Karel Appel (1921-2006)


Musique Barbare (1963)


1. paysage électronique (11:41)

2. poème barbare (3:30)

3. le cavalier blanc (12:42)


the remarkable success of the still-young karel appel is not to be explained only by his paintings, but above all by his dutch character and his strong creative personality. dutch is the hard, messaging rebelliousness with which he revolted against the hard, messaging mentality of his compatriots and their (his) culture. it is the same ruthless pursuit of absolute values - and powerful search for truth that urged on other great dutch painters. as a creative personality too appel is irresistible. not latin, playful, unceasingly producing things of beauty, like picasso, but dialectic, ever discovering new questions in every work that he produces and ever answering with a new painting. these qualities - dutch stubbornness and unfrustrated creativity - mathematically determined his place in our culture, yearning as it was for new, true values.

i knew appel in 1947, penniless in a shabby little attic room in amsterdam. i know him now, travelling the world in aeroplanes and sports cars, royally received by art-dealers and museum directors, well known and well paid, feted in time magazine. but he is still the same man: enthusiastic, sharply observant, and formulating his ideas in word and in paint with great originality. in the film i recently made about. him, in which the (anti-) music that appears on this record was heard, i had the occasion to spy on him for weeks at his work. painting is for him a great physical and spiritual adventure, and so it became for us film people, who, for a few minutes of film, took a month's time to get appel used to our presence with lamps and cameras, just as ornithologists ensconce themselves patiently near a brooding bird, until it accepts their presence. there was nobody in our film team who was not impressed by appel's imaginative power, expressiveness, craftsmanship, and creative courage. time and again there were moments that gave me a shock of new insight, like the day when appel had toiled for hours together with exhausting concentration on a new, rich canvas, in which much of what he meant had been convincingly expressed. when he paused, i said: "you are ready, don't make any more changes in it." but the painter kept silent, paced to and fro like a beast of prey before the. canvas, looked at it from all sides, moved back, looked at it once more, and said: "i'll turn it upside down and go on." he turned the large canvas upside down and continued. what a lesson. i thought, in freedom, self criticism, and courage thus to escape the greatest danger threatening every creative man: one-track-mindedness.

appel himself says: "my work is no art, but the spontaneous adventure of now. i never try to make a painting - it is a cry, it is like a child, it is like a tiger behind its bars. i paint as a barbarian of this barbarous time."

jan vrijman

karel appel (born amsterdam, 1921) was one of the dutch painters that unleashed a revolution in the renowned dutch school of painting shortly after the second world war. his work was rejected by nearly all critics and by the public at large and supported only by some friends and fervent followers, among whom amsterdam's world-famous museum director sandberg was notable. following the examples of other dutch painters who found'no favour in their own country (van gogh, mondrian, jongkind, van dongen) appel established himself in 1950 in paris, where his talent developed stormily and was soon recognised everywhere - even in holland. witness the government-sponsored documentary film that was made of him and his work. today the vitalistic, philosophically-minded karel appel is one of the world's most famous and best-paid modern painters. he is a man with his best years still before him, a powerful personality, passionately interested in all the phenomena of his time. success has not spoilt him: he lives frugally, does not smoke or drink, works hard, and has only two extravagances: good food and fast cars.

jan vrijman (born amsterdam, 1925) is another member of the rebellious post-war generation and an old friend of appel and van der elsken. a declared enemy of spiritual and cultural commonplaces, he has often caused a stir, and sometimes national sensation, with his articles in dailies and weeklies and his documentaries for dutch television.

ed van der elsken (born amsterdam, 1925), who took the photographs in this album, has known karel appel since his first years of poverty in paris. his story resembles appel's: trying to show the authentic face of reality in his photos, he broke with the aesthetics of his day, launched a new type of photography, and won himself a place among the leading photographers of europe and the u.s.a.

(c) 1963 by intern. publ. cy ltd the world's window baarn, holland

musique barbare - karel appel

behind the cry my painting is at once the destruction of all that has gone before!" there is the turmoil of an all-pervading resentment. the wrath of an artist-nonconformist for whom traditions - those obligatory consessions to the past - are like the strangling bars of a cage.

just what it is that stirs so strongly at the innermost being of karel appel, the author of the cry, (who also proclaims that he does not paint but that he thrashes the canvas), is difficult to put into rational words. his urge to settle with the past, to overthrow the walls of convention and plough away the rut of aesthetic procedure, is definitely not the urge of anger alone, nor of the discontent of a negative ego. no, it is the manifestation of a dire need for liberty, a call to make way for the right of impulse, the sudden kindling of inspiration.

but that all this, none the less, leads to restriction, composition and refinement in the choice of colour, a survey of appel's phenomenal oeuvre will show. and now the artist, in his musique barbare, has tried to cast the expression of his vivid, nomadic personality in sound. he was given the run of the instruments and devices of the electronic studio of the state university of utrecht, and these, together with a small number of conventional musical instruments, were set up at his direction in the phonogram studio at hilversum.

there, his intense feeling for colour and his complete detachment allowed him to mix a palette of sound, and to compose from it as a challenge to convention and prejudice (appel is by nature a challenger) what he has been pleased to call a triple suite, or, if one likes, a poem in sound ... musique barbare.

those who watched him at work and noted his handling of the delicate instruments, saw and heard something quite remarkable, something unbridled. at the same time one was struck by the almost unerring intuition with which he seized upon the possibilities hidden behind the intricacies of the devices. he needed but a short time to try them out, and he knew at once what he wanted.

appel's musique barbare will undoubtedly raise conflicting, even violent reactions. but in this things will be no different to what he is used to with regard to his paintings, his etchings, his gouache effects and his sculptures. the fruits of his creativity, into which in the conceiving of his sound-composition he has hurled himself with the same exhausting impetuousness, never draw neutral reactions. he compels one to take sides, to vote pro or anti appel. he always provokes the issue, the clash of opinion. his is a forceful and fascinating personality, and his musique barbare does no less bear the stamp of it than do any of his other artistic creations.

a more remarkable gramophone record has not been produced in many a year.



RESOURCES:
Ed van der Elsken - Karel Appel, componist aka Karel Appel, composer (1961) in UbuWeb Film




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