Maarten Altena
© Rineke Dijkstra
© Rineke Dijkstra

For me, music consists of three elements: structure, vitality and mystery

It is my ideal to compose music that immediately takes the listener into a world of his own. I aim for a recognizable sound, a sound with personality, poetry and a structure of its own, with emphasis on the melodic line, however fragmented.

It does not matter how I create my music, whether or not it involves words, whether or not there is singing, what technique I use, or how I feel while composing. I look for ears that do not immediately need to classify, but are first willing to receive. Ears driven by curiosity, ears for which each listening experience is an upbeat for something that cannot be contained in words, images or thoughts (alone), but for something that is evoked by the oscillating air that music – the most abstract of the arts – ultimately is.

For me, music consists of three elements: structure, vitality and mystery. Without structure there is no music: the structure applied by a composer leads to a story in sounds. Vitality, for me, is activity rather than tempo. Though I love rhythmic, energetic constructions, extremely slow music can also be lively through concentration on the activity of the sound itself, and the way it is formed. Mystery for me is not ultimately something mystic, but rather the result of a structure that is not immediately self-revealing, a result of sounds brought together, which by their refinement or unorthodox combination can seduce the listener to listen several times – or by a combination of all these factors.

My favorite music is music that provokes questions, stimulates curiosity and thereby challenges and inspires, and not music made exclusively in accordance with an aesthetic ideal. This is what I look for in the work of others, and what I aspire to in my own music. My curiosity always wins from my uncertainties, and my uncertainties evoke more questions than I can answer. My answers often give rise to new questions. And so every new composition is a new question with a provisional answer.

Maarten Altena, January 2010