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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.


Van der Aa wins with the sound of steel and fire of drums

“Van der Aa wins with the sound of steel and fire of drums. The jury praised Van der Aa for his clear idea’s, the unpretentious way he has put them to music and the way he uses technology in his music. Between is indeed a very elegant composition. Van der Aa chooses color, rhythm and form over pitch. He used capricious rhythmical structures, thin metal sounds and electronically edited percussion sounds to build a firm structure. An editing of several elements that thickens more and more. An exiting crescending ‘fire of drums’ is also present, this effect is subtle dosed too”
— Volskrant, Frits van der Waa, 1999

Beautiful detailed work

“For the first time in almost half a century, the Gaudeamus Price is given to a Dutch composer, Michel van der Aa. ‘Between’ is a beautiful detailed work that shows craftsmanship and knowledge of electronics. Its has both surprising and logic structures. With this playful and intelligent work, Van der Aa shows us to have a promising future.”
— Telegraaf, art editor 1999


for percussion quartet and soundtrack

4 percussion players

Set-up: Vibraphones, Glockenspiel, Chinese Tomtoms, chimes, Dobaci, Log drums, Woodblocks, metal, whip etc




First performance

14 March 1998
Hal 4, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Commissioned by

Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst




Last performance

18 November 2017


USC Percussion Group
Joseph Pereira, conductor
Noon to Midnight

3.15pm Keck Amphitheatre, Walt Disney Hall, Los Angeles, U.S.A.

All performances of Between


Percussiongroup Den Haag, cond. Micha Hamel