Pasta, union meeting, Mozart and the Red Light District

Amsterdam, Muziekgebouw aan ´t IJ

Amsterdam, Muziekgebouw aan ´t IJ

A delicious pasta yesterday evening at Frances-Marie Uitti’s house, not far from the Muziekgebouw aan ´t IJwhere the composers’ union meeting (Componisten 96) was to take place. Chatting away, Frances quickly threw together a tortelloni. Spices, broccoli and parmegiano. Mmmm. Better than you would get in a restaurant, of course. And we drank a good red wine. Frances is my best friend in Amsterdam and a top cellist and improviser. But I shouldn’t forget also to mention the large and imposing marmalade cat that resides at this same address……………

Nice conversation, as usual, but mainly we were meeting to decide which events to attend in the upcoming Holland Festival. Frances herself is giving two performances during this festival, on the 8th and 9th of June.

Then I walked quickly to the union meeting. Saw some friends and colleagues there – Peter Adriaansz, Roderik de Man, Michel van der Aa, Martin Altena, Martijn Padding and David Dramm. Louis Andriessen was also in attendance. There was a long presentation of what will be the new structure for administering contemporary music in Holland and many questions about it. Then some other business. Quite heavy stuff. So I was glad to drink a glass of rosé during the break.

Cycled back through the Red Light District. Lots of drunken men swaying around the narrow lanes, making it difficult to get by. And two pedestrians crashed together suddenly. I thought there would be a punch-up, but fortunately it was good humoured. As always, the atmosphere in this quarter irritated me and I was glad to be out of it. Years ago, coming down from the composer Jan-Bas Bollen’s apartment on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal we had to step over a huge drop of blood on the doorstep – obviously left there by an addict shooting up. Then a few doors away you had the prostitutes sitting in the windows. I remarked to Jan-Bas, how bizarre it was, this juxtaposition of sordid 20th century life and exquisite old buildings. He said “no, this is the oldest part of town and the prostitutes were always here. This is where the sailors came when the boats docked”.

In one of these streets, Mozart (may his name live forever) stayed, during his visit to Amsterdam, aged nine or ten. He spent seven months or so in Holland and wrote twelve works, including two symphonies….

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