Martin Slootmaekers, born in Genk on 27 January 1968, studied Latin and Greek in secondary school and began his musical studies at the municipal music academy in Lanaken, where he earned final diplomas in solfège, harmony and piano. He also received the ‘regeringsmedaille’ for piano. After secondary school, he went on to the Lemmens Institute in Leuven, where he was awarded the ‘laureaatdiploma’ for composition and music education, with first prizes for solfège, harmony, practical harmony, counterpoint and fugue. He also gained a first prize and the ‘meesterdiploma’ in choral conducting under Erik Van Nevel.
In 1995 his composition Splinters (for clarinet and piano) was chosen as the compulsory work for the final round for clarinet, saxophone and bassoon at the Gemeentekrediet (a bank) National Competition for Music and Word, now better known as Axion-Classics, an initiative of Dexia Bank. In 1997, the organisers again chose a work by Slootmaekers: (Im)mobile (for oboe and piano) was the compulsory work for oboe and bassoon. In 1998, Martin Slootmaekers submitted his composition Nunc Dimittis (for mixed choir and organ) to the Alphons Diepenbrock Composition Competition in the Netherlands and won fourth prize. In recent years he has received a number of subsidised commissions from Flemish choirs, including Capella di Voce (conducted by Kurt Bikkembergs), Capella Beatae Mariae ad Lacum (conducted by Dieter Staelens), and from the Flemish Choral Federation. His children’s and young people’s cantatas, Web International and Knuffeltijd (Cuddle time), have been performed by several ensembles, each time to great acclaim. Among his other compositions are works for solo instruments, ensembles, songs and choral works, as well as several works for symphony orchestra or concert band. Martin Slootmaekers is mainly active as a choral conductor and composer. Choral music thus takes a central place within his oeuvre.
At present, Martin Slootmaekers teaches General Musical Education, Music Theory, and choir and vocal ensemble at several music academies. This has led to the composition of a number of pedagogical compositions, including a complete cycle for General Musical Education (4 parts). In his other compositions, Slootmaekers explores newer techniques such as controlled aleatory music (inspired by Lutoslawski) with self-generated melodies, and the creation of a harmonic spectrum.
As mentioned, choral music takes a central place in the oeuvre of Martin Slootmaekers. The majority of his works are for mixed choir or for choir with equal voices, either a capella or with accompaniment (piano, organ or small instrumental ensembles). Web International and Knuffeltijd are 2 choral cantatas, respectively for children’s choir, speaker, piano and instrumental ensemble, and for children’s choir, 2 speakers, piano and clarinet. Besides these choral works, he has written some 6 works for solo instruments such as piano, organ and viola. His chamber music consists mainly of works for solo instrument with piano accompaniment. He has also written a string trio, a string quartet and a recorder quartet. Finally, Slootmaekers has produced 4 orchestral works, both for a symphonic scoring and for concert band or fanfare band.
For the (children’s) songs and pedagogical works, Slootmaekers uses a tonal or modal language, with melodies that remain singable. In freer compositions and instrumental works, a more atonal style is evident. With the large number of choral compositions to his name, texts are naturally very important for this composer. If a particular text suggests to him a certain mood, whether or not actually reflected in the actual content of the text, he attempts to transfer this mood into music, without necessarily being descriptive of the details of the text. In his 5 Bagatellen in oude stijl (5 Bagatelles in old style), Slootmaekers is clearly in search of an aesthetic suggestive of Anton Webern, a composer known for his short, pithy compositions. In the first movement (Largo), which lasts 37.5 seconds, Slootmaekers presents a dodecaphonic series built from cells with 2 chromatic neighbouring notes. The direction of these cells alternates between ascending and descending (a b-flat; d c-sharp; f f-sharp; c b; g a-flat; e e-flat). In the 3 central movements (Andante-Allegro-Moderato), the composer is freer with his pitch material, but the ascending or the descending minor second remains the most important interval. In the fifth movement (Adagio), the series from the first movement reappears, but now in retrograde. The few notes notated in the score receive an extra aesthetic tension since almost every note is required to be played differently. In this way, Martin Slootmaekers enters the sound-world of the Second Viennese School, and in particular the work of Webern. This work was actually created partly in jest. The epithet ‘in old style’ is meant as a jibe at composers who insist on writing only in the dodecaphonic idiom. With this work, the composer intended to show that with a little effort and study this compositional system can be mastered by just about anyone.
In his 2 successful cantatas for children’s choir (Web International and Knuffeltijd), Slootmakers uses a fairly free tonal language, with many seventh and ninth chords. The melodies for the choir are generally sober and very singable, while the accompanying instruments provide appropriate commentaries on the texts. In Web International, the percussion instruments provide an extra pulse. The story behind this cantata (on a text by Jan Coeck) is a sort of allegorical reflection on our present-day information society, in which we not infrequently seem to become entangled in the web of information coming at us from various media sources. This sort of commentary on our world is also found in other works by the composer (particularly early compositions). The work Ruzie (Quarrel) deals with the marital clash that breaks out when a father comes home. Kinder-Recht (Child Rights) also has a social message. In this composition, children demand their right to play, eat, speak and live.
The titles of works (especially those for choir) by this composer often refer to genres or styles from the history of music. Examples include Valse triste, Liebeslied, Tafel-canon, An English Mass and Missa in honorem Sancti Georgii. The actual musical content of such works is, however, only partially determined by the genres suggested. As in his other works, the composer employs free tonality in the ‘serious’ choral works and instrumental compositions, with the occasional use of atonal elements. In terms of rhythm and metre, the music of this composer is not particularly daring, although asymmetrical metres are frequently found. In his purely instrumental compositions, Slootmaekers goes a step further. In Splinters, for instance, the clarinet is required to play quarter tones. The melodic lines are often very vocally conceived, frequently involving motivic development.
List of works
Solo: Toccatina (piano) (1991); 3 X P (organ) (1992); Solo per viola (1993); Rondo (piano) (1995); Praeludium et Precatio super “Ave Maria” (organ) (1995); Valse triste I, II, III (piano) (sine datu)
Chamber music: 5 bagatellen in old style (string trio) (1993); A la santé (bass-baritone and piano) (1993); Miniatuur I (oboe and piano) (1994); Mini-Suite (recorder quartet) (1994); Short Piece (oboe and piano) (1994); Splinters (clarinet and piano) (1995); (Im)Mobile (oboe and piano) (1997); Liebeslied II (high voice and piano) (1998); Miniatuur II (oboe and piano) (1998); Conversations (string quartet) (1999); Miniatuur III (oboe and piano) (1999); Aanstaande begraafplaats (soprano and piano) (2000); Liebeslied I (high voice and piano) (2000); Lullaby (violin and piano) (2001); Valse triste I, II, III (alto saxophone and piano) (s.d.)
Orchestra: Jubilee Overture (brass ensemble and percussion) (1992); Remise (symphonic orchestra) (1993); Soundscape (wind orchestra) (2002); Vexation (wind orchestra) (2002)
Choir: Beati quorum via integra est (mixed choir a capella) (1991); Ubi caritas et amor (mixed choir a capella) (1992); Hymn (mixed choir a capella) (1994); Trois Berceuses (choir SSA) (1995); Honnepon (children’s choir and piano) (1996); Licht van Kerstmis (mixed choir and organ) (1996); Tafel-canon 1 (choir a capella) (1996); If I can… (mixed choir a capella) (1997); Kinder-Recht (children’s choir and piano) (1997); Missa “Con Amore” (children’s choir, piano and fluit) (1997); Missa in honorem Sancti Georgii (mixed choir and organ) (1997); Soms (children’s choir and piano) (1997); Tafel-canon 2 (choir a capella) (1997); A drinking song (mixed choir a capella) (1998); Eand liedje (children’s choir, piano and 2 fluitand) (1998); God zij dank (Huwelijkslied for Ingrid) (mixed choir and organ) (1998); Nunc dimittis (mixed choir and organ) (1998); Ruzie (children’s choir and piano) (1998); Tafel-canon 3 (choir a capella) (1998); Heilige Maria, moeder (mixed choir and organ) (1999); Rembrandt-Triptiek (mixed choir a capella) (1999); Tafel-canon 4 (choir a capella) (1999); Eternity (mixed choir a capella) (2000); Spirits of the Dead (mixed choir a capella) (2000); Tafel-canon 5 (choir a capella) (2000); Elke dag kerstmis (gelijkstemmig choir SA, piano and fluit) (2001); Papier (children’s choir and piano) (2001); Prins (children’s choir and piano) (2001); Song (mixed choir a capella) (2001); Tafel-canon 6 (choir a capella) (2001); Tante (children’s choir and piano) (2001); Alma Redemptoris Mater (mixed choir a capella) (2002); An andglish Mass (gelijkstemmig choir, 2 fluitand and organ) (2002); Bij m’n oma (children’s choir and piano) (2002); Irish Blessing (choir and piano) (2002); Miniaturand (mixed choir a capella) (2002); Tafel-canon 7 (choir a capella) (2002); Als een lopend vuurtje (choir SA) (2003); Tafel-canon 8 (choir a capella) (2003); Tafel-canon 9 (choir a capella) (2003); Jezus’ weg naar God (5 Passion motets) (mixed choir a capella) (1996); Haspengouw (mixed choir and wind orchestra) (2002)
Cantata: Web International (children’s choir, recitant, piano and instrumental ensemble) (1992); Knuffeltijd (children’s choir, 2 reciters, piano and clarinet) (2002)
Arrangements (s.d.): Festival Ouverture by Piet Swerts (2 piano’s and percussion); Des pas sur la neige (prelude) by Claude Debussy (symphonic orchestra); Danseuses de Delphes (prelude) by Claude Debussy (symphonic orchestra); La cathédrale engloutie (prelude) by Claude Debussy (symphonic orchestra); La fille aux cheveux de lin (prelude) by Claude Debussy (symphonic orchestra); De kleremakers op hun feest (folk song) (choir and wind orchestra); Sarie Marais (folk song) (choir and wind orchestra); Jan de Mulder (folk song) (choir a capella); Windekand, waar het bos van trilt (folk song) (choir a capella); Windekand, waar het bos van trilt (folk song) (mixed choir a capella)
Euprint (Heverlee, Belgium)
Digital Music Print (Antwerp, Belgium)
Texts by Klaas Coulembier
Last update: 2005