Author: Allison Smith
Title: "Louis Andriessen: The Musical Egalitarian"
Louis Andriessen (b. 1939) is arguably the most prolific Dutch composer of all time. In
the 1960s and 1970s, Andriessen began to develop his modern style in the hype of the cultural
revolutions going on in Amsterdam; these cultural revolutions parallel those found in the United
States. A highly politicized musical style in which he wrote in the '60s and '70s is still prevalent
in his music today, although Andriessen, in his words, has now become the Dutch
"establishment" as opposed to the counter-culture. Aspects of this style include but are not
limited to: non-traditional instrumentation, minimalistic dynamics, highly political operatic
topics, mixing several popular genres of past decades (jazz, maximalism, Baroque, among
others), and challenging the audience to be involved in performances due to the intellectual
nature of his works. The inclusion of non-traditional instrumentation and audience participation
is indicative of Andriessen's philosophy of embracing clash and, more importantly, socialistic
egalitarianism; this idea was in its developing stages in Amsterdam's political spectrum during
the '60s and '70s when Andriessen was developing his mature style. His use of minimalist
dynamics and combining music from other cultures is directly related to his philosophy of using
music as a universal tool of unity and as a tool to promote social and musical egalitarianism.
Minimalism is an American genre and Andriessen employs it as an inconspicuous backdrop to
his more modern, and typically, dissonant musical foreground. Yet another constant influence
on his composition is Igor Stravinsky whose musical philosophy closely paralleled that of
Andreissen's -- Stravinsky also employs music from other cultures, believed in egalitarianism,
and wrote music rich with stylistic diversity. This paper seeks to present Andriessen as both a
political and philosophical egalitarian seeking to intellectually challenge and unify his audiences and performers.