André Van Haren Creative Page

Interview with Tobin Mueller

Andr van Haren - Classical Composer - an interview with Tobin Mueller, MacJams Music Blog

Andr van Haren (member name andrevanharen) is a 44 year old classical musician from The Netherlands currently working as a dish washer in a restaurant in Sweden. Because of his daily job, he only has a couple of hours a day to compose. "I use these hours very efficient," Andre says, "and decide already the evening before what Im going to work on the next day." The forethought shows in his excellent compositions.

Andr is equally at home with Romantic and Classic eras, as well as Twentieth Century/contemporary classical. He writes effortlessly in both complex and simple styles. His work is inventive, passionate, highly skilled, sophisticated, yet always full of humanity and heart. Some of my favorites include:

- Third Movement of Symphony no. one
- Orchestral song no. five: "Morning"
- Orchestral song no. one: "Verzweiflung"
- Cat's Play
- A Paean
- Balans
- Piano Sonate no.1 "Laura Lee" in f minor - first movement
- Piano Sonate no.1 "Laura Lee" in f minor - second movement
- Orchestral Song no. four: "Der Tantenmrder"
- Fugue for piano
- So Restless
- Sonata no. 2 "Golden Anniversary" in D flat Major - second movement
- Sonata no. 2 "Golden Anniversary" in D flat Major - fourth movement: Rondo Allegro
- Goodbye

How did you end up in Sweden?

"I moved to Sweden in 2003 because I met my future wife here while I visited Sweden during my summer vacation 2002. We kept contact by phone and the internet till I moved in February 2003 to Gothenburg."

When did you start playing music?

"I started with music when I was about 16 years old. At that time, the electronic organ was very popular and my father loved that instrument. He decided to buy a second hand one in a music shop with the idea to learn to play it. I didnt do anything with music at that time nor did I have any plans to. My ambition was to become a painter or cartoonist. It turned out, however, that my father soon lost his interest in the electric organ just I started to get interested. I played around with all the buttons and the cheap sounds and rhythmical dances it could produce. I'd never played before and didnt know how to read notes. I taught myself from the books that came with the instrument. "My parents noticed my interest and progress in it and decided that I could take lessens in a music school. After that, things grew more and more and I never stopped learning and trying to get better in playing and writing music."

Electronic keyboards aren't often associated with classical music. When did classical music become your main focus?

After I'd taken lessons for many years, I changed my musical direction totally when I discovered classical music while visiting an aunt of mine who played the piano. She introduced me to her teacher who trained me on the piano till I was ready to go to the Conservatory where I studied classical piano and composition."

Where did you study?

"The Conservatory in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Officially I studied classical piano and wanted to become a piano teacher, but most of the time I wrote music; mostly for voice and piano but also some chamber music, like short pieces for piano and violin, a little string quartet. The highlights were when they got performed in front of an audience, mostly fellow students. It was a great time. "Another highlight, and maybe that is still the biggest till now, was when my choir piece, 'A Paean', won the first price on a competition for composers in November 1997. (The idea was to write a piece for mixed choir plus what ever you wanted to add. I choose two clarinets, two bassoons and two horns plus a solo tenor.) I never had written anything for choir before and was surprised to hear, sitting in the audience with my whole family, that I had won. I still remember the comment of one of the other composers who had participate that night, he asked me: 'Where did you come from? I have never heard of you.'

What are you working on now?

At the moment Im rewriting six little piano pieces I wrote in January/February this year. The piano bundle is called 'Moments' (you can learn more online here, also, all six are posted at Macjams: After work, in the night; Cat's play; A mid day nap; At work; Who's there?; and Goodbye). I hope to improve my skills in orchestration so I can orchestrate all 6 pieces. (The last piece, 'Goodnight', exist now in 7 different arrangements.) After orchestrating them, I am going to contact the conductor of the orchestra here in the city and ask him if there is a possibility to get them performed. I have no idea if this is possible, but we will so how it goes." Note: Andre has posted many versions of "Goodnight" on his MJ Profile page.

After washing dishes, do you do anything besides music?

"I like to write stories as well. I have written two children books (see more here), both published in Holland. And I am working on a short stage play that still needs a lot of writing. There are many small theaters here in the city, so I believe that there is a good chance to get it performed. I have many more writing ideas on paper, like half of my third children book, but not enough time to work them out. The hours I have left every day for my creativity, I want to use for music."

Have you written musicals before?

"My first musical was based on a stage play by Frank Wedekind, called 'Voorjaars ontwaken' - but my musical is not the one currently on Broadway! I rewrote a Dutch Translation of this piece (since the original is in German) so I could make a kind of children theater play out of it. It has never been performed, but I did put everything on the Sibelius website where you can see and here the score, kind of... You can find it here. Look for the piece called 'Voorjaars Ontwaken.' There are 15 scenes in total. "Another Theater piece I wrote is based on a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, a writer I really love. The story is called 'The facts in the case of M. Valdemar.' I rewrote the text and made an opera out of it. I called it 'In Articulo Mortis'. This is only a short one act piece for strings and piano as instruments. Because I never saw an opportunity to get it performed, except the second scene, I never put it into Sibelius, except that second scene. I have a recording of this scene somewhere that was performed during my composition exam many years ago."

What are your plans for the future?

To be full time composer/writer. No dish washing anymore! I hope to go more into writing for film and maybe theater and I want to finish my books."

Some of your virtual orchestral recordings sound fabulously real. What do you use?

I use Garageband for everything, in combination with the Jam-packs and lots of sound-fonts. I work on a mac G5 which is connected to my digital piano Roland, HP 237 R)."

Listen to his tracks. That this stuff comes from GarageBand is astounding. Any mixing tips? "

Actually... I dont mix. I dont know so much of this process yet. I record in GB, adjust the volume here and there and thats it. I should take a course..."

Or maybe teach one... (Having a great ear helps, to be sure!) Do you have any weaknesses as a musician/composer that you are addressing?

"Writing for orchestra. I keep on reading up and studying the orchestral instruments while writing for them. Making music with digital instruments would be even more difficult for me, I have no emotional connection with those sounds and therefore never use them."

Where do you find inspiration?

For vocal music, I always looked for a poem from past poets, like Oscar Wilde, Poe, Dickinson. I love those romantics! Meaning, I dont write my own lyrics. I did a collaboration recently with Richard Schletty though, he wrote some lyrics for my music that were really nice. I hope to work more with him on future projects. The melody line is very much created and influenced by the poem. Sometimes I already have the music and look for lyrics, but mostly I am in the mood of writing a new song and go through my books of poems until I find something interesting. I study the text, try to get an understanding of it and start to make notes. From there, the piece grows."

Any music writing tips?

Dont use your first design! When I somehow have the stomach feeling that something is not correct, even if I cant point it out at that moment, I know that it still needs work."

Has Macjams been any help to you as a composer?

My experiences with MJ are great. I made lots of friends and get helpful comments on my music. Knowing that I am not alone in writing (what for me is a very lonely work) pushes me enormously to keep on writing. It does give the ego a boost and I think it needs it to become better in music or other kind of art. You have to feel good about what you do."

What Macjams submission are you most proud of?

My two piano sonatas. I didnt write for piano for a long time and especially not in this typical classical form. It was pure coincidence that I started a nice little melody, that led to the idea of writing something for my daughter, what turned into the first piano sonata 'Laura Lee' (named after my daughter). Immediately after finishing this piece, I started to write the Second Piano Sonata which is dedicated to my parents' 50th wedding anniversary."

You can listen to all of Andre's online music on this Macjams Profile page as well as his offsite Official Website, where you can also purchase most of his piano scores and other music.

You can purchase his Orchestral Songs/Sorrow Songs from the Lulu website (six songs for voice and orchestra with text by Albert Ehrenstein, Frank Wedekind, Emily Dickinson and Friedrich Nietzsche); plus, Moments, six short pieces for piano; Piano sonata no. 1 "Laura Lee", in f minor; Piano sonata no. 2, "Golden Anniversary", in D flat Major, from this Lulu website page. [display_podcast]

Updated:  April 30, 2008

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