Mark

MASTERPIECE was a song without a name: an improvised composition by Zwartjes and regular musical collaborator and actor in his films, Lodewijk de Boer. I heard it first during one of many sessions listening to Frans’ audio archive at his home in The Hague. We agreed, he with no small sense of mischief, that it should be titled according to its truth: masterpiece!

Zwartjes was a prolific composer, excited by the advent of technologies which enabled and economised the recording of music at home. The soundtracks to his best known films were all improvised single studio takes: Spectator, Living, Spare Bedroom; an approach dictated by the prohibitive costs of studio recording. Almost all of Frans’ projects were self-financed, and what you hear here and see throughout his work — with Lodewijk, with Moniek Toebosch, and with his wife and lifelong creative partner, Trix Zwartjes — are exploratory exercises enabled by trust, kinship and an innate commitment to go artistically beyond. It is telling that Frans never sought or expected a track like Masterpiece to be released for others to hear. None of his work was motivated by an audience, by fashion, by commission, by money.

SPECTATOR is based on the soundtrack to Zwartjes’ film of the same name, also a collaboration with Lode- wijk de Boer. It remains the decision of the Zwartjes family that no sounds made explicitly for his films should be detached from their visual source. Whilst it might seem counterintuitive to ‘cover’ the improvised original, a track like Spectator suggests a highly structured and composed ‘system’ of sound-making, and it was Zwartjes’ wish that his music be performed live (it was also his regret that his health at the time did not permit his active participation in this).

Following Zwartjes’ instruction, I (prepared piano), Samuel Kilcoyne (moog, organ) and Takatsuna Mukai (violin), performed Spectator and Living live as ‘The Frans Zwartjes Sound System’ at EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam on the occasion of Zwartjes’ 90th birthday in May 2017. This was the last recording Frans asked that I play to him in the days before his death in November of the same year, confirming the decision to include it on this record. (Winstanley Schtinter)

Mark