Compositions

On this page, you’ll find a list of the compositions that I wrote in recent years for other ensembles than my own. Besides pure concert music, you’ll find quite some ‘music theatre’ or downright ‘opera’, because of my love for a narrative dimension to music. Besides, you’ll even find pop-oriented music, such as my work for Turkish singer Ceylan Ertem. And being a jazz musician of origin, those influences may be self-evident.

While composing, I enjoy the fruitful collision of using structures together with more intuitive writing. Extended harmonic techniques form paths toward surprising sound worlds that I love to explore. However, mere form creativity does not interest me that much. For me, exploring adventurous forms is a means of reaching for a more direct expression of that rather indescribable longing inside me, always looking for a way to get out. Or as famous jazz saxophonist John Coltrane once stated it: “Music to me is just another way of saying this is a big, beautiful universe we live in, that’s been given to us, and here’s an example of just how magnificent and encompassing it is.”

My music may at times be abstract, but I also very much enjoy blending and tearing apart elements of well-known styles in search of new combinations. Composer and eminence grise Theo Loevendie, for years my mentor, wrote in the liner notes of my opera Hildegard: ‘Steven Kamperman has the rare ability to make every style of music sound like his own.’

Aspects that may capture the ear are the frequent use of elements of folk music. Influences of early European and non-western music (specifically Turkish) are to be found in quite some of my projects. From 2002 to 2013, I had the luck to work intensively together with Behsat Üvez, in our mutual project band Baraná. It turned out to be a decade-long submersion in the remarkable Turkish melodic/rhythmic way of thinking which subsequently has become one of the supporting pillars of my musical nature.

Mathematical structures, elements of folk music, combining and tearing apart music styles, an adventurous approach: for me, these are springboards to make a jump for genuinely expressive music.

COMPOSITIONS

Ollie (2023/24, commission by Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, work in progress)

I am working on a production for children by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in a chamber music line-up. Ollie the Elephant has a dream to travel with an orchestra, but he has yet to find the right musicians. When he finally has formed his orchestra, his music threatens to be overshadowed by city noises and forbidden by the police officers of the city.

Organic Pipes (2023, commissioned by HOT Festival Orgel Anders)

A playful piece written for 20 organ pipes, with audience participation. But as playful as the performance is (with very little rehearsal time involved), the piece is constructed along serious lines. It slowly develops from two mirroring chromatic clusters (F-B and f-b) to a C major triad at the end. Accordingly, the subtitle of the piece is ‘The birth of tonality’. Unfortunately, the video only features the second half of the piece. Special thanks to the spontaneous video footage by Silvia Vermeulen and the recordings provided by De Concertzender.

Prince Achmed (2022, grant by Performing Arts Fund NL, première Eye Filmmuseum)

I do play myself in this project actually, but I wrote it primarily with the amazing skills of Hamid Reza Behzadian and Esat Ekincioğlu in my mind. It is music for the beautiful first (silent) full-length animation movie Die Abenteure des Prinzen Achmeds by Lotte Reiniger (1926). Have a watch.

Paris en fer (2023, commission by Calefax, première 2024/2025)

This piece I wrote in 2022/23 during my artist-in-residency at the Van Doesburg house in Paris. Inspired by the works of Claude Debussy, it tells a story of the many iron constructions in Paris. From the rivets in steel beams to the top of the mighty Eiffeltoren.

Der müde Tod (2021, commission by Wishful Singing, 1h 37 min)

This is music I wrote for the vocal ensemble Wishful Singing, to accompany the epic film classic by Fritz Lang: Der müde Tod (1921). The music was performed live by five voices, harmonium, bass recorder, cello, percussion, and an electronic tape for the parts in the realm of death.

Mavi, Turkuaz, Kirmizi ve Sari for Vier! (2021; commission by Oorkaan, recorded on CD, 12 min)

A Turkish-inspired suite based on the four Turkish colors blue, turquoise, red, and yellow.

I’d rather be together than not alone (2019; commission by Wishful Singing, not yet recorded due to Covid, 5 min)

For the vocal ensemble Wishful Singing. The vocalists slowly develop the text, both singing and using Morse machines. Musical accompaniment by baby piano.

The humpbacked flutist (2019, commission by Concordia, not yet recorded due to Covid, 16 min)

A semi-theatrical piece for wind orchestra, based on the fairy tale of the humpbacked flutist.

Hildegard Opera (2018; 1 h 30 min)

Intertwining with one of the first music-theatre works ever, Hildegard’s Ordo virtutum, I wrote an opera about the decisive year 1151 in Hildegard’s life, using elements of her own music as a golden thread.

Nilüfer (commission by Ceylan Ertem, 2017, 3:40 min)

When I worked in Baraná we did a project with the then rather unknown Ceylan Ertem, who was a spectacular experimental pop singer residing in Istanbul. During our years of concerts, she already became rather famous, and in recent years she has become one of the top Turkish vocalists. Since she always had continued to sing the songs we wrote for her, she asked me in 2017 to write a new song for her new album. Here is the official video clip.

The more you see, the less you speak (2017, commission by Oriental landscapes Festival, 11 min)

This is a composition I wrote as an assignment for the Oriental landscapes Festival in 2017. The arab lyrics are by Al-Niffari, a 10th century mystic, who in fact was not too fond of words. Thus the phrase for which he is perhaps most known: ‘The more you see, the less you speak’.
Al Niffari believed that the mystic voyage kept you in certain stages for a while. In my piece, the listener travels through seven stages, starting with bitonality, going to various stages of  even three tonalities/modalities, finally ending in a unisono melody in the arab maqam of Bayati, touching on silence.
The recording has been made live at the Bimhuis Amsterdam in june 2017, by the New European Ensemble with special guest the Syrian/American soprano Dima Orsho.

Familie van Nielie (2018; commission by Kwatta & Oorkaan, 1 h)

The Familie van Nielie is a theatre production for youth by Kwatta and Oorkaan, december 2018 – march 2019. The story is about a family who magically gets transported to a camping side in the summer time. The son receives a surprising birthday present: a mansize robot. With the robot he is the man to hang out with, but the robot is soon broken, and the boy feels very lonely. He decides to crawl into the robot, and act as if it is fixed again. Philosophical questions about what is real form the main thread of the performance. Musically, the bass clarinet and marimba that accompany the robot transform into two cheap shaky casio’s with the same sounds.

Roodhapje (2015; Yamaward 2016, commission by Holland Opera, 1 h)

60 min youth opera performed by Holland Opera, december 2015. Leonie van de Wal (Roodkapje), Madieke Marjon (Mother/Grandmother), Niek van Idelenburg (Wolf), children’s choir, Jurgen Burdorf (guitar), Christiaan Saris (vibrafone, marimba, glockenspiel, drums)