LOUISVILLE, Ky.—“Up-close,” a piece by Dutch composer Michel van der Aa (mee-SHEHL’ VAHN’-dur-a) that blends concerto with film, has won the 2013 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
The 30-minute work is a highly innovative fusion of musical and visual art, said award director Marc Satterwhite.
“It’s a virtuoso cello concerto but also a fascinating multimedia experience that defies simple classification,” Satterwhite said. “It really creates its own genre.”
Van der Aa, 42, house composer for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, wrote the piece for Argentinian-French cellist Sol Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. The work, commissioned by the European Concert Hall Organization, premiered in Stockholm in 2011.
The Sinfonietta and Gabetta later performed the piece in concert halls throughout Europe, receiving high acclaim from audiences and critics. Disquiet Media, a recording label Van der Aa founded, released the work on DVD last year.
The piece is performed with a large video screen on the stage near a solo cellist and string ensemble.
As the music unfolds, an image of an elderly woman appears on the screen. At first, she is seen scribbling coded messages on sheets of paper amid a deserted stage set up exactly like the concerto. Later, she is shown running through the woods to an abandoned house, where she apparently tries to transmit the messages on a mechanical coding device.
As the piece progresses, the musical performance and film intertwine and begin to mirror each other. The woman seems to be an alter ego of the cellist, but much is left unexplained.
UofL presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year’s awards are $100,000 each.
For more details on the awards or to download Van der Aa’s photo, see www.grawemeyer.org To watch an excerpt from the winning piece, see www.vanderaa.net/up-close or www.boosey.com/podcast/Michel-van-der-Aa-Up-close-DVD/13199