Louis Andriessen, one of the most original and influential composers of the contemporary era, died on July 1 in De Hogeweyk dementia village in Weesp, near Amsterdam. His publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, confirmed Andriessen's death.
Born in Utrecht in 1939, Andriessen is known for fusing jazz and minimalist styles to create large-scale, bold, and eclectic works — including "De Staat" and the opera "Writing to Vermeer." His compositional influences include Stravinsky, Ives, and one of his teachers avant-garde composer Luciano Berio.
"All cliches, specifically cliches of entertainment and of romantic and tonal music, were taboo — that was the excitement fo the 60s," Andriessen said in a 2011 Boosey & Hawkes documentary.
Groups including Asko|Schoenberg, the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, and the Bang on a Can All Stars, have commissioned Andriessen's music. His most recent commissions are "Mysteriën" for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and "Agamennon" for the New York Philharmonic.
Andriessen is also known for cross-disciplinary works with theater and film, as well as electric violin.
From a young age, Andriessen has recognized the connections between music politics, often writing music as political commentary.
Andriesssen "hated going to classical concerts as a teenager," he said in a 2011 Boosey & Hawkes documentary, adding that "it never got much better, but now I have wiser judgment." In 1969, he participated in the "Nutcracker Action," helping to disrupt a Concertgebouw performance with frog-shaped metal clickers. That day's protesters wanted to make a statement against what they saw as an elitist institution that needed to program more contemporary music. Later, he also wrote music in protest of the Vietnam War.
Andriessen held the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall, was Musical America's Composer of the Year in 2010, and taught at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague from 1973 to 2018.
Guy Rickards wrote in Gramophone that although Andriessen embraced minimalism "as the fundamental feature of his mature musical language, his personal brand of it is not for the faint-hearted." He added that "some may find Andriessen's no-holds-barred grab-you-by-the-throat directness off-putting. Others will find it exhilarating, as do I."