Ludo Geloen was born in Dikkebus on 7 July 1962. He originally studied organ with Jozef Moerman and Edward De Geest at the Municipal Academy for Music and Word in Ieper and the State Academy in Ghent, where he earned his final diploma summa cum laude. He then completed his studies with Dirk Verschraegen and Edward De Geest at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent. Geloen’s interest in composition dates from around the same period. In 1998 he received his final diploma (Laureaatsdiploma) for carillon playing at the Jef Denyn Royal Carillon School in Mechelen. Since that time he has joined with his teacher, Koen Cosaert, to form the carillon duo Four Fists. Geloen is also the driving force behind Duo Calliope (since 2003), together with soprano Barbara Vandendriessche. For this duo he composed Zeven Westhoekliederen (Seven songs from the Westhoek region) in 2006. As a performer Ludo Geloen has performed both in Belgium and abroad (the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Russia) and has made a number of recordings, for the Belgian radio and television but also in the Netherlands and New Zealand. He has won several awards for his work as a composer and performer, including prizes for organ and composition in competitions in Terneuzen and Utrecht, as well as the 1999 BAP-Sabam Prize for his work Tension and Relief.
At present, Ludo Geloen teaches organ, carillon, accompaniment and AMC at the music academies in Ieper, Diksmuide and Poperinge and he is organist at the O.L.V.-Middelareskerk in Ieper, where he is also the carillon player and conductor of the O.L.V.-Middelares Choir. In addition, he works to promote organ culture in West Flanders, in part through the non-profit Organum Yprense Organ Society, which he founded in 1997, and as artistic leader of the Diksmuide Organ Society (since 2001). Ludo Geloen is also the editor in chief of the cultural e-zine of the Westhoek region (Het HemelBed) and a member of the Flemish composers’ organisation ComAV, established by Lucien Posman.
Over the years, Ludo Geloen has composed more than 80 works. He finds inspiration for his works in both poetry (H. Vanderplaetse, Ch. Battheu, T. Deleu, and his own poetry) and in the visual arts. The soundscape About Bells came about in connection with the annual exhibition “Brons. Horen en Zien” (Bronze: Hearing and Seeing), and can be described as an improvisation on bronze sculptures by such artists as Charles Gadenne and Marie-Christine Remmery. Geloen also finds inspiration in the specific situation for which a work has been composed. For instance, the title of the work Rush In is meant as a play on the word “Russian”, a reference to the circumstances of the work’s 2005 premiere as part of a programme featuring Russian composers. Finally, events or people can hold special meaning for the composer and form a source of inspiration, as in Arianoso, which makes use of the names of a number of people.
Despite the fact that Ludo Geloen began to compose at a young age, he has no formal education as a composer. This has allowed him to develop his own personal style. His initial point of departure was his own intuition and interests, but the reactions of performers and audience have also often served as a key to evaluating his works, sometimes resulting in his taking a different stylistic direction. At the same time, “tradition” has played a significant role in the development of his style. Geloen sees tradition as an endless source of material; the elements that he draws from it are then put completely at the disposal of his own style. In the area of tonal systems, Geloen exploits a wide variety of possibilities ranging, for example, from the neo-modal passages in the Missa propter caram pacem, to the chromaticism of Verstilde Nacht (Silenced night), to the whole-tone scales and dodecaphony in the overture Rush In. The development of the musical material in some works is also firmly rooted in tradition. Counterpoint is one of the constants in his compositions. Tension and Relief includes a passacaglia.
Ludo Geloen always takes great interest in a range of possible timbres. This is reflected in the fact that from a young age he learned to play not only the organ but also trumpet and carillon, and he has a practical knowledge of guitar and a keen interest in the harmonium. In terms of composition, this interest is expressed in the use of unusual instruments or combinations of instruments. Examples of this include the cello, piano, gong and anvil in All the Time (op. 20) or Dancing on top of a withered tulip (op. 49) for bayan (Russian chromatic button accordion). The manipulation of sounds is central to a number of electronic works. In the soundscape About Bells, for example, composed on a commission for Kunstkamers De Queeste from the town of Abele, Geloen employs all manner of bell sounds, which are distorted by a computer – often to such a degree that their origin is barely recognisable – and then mixed into an integrated whole, creating a structure.
An overarching aesthetic idea for Geloen is that of music as a means of communication. The essence of his compositions lies in the contact that takes place between people, and the resulting range of emotions that are constantly subject to momentary changes. This idea is musically represented through the – sometimes quick and unexpected – succession of contrasting segments that can be found both on micro and macro levels. The simplest example of this is the Missa propter caram pacem, in which each mass movement has its own style. The four-movement structure of the Sonata per Organo no. 1 is clearly articulated by the distinctly different textures, which are in turn expressions of a deeper philosophic idea upon which the piece is built. The work’s subtitle illustrates this idea: “…le temps, l’amour et la mort embrassent l’essence de l’être humain…” The first movement (vivace) illustrates time, which is depicted by means of different rhythmic layers that, constantly in motion, overflow one into another. The second movement (andante) can be seen as a transitional passage into “l’amour”: the constant pedal note (with the fifth), creating a kind of drone, in reference to the peacefulness to come in the third movement, is repeatedly interrupted by a great variety of quick, rhythmic notes, a leftover of the “time” section. The more cantabile melodies that follow conjure up love, which takes a central place in the third movement (largo e calmato). In the final movement, once again a vivace, all the previous elements come together (drone, rhythmic complexity and sharp dissonances) into one texture to represent “death”, which at the end of the work is itself called into question through motives in ascending motion.
Similar systems of contrast are found within each movement as well, as shorter “blocks” of motives are in constant alternation within a range of different antitheses: chordal-melodic, rhythmic-melodic, greater or lesser density, stability-instability. Internally, however, each of these blocks is worked out symmetrically, although this symmetry is not always completely consistent. The repeated motives (or melodies) are often varied slightly, based on the notion that in everyday life nothing is ever repeated in exactly the same way. The result of all this is a complex whole, in which a certain level of playing and listening skill is demanded of the performer(s) and the listeners. Despite the continuous transformations of motives and the play of contrasts, the work generally gives the impression of the organic whole that is Geloen’s continuing ideal.
The complexity so characteristic of Geloen’s early compositions is less pronounced in the more recent works. The quest for simplification has led to softer sounds, clearer textures, less harsh dissonances and thus a greater accessibility for the audience. This does not mean that he has completely abandoned his earlier style. In Rush In, for symphony orchestra, the first movement begins as an outburst from the whole orchestra, which plays just one note, fff. The further progression is largely based on the piano part, which moves with a frenetic rhythm, zigzagging through the work (for this reason, the title can also be related to the word “rushing”). The piano also determines the harmonic sense of the work, which is fairly tonal, with the note g as its harmonic centre of gravity. The other voices, which repeatedly make short interventions, are written around this piano part. The opening note also returns in several places. In the central section the piano rhythm disappears. The atmosphere created in this section is clearly tonal, despite the use of the whole-tone scale and even gestures in the direction of dodecaphony. A three-voice canon is also included in this movement. To conclude, elements from the opening movement return, including the rhythmic piano part. The powerful opening note of the composition is also reprised a number of times, but with a gradual reduction in the dynamic level. The work thus ends with a true anticlimax.
List of works
Organ: Et incarnatus est for organ and guitar op. 10b (1997); Dicasmutha for organ (4 h.) op. 27 (1998); Verstilde Nacht for oboe, guitar and organ op. 28 (1998); Missa propter caram pacem for soprano, choir and organ op. 45 (2001); Last Post revisited for organ and brass ensemble op. 74 (2003); Sonata per organo nr. 1 op. 77a (2004)
Carillon: Tension and Relief op. 23b (1999)
Chamber music: All the Time for violoncello, piano, gong and anvil op. 20 (1995); All the Dreams for soprano, violoncello, piano and gong op. 24 (1996); Obelisk for violoncello and piano op. 58 (2002); Tabulatura for three guitars and harmonium op. 63 (2003)
Electronical music: Seashore 1-3 for tape op. 53 (2002); Tuning for tape op. 68a (2003); L’Undicesima Dimensione for organ and tape op. 68b (2003); About Bells (soundscape) op. 76a (2004)
Orchestral works: Decade for wind band op. 59 (2002); Westhoek Rapsodie for brass band op. 64 (2003); Ouverture ‘Rush In’ for symfonic orchestra op. 84 (2005)
– L. LANNOO en K. D’HOOGHE, West-Vlaamse Orgelklanken, Brugge, 1997
– Geloen, Ludo (lemma), in Lexicon van de Muziek in West-Vlaanderen, uitg. dr. Vereniging West-Vlaamse Schrijvers (red. A. DEFOORT), 1, 2000, p. 92
– Missa propter caram pacem (Gratias, Pater Noster, Postcommunio en Benedicat) (sopraan: Barbara Vandendriessche, orgel: Ludo Geloen), IN FLANDERS, Cantores Classics CC02080 205A, 2002
Texts by Heidi Moyson
Last update: 2006