System in the Madness
by Jaap Blonk


I grew up in a strict religious family in the Dutch Reformed Church. I rebelled against this at an early age and threw religion away in my puberty years.

I went to university for mathematics.

In the second half of the 1970s I encountered two art forms that contrasted radically with both my upbringing and my math studies: Dada sound poetry and free jazz. I sensed a new world with a life-saving freedom of expression.

I quit university and set out on a path in these fields, performing solo as well as with free-form musicians and dancers.

However, from the late 1980s on I felt the need for more structure, which made me study phonetics and the work of 20th century composers. I noticed that systems don’t have to stand in the way of freedom of expression, but also can enhance it. I experienced that I could breathe life into the most rigidly structured pieces when I performed them on stage or in the recording studio.

I started using electronic equipment, at first some effect gear and a simple sampler, and then the computer from the late 1990s on. Here, pretty soon I stumbled upon the limitations of standard hardware and software. This made me decide to take a year off from performing, a sabbatical, in 2006, which I used to learn computer programming languages. This gave me much more freedom in creation because I am now able to define the degree of randomness in everything I create: from 100 % determined to 100 % random, and everything in between.

So that closed the circle: I found back to my love for mathematics after almost 30 years. I am now using many kinds of algorithmic composition next to intuitive ways of creating. This goes for music (sound), text as well as visual work. I enjoy bringing system into the madness, and madness into the system.

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