before 1977

historic map of the city of schoonhoven, 1743
streefkerk - schoonhoven

Riverrhine, ….. I was born at the foot of a dike along a large river on the edge of Streefkerk, a village some twenty miles east of Rotterdam. At that stretch of the river, the Rhine is called Lek and that’s where I played at its shore, learned to swim in its water, spent summertime on its beaches, and crossed its icy surface in the memorable winter of 1963. In Silver Town Schoonhoven, on the other side, I went to school, played bass guitar in a band, and fell in love just before I left for Utrecht at eighteen. It’s a historical fact that I found my friends primarily upstream, which remained true for the rest of my life, in which the river Rhine somehow turned out to be the big connector……. That fact quickly emphasizes the power of metaphor. Not so much that time would be a river, but rather in how the American quantum physicist John Archibald Wheeler understood TIME as something that prevented everything from happening simultaneously. And likewise, SPACE as something that prevented everything from happening to me in Streefkerk.

isaac streefkerk
the little ceramic horse isaac streefkerk made for me when I was 7 years old
uncle isaac streefkerk's inscription, 1956

As far as I remember, one eccentric individual in our family was Isaac Streefkerk, Uncle Ies, as everyone called him. He was a civil engineer as well as an artist with a fascination for horses. He modeled his horses in clay; every household had at least one. At some point in 1956, when I was seven years old, he called me and suggested making one for me. Within fifteen minutes, he transformed an amorphous piece of clay into a young horse at rest. I was amazed at being present in such an act of creation. Uncle Ies inscribed his and my name on its bottom and handed it over to me with the instruction to have it finished in a pottery. In 1956 that was and the little clay horse has been my companion ever since.

max van der grijn

interactive installation with conveyor belts, 1972

Max van der Grijn is a visual artist who lived in Ameide, some 10 miles upstream at the time. His atelier was an abandoned house at the foot of the dike. In the early seventies, we often strolled along the shores of the river, collecting debris. At some point, he had found a long conveyor belt, which he cut into eight equal pieces of two and a half meters each. These canvas strokes with metal knobs on them were hanging against the wall with thin wires attached to them at the bottom end. The light was falling through a roof window, turning the objet trouvé into a light and shadow modulator by pulling the various wires. We enjoyed playing with the installation, and I pictured its different states as an interactive work of scenography.

institute of sonology
institute of sonology, electronic music event, 1972

I studied electrical engineering and applied physics at Utrecht in the late sixties and early seventies. The final two years were spent at the Institute of Sonology, with an internship during the first year and research and graduation in the second year. My thesis focused on developing a voltage-controlled notch filter, later known as a vocoder in the synthesizer branch. Looking back, the first year had a more significant impact, personally. Sonology, as an institute, comprised a curious mix of disciplines: composers, physicists, linguists, programmers, mathematicians, artists in residence, etc. Exotic to me were the quadraphonic concerts of electronic music it organized. I had the chance to travel along, meet the composers, and assist as a roadie, which was an overwhelming and life-changing experience. I remember clearly one of these concerts by Dieter and Ulrike Trüstedt, a German couple of physicists and visual artists. Usually, it was only about quadraphonic sound, presented through four loudspeakers in a square with the audience sitting in the middle. Now, there were also laser projections controlled by the same analog computer that produced the soundscape. From that moment on, I deeply desired to work with such a mix of media: sound, semantic light, and narrative to create engaging spaces. Only the proper context for that ambition was still lacking.