Lionel Trilling cooking quality cheese
Italo Calvino love cats humour
John Cage composing Beethoven silence
Richard Serra designing New York Venice


To love someone. Falling in love. Love is such a wonderfully versatile word. Last but not least: making love to someone. Recently I overheard some urban slang: “I wanna have kinky fox sex with him”. I think this ‘fucking’ subject should be included, as it plays an important role in my life. At the same time, there is nothing that I can say about it. And not because I’m a prude — although I was brought up as an ‘unspotted fox’. (In Dutch, my name can be interpreted as a contraction of Reynard and fox ...). I grew up at a time when it was taboo to talk about sex, but I have left such prudery behind me.

These days everyone everywhere talks crap about sex. Strangely, often in a giggly way, so apparently it is still taboo. At the same time is an inappropriately fashionable subject — for that reason alone I felt reluctant to include it here.

What sex has to do with composing? For me, music is the only art that evokes unmistakably physical reactions. I remember the first time I heard Amériques by Edgard Varèse; my stomach was really tied into knots. On hearing certain music shivers literally run down my back. For instance the final minutes of Janáček’s Sinfonia. Those sounds actually translate into a bodily response.

As a teenager I listened to Bartók and Stravinsky, i.e. music from the period 1910-1920, and from that moment I knew that I wanted to be a composer. These works were all composed for ballet, every single one of them commissioned by Diaghilev, and dance also contains an erotic aspect. Do I want to create erotic music? Union Square Dance, which I am currently working on, has some doggone hot chords, yes indeed. On the other hand, Riflesso sull’acqua hasn’t. It’s just like in real life, sometimes you’re excited and at other times you sit at the waterside and grieve over the death of a loved one.

Sex is a celebration of life: an orgasm is sometimes referred to as ‘little death’ or ‘beautiful agony’. Perhaps this is connected to the fact that during orgasm you reach a state where rationality seems to switch itself off — a state of mind that others try to reach through, for example, meditation.

Does my New York cycle represent an attempt to achieve orgiastic surprise? I think I mainly want to touch the right chord. To me, New York simply evokes a flabbergasting feeling of skyskrapers, vitality, bustle, and complexity. If you believe those agogô bells in my piano concerto are hinting at sex, here’s another one: Central Dance in the Park. Parks can be very restless places at night. I don’t need to explain that, do I?