reminiscent of section A. The fifth section (E) is the heart (if not the centre) of the piece. It consists of no more than a prolonged jingling chord of five tones. After this the composition repeats the whole sequence in reverse order. In the process the different layers of the ‘ball’ start to shift, until the percussion section finds itself coinciding with the sound track, leaving gaps in what used to be a continuous flow of sound.
Between is part of the “Preposition” trilogy – Above, Between, Attach. Each part focuses on a specific positioning of the musical material.
Van der Aa won the International Gaudeamus Prize for this piece in 1999.