Hi, my name is Niek Hilkmann and I am here to tell you about the amateur avant-garde orchestra and what it can mean for you today.
As you probably know there have been many musical avant-garde movements throughout the years, many shared an optimistic vision on a bright, enlightened future, free of the burden of banality and cultural mishaps.
The thing is, a lot of this happened more than 50 years ago. The modernistic utopia foretold in the musical vision of composers such as Xenakis did not come to pass.
We are currently living in difficult times; a sceptic age on the border of nihilism in which everything is canonized and value is created by means of recombination.
Therefore we have developed something called ‘the tip top orchestra’, an international amateur avant-garde orchestra based in Rotterdam, dedicated to playing a canonized avant-garde repertoire from the second half of the twentieth century, for instance Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Karlheinz Stockhausen are already part of our set list.
By combining the notion of the historical avant-garde with the concept of amateurism, we try to defy the regulated music practice that circles around these pieces and play them in a fresh way without stumbling over unnecessary conceptual baggage.
Our principal goal is to recombine redundant media and ideologies to create an optimistic artistic environment. We do this in several ways, for instance:
1. we build our own instruments
2. we record on VHS material
To truly reinstall past ideology as a means of defiance, there should be an international movement focusing on amateur-avant-garde. This movement should not only work within a musical context, but must focus on other disciplines as well. To create a community aware of the notion of amateur avant-garde I aim to construct multiple incarnations of the tip top orchestra throughout the world. Every city has its own population and society, meaning its own concept of obsoleteness and its own obsolete media objects and ideologies. As such, a short term residency would be the ideal way to look at the resources that a city provides and establish a working orchestra from that principle. The creative community that is shaped by this will be a fresh breeze in the city and generate a series of artistic objects ranging from movies, to instruments, web-applications and social interventions.
So, let’s conclude with some inspiring words:
The Ideologies of the past belong to you
The history of tomorrow can be you
You can orchestra whatever you want
With a little help from the Tip Top Orchestra
5 minute excerpt
After the first successful show in the north of Rotterdam, the video footage that documented this event was turned into a 30 minute VHS movie called 'The Tip Top Orchestra Plays Riley's In C', also known as 'The Tip Top Movie'. This movie was shown on LISFE (Leiden International Short Film Experience) and is going to be submitted for other short film festivals in coming months.
The orchestra also continued to expand its repertoire. We took it upon ourselves to practice a second piece. 'Four Organs' by Steve Reich was chosen and played with an ensemble of six musicians at WORM on the 21st of June. The PS/2 Keyboards, developed by Joseph Knierzinger played an important role in this. We also enlisted Star TV, a semi-professional amateur filming crew to document this event.
Star Tv Documentation