Cultural Encounter – Interview with the artistic director of Intro in Situ, Tom Swart  

Maastricht cultured


By Lotte van Wageningen


‘Maastricht Cultured’ is a series of interviews with the creative minds shaping Maastricht’s diverse cultural scene.   


Recently a friend told me that, within our lifetime, we tend to solely listen and search for the same kind of music; the music we’ve acquired from our youth or during our transformative years of puberty or young adulthood. I’m not sure if this is true, but when I think back on my own musical upbringing and current most- played spotify lists, there is definitely a ‘musical comfort zone’ detectable. Although I consider myself pretty open-minded when it comes to music, able to enjoy a whole load of different genres from jazz to obscure electronics, at the end of the day I always return back to my trusted melodramatic singer songwriters. And yes they did help me get through my years of teenage angst!


Apart from that fact, the idea of having such a narrow mind when it comes to my musical interests, didn’t sit well with me. Therefore I decided to search for a place in Maastricht that could offer me a new, mind-broadening musical experience.


My search quickly brought me to Intro in Situ, Maastricht’s innovative production house for contemporary music performances. Located inside the Muziekgieterij, Intro in situ organizes free concerts every Tuesday, featuring unique performances creating links between jazz, pop, dance, theatre and more. Offering a stage to young musicians and creators to take risks and a place for adventurous listeners to leap outside of their musical comfort zone.


I talked to Intro in Situ’s Artistic director as well as composer and pianist/accordionist from the well known band Blaudzun: Tom Swart, about the role of a production house within the music scene, new developments in music and what to expect from an Intro in Situ production.


What exactly is Intro in Situ?


Intro in Situ is a production house for contemporary ‘new’ music, in the broadest sense of the word. Intro in Situ supports both composers, who like to experiment and try something new, and young musicians who need more stage time. We give them the chance to develop and play their own, personal music in our workspace.


What’s the history of Intro in Situ?


In 1984, Paul Coenjaarts founded Intro in Situ, initially as an experimental sound design workspace. In the meantime it’s been around for almost 35 years and via various roads, and by curving around many obstacles, it has become what it is now. Sound design and contemporary music are still our core focus, but with our recent relocation in the Muziekgieterij, next to jazz and classical music we also added pop music to our repertoire.


In what sense is it important that the music created at Intro in Situ is unfamiliar and experimental?


Talent development is important to us, so to offer a stage for innovative and experimental music. But experimental doesn’t necessarily mean inaccessible. We mostly look out for interesting combinations between different art forms or different genres within music. That’s also a visible trend in general. A lot of music that’s being made right now cannot easily be defined by just one specific genre anymore. We play with this fact and see it as an opportunity to create original music. To give young musicians the chance to reach outside the boundaries of genres and create something of their own is our biggest goal.


Do you need to be of a certain level to be able to play at Intro in Situ?    


Yes, definitely. Most Intro in Situ’s musicians have already established productions. During our ‘Jonge Honden’ nights on Tuesdays we mainly feature conservatory students. Although you, of course, don’t necessarily have to be a conservatory student to reach a certain level of skill. From these nights we often pick and choose musicians in which we see more potential and offer them a residence at Intro in Situ.


What does a residence at Intro in Situ entail?


While staying at Intro in Situ, we help the musicians work on projects for a longer period of time, like for instance a particular show or production. We decide which type of coaching or guidance this particular creator needs and deliver a personalised program. When creating a new production, usually money comes into play. Therefore we offer an arrangement that enables creators financially in their process. So what we really do is to help musicians and composers overcome the gap between studying and the professional work field. Besides from that there are also more experienced creators we assist with their productions.


Furthermore we work together with ‘Tout Maastricht’ on educational programs to encourage cultural participation. One example of a collaboration we have with them is ‘Ode to Dignity’. By using various art forms, this program tries to draw attention to the matter of child labour and children’s rights. Intro in Situ contributed by delivering the musical compositions and music directors.  


At the moment, we are also discussing possibilities of collaborations in scientific research. I just got out of a meeting here at FASOS about future research on sound and it’s social impact.


Can you name a few musicians that have successfully completed their program at Intro in Situ?


Yes we are very proud of Jesse Passenier, who currently has a residency at Intro in situ, and has won the Rogier van de Otterlo Award in 2017 for best composer and arranger. Similarly guitarist and composer Aart Strootman, who has completed his program at Intro in Situ, won the Gaudeamus award with his composition last year. He has been working with Gaudeamus; a foundation that focuses on the promotion and development of contemporary classical music, ever since.  


How did you become the artistic director of Intro in Situ?


It’s just recently, since August last year, that I’ve been the new artistic director of Intro in Situ. I studied musicology in Utrecht and graduated in contemporary music. Intro in Situ was, and is in fact the only production house in the Netherlands for contemporary music, so after my studies I’ve always followed it’s development. I played with the idea of starting a similar production house in Utrecht, but ones I found out about the open vacancy of director, I immediately took the plunge and applied. I think both my graduation subject on 20th century classical music and my practical experience in pop music appealed to them. I have 10 years of experience playing in various pop bands and I think Intro in situ was ready to head in that direction, in addition to experimental music. Whereas for me this meant getting back to my contemporary roots, which made for a great mutual match.


You still live in Utrecht, what do you think of Maastricht’s musical scene and its opportunities for young musicians?


These are exciting times. There’s a great conservatory, drama school and university situated in Maastricht. More and more talented (international)students arrive here every year. The challenge, though, lies in offering all these promising students appropriate opportunities within the city to establish themselves. Most students tend to leave the city again as soon as they graduate. Besides this, when looking at Europe, Maastricht is geographically a very interesting city with a lot of potential. The problem is the gap between studying and the opportunities to practice one’s craft here in Maastricht. Together with Jazz Maastricht and Muziekgieterij we are trying to make Maastricht more interesting to young musicians, for instance by creating new festivals.  


What can I expect from a show at Intro in Situ?


Well the Tuesday evenings are for free and for adventure. Those are the nights our musicians try out their most recent experimentations. It can be something they wrote the same afternoon, or it can be a collaboration between one of our musicians and an artist from a different discipline. You can encounter a complete ensemble or just one solo performer. Usually it’s a big success, and sometimes less so, but you’re always assured of a new, exciting experience. Although in our program booklet and on our website you can already get some idea of what to expect from each performance.  


One’s a month we invite larger scale performances, of well-established composers and musicians. You can get tickets to these shows on our website with student discount.


What kind of audience do you mostly see at Intro in Situ?


It varies from curious students to an older generation of classical concert visitors. The audience mostly exists of internationals though, which is why we always offer our agenda in both Dutch and English.  


What new developments do you notice in music and what people tend to listen to nowadays?


Like I said before, I notice that there are fewer boundaries when it comes to fitting into a certain genre. There are no clear boxes anymore. This is also visible in the listener; people are less stuck in a certain genre they enjoy. The audience seem to be more adventurous in testing their musical taste. When it comes to the music itself, there’s clearly more use of electronics in nearly every genre. You also see more and more musicians testing the limits of their musical instruments to the point of changing or building their own. Either by adding on to their current instrument, building a completely new one or recreating the sounds using computers.


Are you interested in experiencing an Intro in Situ production or public show? Check out their facebook page or website for their up-to-date agenda.


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