Several independent strands of thoughts and ideas gradually merged into the realization of Zeestilte (sea silence).
After Jan Boerman’s passing in October 2020, I felt the urge to compose a piece in memory of him, or, more precisely, in memory of his music and my time as his student between 1989 and 1993, but a more concrete plan to accomplish this task was initially not forthcoming.
Another plan was based on the rediscovery in 2020 of a number of DAT tapes with sound material from 1992–3 that I produced with the PDP11/34 and DMX1000 computer system for my piece Paradigma, the working title of which was “Meeresstille”.
A third idea came after a lecture in April 2022 by musicologist Veniero Rizzardi, in which he explained a method for the permutation of twelve-tone series as developed by Bruno Maderna. Inspired by Maderna’s approach I made a scheme with an all-interval series and eleven permutations, in which the series and its permutations somewhat overlap, and in which rests and simultaneous tones occur occasionally. A second scheme was made with six independent curves of which the timing and levels of the breakpoints are derived from the same permutational procedure.
In the summer of 2022, I wanted to make at least a part of the aforementioned schemes audible and chose the rediscovered DMX sounds to do so. These sounds were first analysed with Kyma software and then resynthesized quadrophonically at the required pitches.
I decided to place the results on a time line with their entry points at a regular distance of ten seconds (or a multiple of ten when the scheme indicates a rest) and then take care of the final time structure later by deriving the entry points from one of the curves in the second scheme.
However, as soon I was able to listen to the first series of sounds, I realized that it was exactly the regularity of the ten-second distance between the sounds’ entry points that created the ‘ritualistic’ quality of the memorial piece that I had been thinking of for such a long time already. The fact that these sounds were made while I was Boerman’s student and ended up in my graduation piece Paradigma further emphasized the connection with him.
The sounds from 1992–3 were used to produce the tones of the initial series and five subsequent permutations. Analysed and resynthesized sounds from later pieces (in chronological order) were used to produce the following six permutations.
As mentioned before, all sounds were resynthesized quadraphonically. Their individual components were slightly detuned and were given serially determined, individual stretch ratios, which results in the perception of movements in the listening space on a square of loudspeakers (front-left, front-right, rear-left and rear-right), and on a diamond of loudspeakers (front-centre, side-left, side-right and rear-centre). However, these movements are not based on panning but only on the sounds’ original envelopes that are stretched differently.
The six curves from the second scheme were eventually used to control the parameters of two independent quadrophonic reverbs (reverb time, pre-delay and level): one on the square of loudspeakers and one on the diamond.
The title Zeestilte is the Dutch translation of the German word “Meeresstille” (from the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that was set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven in Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt) and also refers to Jan Boerman’s electronic composition De Zee.