Thomas Ankersmit – Homage to Dick Raaijmakers

Thomas Ankersmit - Homage to Dick Raaijmakers, artist performing with Serge Modular Synth against a yellow background.

I’m not very familiar with the work of Dick Raaijmakers, the electronic music pioneer who created numerous groundbreaking works of electroacoustic music and music theatre. Listening to his compatriot Thomas Ankersmit’s homage to the great Dutchman, I’m struck by how many of the sounds generated by Ankersmit’s Serge Modular synthesiser resemble the sounds of war: explosions of fuzz, rapid rotating like helicopter blades, machine gun spitting of dirt, thick burning noise… I’d listened a few times before I read that Raaijmakers would’ve been nine years old at the time of the Battle of Maastricht, when Nazi Germany attacked and captured the city of his birth. I’m not sure how relevant this connection is, if indeed there is a connection.

Perhaps Ankersmit would point instead to the ways in which the quirks of analogue electronics lead directly to some interesting aesthetic and psychoacoustic effects. Consider, for example, the rapid beepings heard maybe a third of the way through the piece: they interfere with and stumble over one another in ways that are strangely disorienting to listen to. Imprecision and timing errors are here not effaced or swept under the carpet, but rather taken advantage of to create novel sensory experiences. Towards the end of the piece, a two-pitch seesawing pattern and a buzzing that shifts and grows in bandwidth create an unstable, curiously vague impression, an intensity that presses from all points and none.

But it’s hard to get over the sense of chaos and even violence that erupts in the middle of the piece, spewing fire and thunder in all directions. It’s hard to detach oneself from its terrorising effect on base instinct in order to perceive the psychoacoustic phenomena at work. And maybe that’s not the point, as Raaijmakers’ interest in theatre, that art form most invested in the suspension of disbelief, suggests. In any case, “Homage to Dick Raaijmakers” is a spectacular, cacophonous tribute to a trailblazer of electronic music, with Ankersmit’s own careful attention to structure and pacing very much in evidence. It’s certainly piqued my curiosity in Raaijmaker’s work and legacy.

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Thomas Ankersmit

Shelter Press

Photo by Alex Inglizian

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