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Michiel van der Meulen

loves thinking wondering learning making travelling meeting music Earth and those he loves

Life

Michiel van der Meulen was released into the world in 1969, from school in 1988 (… with a diploma and his wife to be), by the army in 1989 (… with a truck driver’s license and skills he fortunately never needed to rely on), and from university in 1999 (… with two more diplomas and skills he has relied on ever since). He works as a geologist at the Geological Survey of the Netherlands and is married with two children.

Music

After a life-long immersion in various modal idioms—during his upbringing, as a musician and as a traveler—Michiel found his musical voice at Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Crete, studying composition with Ross Daly. This is where he learned to shape the modes, rhythms, forms and phrasing he had been absorbing, especially those of the Ottoman classical and Eastern Mediterranean folk repertoires, into contemporary modal music, a cosmopolitan genre coined by Daly. Michiel’s oeuvre is turning into an ever more comprehensive reflection on his influences and personal musical journey, as also documented in the combined technical / biographic notes he writes to his albums. Michiel uses his oud and violin when composing, and plays a specially modified, microtonal  Macedonian tambura in several of his recordings.

Cooperation

International – Ever since he started out at Labyrinth, Michiel has enjoyed the great privilege to not only learn from but also work with renowed musicians and technicians from that international community:

The Netherlands – In his home country, Michiel cooperates with or has been influenced by:

Kairos Collective

When Michiel records, he’ll assemble an occasional ensemble he named after the mythological personification of the right moment, the time to act or an opportunity to be seized. The name Kairos encapsulates the inspiration, spontaneity and enthusiasm characterising the sessions of a collective that is as ephemeral as its defining traits. Nothing is fixed, there are no strings attached, but even so you’ll hear they are consistent and rock-solid.

Albums

Mitos Orchestra performing in Rhodes (Michiel van der Meulen, 2017)

Labyrinth’s Mitos orchestra performing at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights in Rhodes on September 3, 2017. The program featured Romanza (track 13 of Erato) and Michiel’s unpublished Hicaz Peşrev. Musicians, from left to right: Meira Segal (ney), Nikos Paraoulakis (ney), Eleftheria Daoultzi (kanun), Michael Harrist (double bass), Efrén López (oud), Sergios Voulgaris (kudüm), Marijia Katsouna (bendir), Taxiarchis Georgoulis (oud), Nikos Papageorgiou (tambur), Nikos Papaioannou (cello), Kelly Thoma(lyra), Xrysanthi Gkika (kemençe), Evgenios Voulgaris (yaylı tambur) and Ross Daly (tarhu). Photo: Michiel van der Meulen.

Čalgija on TouMilou: how come?

It is hard to underestimate the role Čalgija and the ensemble’s musical director Wouter Swets (1930–2016) played in building a Dutch audience for ‘world music’, in particular from the Balkans and Anatolia.

Wouter Swets has been called the Dutch Alan Lomax but perhaps it is more accurate to think of him as the Dutch Ross Daly. It was him who drew Michiel’s father Albert to Balkan music, the closest match in Europe to the sounds of an early youth spent in the Dutch East Indies. It provided him a way out of the rather dire musical environment he had found himself in after moving to the Netherlands. Čalgija, in its 1960s line-up, was Albert’s first ensemble. Michiel has played and still plays with former Čalgija members, so it is fair to say that Swets shaped, albeit mostly indirectly, Michiel’s musical tastes and preferences.

Čalgija existed, in different line-ups, from the early 1960s till 1995, and then continued as Al Farabi till the mid-2000s. Swets was primarily active as a musician and researcher; his discography is comparitatively modest. 

Čalgija produced an untitled EP in the mid-1960s, which was reisssued by TouMilou, an LP in 1978 and a CD in 1991. Ensemble Al Farabi produced a CD in 2002. Michiel learned that there was unreleased studio material from 1981 en 1984/85 and decided, out of curiosity and respect, to find and release it, adding two full albums to Čalgija’s musical legacy.

Recent releases (2017–2021)

Vintage albums (1966–1995)

Contact Michiel van der Meulen