Symphony n° I

On Saturday, March 11th, 2017, Symphony No.1, made its world premiere with the National Orchestra of Belgium.
 

Kevin Houben took inspiration from the work of the American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), and selected three poems: 'I died for beauty’, ‘There's A Certain Slant of Light’ and ‘Hope’.

 

The town of Peer (P-E-E-R) - Kevin´s hometown - is embodied in the notes si - mi - mi ♭ - re with an expressive interval of a seventh between mi and mi ♭. This cell is the main motif of the symphony. Also his family name H(ou)BEN is incorporated in the composition as a musical signature. In addition, a rhythmic pattern regularly emerges, which mimics the sound of the so-called ‘clappers’. A clapper is a board with a handle on which, when it is moved, a mallet clacks.

These three motifs are intertwined through the different parts of the symphony, providing connectivity throughout the work. Sometimes the motives are used literally, sometimes they emerge in a surprising form and sometimes they are barely recognizable. But always, these cells organically structure the composition. As such, Kevin Houben refers in an abstract way to the underlying ideas and evokes rather cinematic moods that are open to the ideas of the listener.

Movement 1.  Arise

​The symphony opens with mysterious soft, scraping sound clusters in the high and low strings and the flutes and clarinets. What seems to start insignificant, turns out to be the accumulation of all the musical material as the germ from which the symphony will sprout. The ‘Peer Motif’ sounds grand and is enforced mainly by the horns.

 

Movement 2.  Hope

​The second part is the true musical heart of the symphony.

The opening bars bathe in a dark, nocturnal mood. The soprano tones in gently with low notes and gives words to the meditative mood: 'I died for beauty'. Kevin Houben knows to give voice to the poetry in expressive lines that flourish along with the verses.

An instrumental passage leads to the second poem, 'There's a Certain Slant of Light’. The chords underpinning the melodies are modal and archaic. Alienation arises by the subtly surprising harmonies and sinister tones.

 Suddenly, all dark feelings and sounds are swept away as the soprano sets in the third poem, 'Hope'. It sounds like a true hymn that blossoms more and more towards the closing words. The soprano is supported by the melodious violins in her high, ecstatic notes. This musical highlight is a concatenation of the ‘Houben’ and the 'Peer Motif’, which is showcased by the soprano in a pure form. The composer gives a clear message: as bad as the world apparently looks, there is always the power of hope.

 

Movement 3.  Cherish

After the moving second part, it is time for a celebration with a lively finale. The main motif of the city of Peer emerges transformed as a triumphant march. For the first time in the symphony, it sounds as a strong signal in an open, major third key. All themes and motifs eventually culminate in a festive apotheosis.

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Song of Hope

Song of Hope (duration 6 minutes) is all about the universal thoughts of hope and solidarity. Kevin Houben took inspiration from the poem ´Hope´ of the American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).

 

 “Hope” is the thing with feathers - 

That perches in the soul - 

And sings the tune without the words - 

And never stops - at all - 

 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 

And sore must be the storm - 

That could abash the little Bird 

That kept so many warm - 

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land - 

And on the strangest Sea - 

Yet - never - in Extremity, 

It asked a crumb - of me.

 

 

 

 

The opening bars bathe in a dark, nocturnal mood. The chords underpinning the melodies are modal and archaic. Alienation arises by the subtly surprising harmonies and sinister tones.

Suddenly, all dark feelings and sounds are swept away as the soprano sets in the poem, 'Hope'. It sounds like a true hymn that blossoms more and more towards the closing words. The soprano is supported by the melodious violins in her high, ecstatic notes. The composer gives a clear message: as bad as the world apparently looks, there is always the power of hope. After the moving part, it is time for a celebration with a lively finale. All themes and motifs eventually culminate in a festive apotheosis.

Song of Hope is used by Isabelle Beernaert as opening of here eight full-lenght show Tabula Rasa. In this dance performance she tries to make a clean ship, to forget the past and return to a situation where everything is possible again.

 

Isabelle Beernaert succeeded in touching the general public with the moving choreographies she made for the television programs ´the ultimate dance battle´ and ´So you think you can dance´. After the enormous success of here seven previous theater productions in Flanders and the Netherlands, she has been using ´Tabula Rasa´ since November 2017.

Who would not want to start all over again and leave everything behind?

Our history, our decisions, our mistakes,.... sweep them off in one movement and continue as a blank page. Tidy up after a violent storm, a purifying fire, a new start to seek freedom and prevent us from staying small.

As bad as the world apparently looks, there is always the power of hope!

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Solitudine N°1 and N°2 - Luna N°1 and N°2

Commissioned by Isabelle Beernaert for Le Temps Perdu.

After the enormous success of her eight previous theater productions, choreographer Isabelle Beernaert returns to the essence in her new dance performance le Temps perdu. In this performance, Isabelle pays tribute to everyday life and shows the richness of the small, the "obvious" through the eyes of four couples. Authenticity and subtlety are central and are reflected in the dance technique and purity of the movements. The soul speaks through the dance. As we are accustomed to by the choreographer, in a refined form, the Temps perdu will express the everyday of man, the obvious, the underlying emotions, the profound, the passion that makes us live, feel, see and hear.

 

© 2017 -2018 by Kevin Houben Productions   

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