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Composed: 1972-76

Length: c. 35 minutes

Orchestration: 4 oboes (3rd and 4th = English horn), 4 trumpets, 4 horns, 4 trombones, 2 electric guitars, bass guitar, 2 harps, 2 pianos, 4 violas, and 2 sopranos and 2 mezzo-sopranos

About this Piece

A breakthrough work for Andriessen, De Staat had its premiere in Amsterdam in November 1976. It synthesized his characteristic sound world and socio/political concerns with his response to American Minimalism in a powerful work that brought him international recognition. The composer provided the following note in 1994:

"I wrote De Staat (The Republic) as a contribution to the debate about the relation of music to politics. Many composers view the act of composing as, somehow, above social conditioning. I contest that. How you arrange your musical material, the techniques you use, and the instruments you score for, are largely determined by your own social circumstances and listening experience, and the availability of financial support.

"I do agree, though, that abstract musical material - pitch, duration, and rhythm - are beyond social conditioning: it is found in nature. However, the moment the musical material is ordered it becomes culture and hence a social entity.

"I have used passages from Plato to illustrate these points. His text is politically controversial, if not downright negative: Everyone can see the absurdity of Plato's statement that the Mixolydian mode should be banned as it would have a damaging influence on the development of character.

"My second reason for writing De Staat is a direct contradiction of the first: I deplore the fact that Plato was wrong. If only it were true that musical innovation could change the laws of the State!"

"I could write beautiful symphonic music, but then I'm not doing what I want to do, which is to develop a musical language which has other roots. In De Staat, you will recognize scales and pitches from Indonesian music, for example. Early bop and cool jazz have also influenced me very strongly, much more than Mozart, Bach, and Brahms," the composer wrote in liner notes for Reinbert de Leeuw's 1990 recording of the work. "De Staat has nothing to do with Greek music, except perhaps for the use of oboes and harps and for the fact that the entire work is based on tetrachords, groups of four notes, which also explains the scoring for groups of four."