Dutch composer/clarinetist Germaine Sijstermans is one of the emerging artists of the new generation of the contemporary classical music scene, regularly and closely working with artists associated with Edition Wandelweiser. This is her debut album as a composer, a double CD containing seven of her recent pieces, all composed between 2017-2019 and performed by the ensemble of six musicians who had worked closely together from the very start of the project: Antoine Beuger (concert flute), Germaine Sijstermans (clarinet), Rishin Singh (trombone), Johnny Chang (viola), Fredrik Rasten (guitar, ebow), and Leo Svirsky (accordion).
Contemplative yet vibrant, the six musicians’ sounds overlap with each other while slowly moving forward in parallel. The subtle interactions of six instruments create enthralling rich overtones, and allow the music to evolve organically over a long course of time, as if new branches and leaves were stealthily sprouting out of a tree. (The album title ‘Betula’ means ‘birch tree’.)
Evoking a dynamic life growing in tranquility, Sijstermans’ pieces resonate with the ethereal, minimalist aesthetics of her installation art (actually set up in the same room during the ensemble’s concerts of these pieces) in which she places materials such as several stones or rice papers hung in the air sparsely using thin threads, allowing the viewer/listener to simultaneously experience a sense of closeness and openness, both visually and sonically.
“My work is neither programmatic, nor does it contain a narrative. It hands material and possibilities to the subjective perception of all that encounter it: performers, visitors and listeners. The last thing I'd want is for them to make associations based on prior knowledge. I would say that in general my biggest source of inspiration is nature and its workings.” — Germaine Sijstermans