MEMORABILIA. COLLECTING SOUNDS WITH... Kees Tazelaar. Part I
Produced by Roc Jiménez de Cisneros and Rubén Patiño
For several years, Kees Tazelaar (1962) has been the head of one of Europe’s most important electroacoustic music archives, but he shies away from the label collector. As he explains, his interests are informational rather than exclusive, and he has more of an archaeological urge than an urge to completion.
Tazelaar's artistic and academic career is closely linked to the prestigious Institute of Sonology in the Netherlands, one of longest-running research and production hubs on the European electroacoustic music scene. The Institute, which has been based at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague since 1986, was born from the ashes of the studio for electronic music at Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven in 1960, and inherited an extensive collection of tapes by electronic music pioneers in the Netherlands, and inherited an extensive collection of tapes by electronic music pioneers in the Netherlands.
As a result, the archive is an interesting snapshot of the burst of activity and experimentation that took place mid-century – not just in the Netherlands but also in many other studios around the world – under the auspices of universities and private labs (Bell, IBM, Philips), during a fascinating period of transition in which industry research into acoustics mingled with the early milestones of electronic music.
A composer and teacher (lecturer in Sonology since 1993 and Director of the Institute since 2006), Kees is also known for his work on the restoration and conservation of essential works of twentieth century electronic music. He has participated in reconstructions of works by Gottfried Michael Koenig, Jan Boerman (who taught him composition), Iannis Xenakis, György Ligety and Luctor Ponse, although his star project remains Edgar Varèse's 'Poème Électronique'.
As an artist, restorer, administrator of the Sonology archive, and an expert in all things related to the history of the legendary 1958 Philips Pavilion, in this interview Tazelaar discusses the challenges of restoration, the limits of intervention and the concept of artistic responsibility in reconstructions, the importance of the medium and its maintenance, and digitalisation. And although he inevitably ends up circling back to the word collection every now and then, there’s no doubt that he uses it in the open rather than restrictive sense.
Tazelaar’s approach is ultimately pedagogical, closer to the test tube or the microscope than the butterfly net or auction house. As we can see from ambitious restoration projects such as 'Popular Electronics: Early Dutch Electronic Music From Philips Research Laboratories' (1956 - 1963), his 2004 four-CD project that unearthed forgotten and unreleased works by the pioneers of early Dutch electronic music, Tazelaar does not stop at creation and dissemination, he also sets up links between generations which would otherwise probably remain cut off from each other.