Thuistezien 261 — 11.05.2021

Bas Haring & Colin Benders
Encounters #6

Is societal relevance a standard that benefits the arts and the sciences? How can its value be measured or demonstrated? Or is this question itself a phenomenon of the current society characterised by commercial efficiency-oriented thinking? Professor Bas Haring and musician Colin Benders (alias Kyteman) discuss the needs of both disciplines.

What comes forward through the encounter between art and science is the significance of creativity, but also the different methods to create this space for creativity. Haring describes how in his practice he likes to explain complex issues as stories, where he intuitively finds a format for a wide audience and looks for components within science that should be subjects to ruminate about in a cafe. Benders emphasises interaction as key; with his project ‘The Jam Sessions’ (2014) the music was composed on-stage. Nothing can be compared to the creative process of making something for the first time. Everything that afterwards is reproduced becomes redundant and irrelevant, because it has already been thought before. Haring recognises this in giving lectures, where he aims to leave room for improvisation and invites students to interrupt, in order to let something happen. Autonomous research is an important discipline for both, as something which does not always fit the mold of academia or subsidy policies. There has to be room for failure and pointless activity (such as ‘drinking a beer at the canal’) to eventually get to the ‘relevant’ questions and develop a research method or musical piece.

What Haring understands by relevance is that there is a question posed in the first place. Namely, this points to something that apparently has not been asked before, and as such predicts innovation and relevance, and moreover guaranteeing legitimacy. And thinking differently is something anyone could do, without necessarily having an intellectual background or training. One learns along the way. He introduces Johan Cruijff as an example for this, who as the only coach in a long history of soccer sport chose to call back a player and not put in a replacement. Bender also sees value in gaining experience as one goes along. The autonomous character of the arts feels restricted to him; the same formats and implementations keep coming back and being prescribed. The professional or craftsman would perhaps spot the pitfalls within his practice earlier on, yet craftsmanship is something that predominantly develops along with interest. The more one’s obsession for something grows, the more one starts developing ways to get skilled with the matter. He ultimately was better served by his attic researching new things, than the conservatory. Nevertheless, he endorses such a traditional basic education; it is of significant use to the student to know what they will learn, to become knowledgeable on what has been ‘conserved’. Haring does not necessarily see this as a good approach, and calls it a training in what already exists, and insufficient ground to then discover things that do not exist.

The musical intermezzo is brought by composer Juan Parra. He offers his perspective on this issue, based on creativity within electronic music. Instrument building, design and development is primarily led by the commercial sector, where subsequently musicians have to choose their instruments from the supply. Electronic media can be viewed as restrictive compared to traditional instruments, where it has no musical standard or possibility to really sound or express like traditional instruments. However, this is perhaps where its potentiality lies - by no longer seeing electronic instruments as that which has to look like whatever has preceded it, such as a keyboard. An interesting complement to the discussion.

Sebastiaan (Bas) Haring is a Dutch philosopher and computer engineer, writer of children’s books and popular science, television host at the RVU and professor at Leiden University, where he holds the chair for ‘public understanding of science’.

Colin Benders, alias Kyteman, is trumpeter, bandleader, composer and producer, and has been playing various big Dutch festival stages since 2009 with performances of his Kyteman’s Hiphop Orkest, a unique mix of jazz and hip-hop. For his debut album The Hermit Sessions Benders received an Edison Award.

Juan Parra Cancino studies Composition at the Catholic University of Chile and Sonology at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. He is member of various ensembles, and founder of The Electronic Hammer (computer and percussion trio) and Wiregriot (vocal and electronics). He is also a research assistant at the Orpheus Institute.

Text: Yael Keijzer