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Dutch contemporary composer-clarinetist-installation artist Germaine Sijstermans explores in her works the phenomenological experience of space and all that occurs within it through the use of silence, light, sounds, and the physical presence of oneself and others. She works closely with musicians associated with the minimalist and reductionist school of Edition Wandelweiser composers collective.

The double album Betula (birch tree) is Sijstermans’ debut recording as a composer and features seven pieces composed between 2017-2019 while she was an artist-in-residence at Intro in Situ, a production house for new and experimental music in Maastricht. These compositions were performed by the ensemble of six musicians who had worked closely together from the very start of the project – fellow Dutch flutist Antoine Beuger, the founder of the Edition Wandelweiser, Malaysian, Berlin-based trombonist Rishin Singh, New Zealander violist Johnny chang, Norwegian guitarist Fredrik Rasten, American, Hague-based accordionist Leo Scirsky, and Sijstermans on the clarinet. The recording took palace at Roepaen in Ottersum in September 2019.

Sijstermans writes in her liner notes that her «biggest source of inspiration is nature and its workings», and, indeed, her compositions adopt ripples-like, quiet and vibrant movements that correspond with her installation art. The six instruments’ fragile yet highly conversational interactions suggest rich but ethereal overtones that offer the listener a contemplative sonic haven, one with flowing, liquid dimensions of time and space. Her music evolves organically, like branches and leaves, stealthily sprouting out of a tree over a slow and patient course of time. These abstract compositions do not attempt to structure narratives. They are not programmatic, and Sijstermans states clearly that she does not want to make associations based on the listeners’ prior knowledge.

Sijstermans’ music evokes a tranquilizing sense, almost purifying in a spiritual manner, of closeness and openness, both visually and sonically, where the perceptions of the conscious and unconscious may melt together. You may feel yourself floating gently and immersing deeper and deeper within the sparse yet deeply emotional landscapes of her compositions.

Eyal Hareuveni

Antoine Beuger (fl), Germaine Sijstermans (cl), Rishin Singh (tb), Johnny Chang (viola), Fredrik Rasten (g, ebow), Leo Svirsky (acc)

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