1. programme notes, interview
2. technical details: orchestration, other technical requirements, duration, publisher
3. performances

interview, programme notes

Joep Stapel: Inspiration is the space where new things arise.
Interview with Rozalie Hirs on parallel sea [to the lighthouse] (2018)

Rozalie Hirs’ double harp concerto, parallel sea [to the lighthouse] (2018), will premiere on Sunday in TivoliVredenburg, performed by Asko|Schönberg. (…)

Hirs (1965) places parallel sea in the tradition of marine compositions, such as Debussy’s La mer, not necessarily in terms of pitch, but rather the sensation of the rising and disappearance of waves. This is a flowing kind of music. Intuitive, soft. The piece takes place between sleep and awakening as if consciousness is not yet fully formed. The lighthouse mentioned in the title reflects itself in a ‘periodic movement’ at the centre of the piece. The flowing, waving music culminates towards the end in a passage of short, homophonic chords, enhanced by an electronically swirling effect.

Although Hirs says she has not read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, her work is certainly related to the spirit to Woolf’s novel. After all, it is about perception, about perspective and a multiplicity of experiences. For Hirs, composing also starts with observation: why is something beautiful? Why does this sound affect me, move me? She investigates how these ‘moving’ sounds work physically: why do these tones fit so well together, which frequencies are present and how they reinforce each other? ‘I want to understand why something works’, says Hirs.

A composer, who completed a degree in chemistry before entering the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, loves to investigate frequency calculations that smack of musical complication. But whoever listens to Hirs’ work is struck by its intuitive beauty. For Hirs, creative research is always driven by the ear and balanced by perception. She analyses complex calculations and reduces them to clearly observable differences – ultimately her research must always be ‘functional’, i.e. audible.

In fact, Hirs firmly believes in ‘simplicity’. And in this, she resembles both of her teachers, Louis Andriessen and Tristan Murail, whom she names as her stylistically most important influences. The Hague School founder Andriessen and spectralist Murail are opposites at first glance, admits Hirs: ‘On one hand, Andriessen is the jovial guy who writes boldly clear structures. And Murail possesses the more shy, withdrawn personality, who composes refined French sounds. But when I studied with them, I discovered that their methods are, in fact, very similar. Both are utterly concise in their working methods, and everything they write is stripped bare, reduced to the essentials. For both of them, even ornamentation is functional. And that goes for me as well. I love the essential. And in this can I deeply relate to my mentors.’

Parallel sea [to the lighthouse] is the second movement of Hirs’ cycle parallel world and sea. Hirs compares parallel sea to the poem ‘a day’ in her poetry collection gestamelde werken (English: work in stuttering; Singel Uitgeverijen|Uitgeverij Querido, 2012). In this cycle, Hirs describes how language comes about, is formed during awakening, finding its way back into consciousness. Feelings and thoughts are, as it were, re-formed through the remembering of sense and the sentence. For Hirs, this awakening can also serve as a metaphor for creativity: ‘What we call inspiration is the creation of a space, where new things emerge. Of course, one is been influenced by tradition and by one’s teachers. But to achieve something new – and innovation is a very important aspect of my work – you need that space.’

Joep Stapel: Inspiration is the space where new things emerge. NRC Handelsblad Cultuur & NRC online [interview; Dutch].


Mark van der Voort: Homecoming for Louis.
Andriessen Festival 23-25 May 2019.
A generous human being. Interview with Rozalie Hirs

Voor componiste Rozalie Hirs (54) waren de jaren bij Andriessen een tijd vol inspiratie. ‘Als docent was hij zeer precies. In talloze motiverende één-op-één gesprekken doken we in onderwerpen als harmonie, notatie en klankwaarneming. Alles om je composities nog beter te maken. Bovendien was Louis een zeer genereus mens. Componisten vanuit heel de wereld wilde bij hem studeren. Deze studenten wist hij aan zich te binden door ’s avonds ook eens uit te gaan. Late night drinks heette dat dan. Veel mensen waarmee ik toen studeerde, zijn nu nog vrienden van me. Louis weet altijd interessante mensen om zich heen te verzamelen, ook uit de theater- en danswereld.’
Tijdens het Andriessen Festival klinkt Hirs’ recente ensemblewerk parallel world and sea. ‘Een werk waarin ik ook verwijs naar de minimal music. Een genre dat Andriessen een geheel eigen draai heeft gegeven.’ Nog steeds houden Hirs en Andriessen contact, en bekijkt Andriessen haar partituren vol interesse. ‘We delen ook onze leeservaringen, of liefde voor beeldende kunst. In feite is Andriessen een bescheiden mens gebleven. Misschien is het zijn katholieke achtergrond, maar het heeft ook iets boeddhistisch. Andriessen heeft me als beginnende componist heel erg gesteund. Ik was onzeker en hij gaf me volop respect. “Ga maar gewoon lekker door”, zei hij me als ik weer een partituur overlegde. Dat hielp enorm.’

Mark van der Voort: Homecoming for Louis. VPRO Gids [Andriessen Festival Special, 24 May 2019; interview; Dutch].

technical details

commissioned by ASKO|Schönberg with support of the Dutch Performing Arts Fund.


French horn

2 harps
2 percussionists
electronic sounds

double bass.

technical requirements

QLAB sampler with Rozalie Hirs’ custom-made sounds, to be obtained from the publisher
QLAB player installed on a computer, MIDI pedal to be played by the flautist
amplification system

12′ ca.

Rozalie Hirs’s music scores are published by Deuss Music. Score and parts of parallel sea [to the lighthouse] (2018) can be purchased through this link (click here).


25 May 2019, 13:00 CET. Louis Andriessen Festival: Ter Ere. parallel world and sea (2017-18). Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands – ASKO|Schönberg and Reinbert de Leeuw (conductor), Ernestine Stoop (harp), Zoë Knoop (harp), Arne Bock (sound diffussion).

13 May 2018, 20:30 CET. Obsessions #1. parallel world and sea (2017-18). Tivoli|Vredenburg (Hertz Hall), Utrecht, The Netherlands – ASKO|Schönberg, Etienne Siebens (conductor), Ernestine Stoop (harp), Godelieve Schrama (harp).

13 May 2018. 15:30 CET. parallel world and sea (2017-18). Fifth anniversary edition of the Dutch Harp Festival. TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, The Netherlands – ASKO|Schönberg, Etienne Siebens (conductor), Ernestine Stoop (harp), Godelieve Schrama (harp). World premiere of parallel sea [to the lighthouse] (2018). During the concert the new work is preceded by Hirs’ recent parallel world [breathing] (2017), commissioned by Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the University of Amsterdam.

The photograph above of ASKO|Schönberg and Reinbert de Leeuw was made by the composer during the rehearsal of her parallel sea [to the lighthouse] at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, during the Andriessen Festival on 24 May 2019.