Introduction to life and work
by Yves Senden
Boudewijn Buckinx was born in 1945 in Lommel, Belgium, as the youngest child of a large family. They moved several times ("to move was my mother's hobby") and ended up in the neighborhood of Antwerp. Buckinx studied violin from the age of eight and organized 'composition contest' concerts at home with family members and friends, both as composers and performers. His very first compositions (1957) were strictly tonal, but gradually "enlarged tonality" sneaked in, inspired by Chostakovitch and Berg (e.g. Počme Zéro, BBWV 1960.33). Simultaneously, a dadaistic approach is obvious in works like 2de waarwaar (BBWV 1960.58) with parts for three metronomes and three bad sounding triangles. The most striking element in the Trio (BBWV 1963.01) consists of the 'free' use of tonality forecasting the style the composer would call his own from 1983 on.
1963 -1983 [developing a style]
During one year Buckinx attended the Lemmens Institution (Mechelen) where he met Simonne Claeys whom he married in 1967. He continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp where (modestly) progressive music by e.g. Bartók and Prokofjev was not avoided. Buckinx followed a private composition class with Lucien Goethals (1964 - 1967) and was interested in the works of Karel Goeyvaerts which resulted in a more radical orientation towards contemporary music (Boulez, Stockhausen). The composer Goethals approved Buckinx' serial compositions like Verklankingen (BBWV 1964.11) but could hardly appreciate the more aleatorically organised Allotropie (BWV 1964.08). At the IPEM in Ghent Buckinx studied electronic music resulting in several tape compositions (1965-1971). In 1968 Buckinx participated at the rehearsals and performance of Stockhausen's 'Musik für ein Haus' during the '23. Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt'. The same year he enlisted at the university of Ghent, department Musicology (with Jan Broeckx), where he met Herman Baeten, Laurens De Keyzer, Bartold Kuijken, Johan Vandenbossche and Jan Hoet.
Also in 1968 Buckinx founded an ensemble for contemporary and actual music, called WHAM (Werkgroep voor Hedendaagse en Actuele Muziek). The ensemble, up to nine musicians including the Dutch organist Huub ten Hacken, performed music that was received quite controversially: the concert in Ghent (January 15th 1969) provoked so much protest that the guard turned on the alarm. The last WHAM concert was in 1974.
In this period Buckinx combined graphic and conceptual scores with a theatrical dimension (there is a connection with Kagel), as can be seen in de Violencel van hertog Blauwbaard (BBWV 1929.02), a composition for cello, shaver and sound amplification. Buckinx graduated in 1972 with a dissertation on the (at that time) controversial composer John Cage and his Variations.
Between 1973 and 1980, fully occupied by his activities as teacher at the Antwerp Conservatory and producer at the Belgium radio in Brussels, Buckinx diminished his number of compositions. On one hand he still favoured the Avantgarde (cf. o cello mio, BBWV 1979.03, for cello with two bows), on the other hand doubt had risen. In his Geheime Stukken ('secret pieces', BBWV 1973.03) he reconsidered what composing could be by using "free tonality" once more. Ten years later Buckinx would decide to make this his definite style from that moment on: Puerto Rey (BBWV 1983.04), Adagio, the famous one (BBWV 1984.15) and Short Lived (BWV 1984.32) mark the beginning of his idiomatic style.
1983-2004 [free tonality / postmodernism]
Buckinx has now developed his postmodern style and fully uses the power of musical "metaphors": whatever musical gesture from the past comes into his mind, may contribute to his own musical story. Again his compositions were received controversially: the orchestral piece Ce qu'on entend dans la salle de concert (BBWV 1987.09), conducted by Frank Nuyts, caused a scandal at its premičre for being too consonant. Further important examples for Buckinx' postmodern style are the String Quartet nr. 4 (BBWV 1987.11) with a striking dissonance opposed to mainly tonal gestures, the "musical diary" of the 1001 Sonatas (BBWV 1988.09), and the Nine Unfinished Symphonies (1991-1992), a pandemonium of metaphors.
Ghent would be the city where Buckinx's music was most sympathetically received and performed from the Nineties on. Pianist, composer and friend Claude Coppens - who considers Buckinx to be an equivalent of Erik Satie - played his music on many concerts. Composer, conductor and percussionist Frank Nuyts, also a close friend, was in contact with Buckinx for many years and stimulated his music to be played. There is a five year lasting letter correspondence with Johan Huys, director of the Royal Conservatory of Ghent, which provides a thorough insight in the musical climate of that time. Buckinx' music was highly promoted by André Posman (brother of the composer Lucien Posman), the owner of the small theater 'De Rode Pomp' in Ghent. A lot of Buckinx' compositions were premiered there by a close circle of friends and performers, e.g. during the nine day "Buckinx Festival" in 1993.
Between 1994 and 1999 Buckinx published two books: de kleine pomo (on postmodernism) and Muziek uit de voorbije eeuw (together with Yves Knockaert). His third book Aria van de diepe noot (2001) is a compilation of several texts (including a striking musical example of his approach to free tonality).
Towards the end of the decade Buckinx wrote several stage works: Karoena (BBWV 1995.02), De hand van Guido (BBWV 1995.03, together with Frank Agsteribbe), Sokrates (BBWV 1996.17), Le Valchirie (BBWV, 1997.02), Van alle tijden (BBWV 1997.23, a shared project with Gerard Ammerlaan and Jacob Ter Veldhuis), Nietzsche Talk Show (BBWV 2000.08), Dhammapada (BBWV 2002.02). Zen Requiem (BBWV 2000.05) and Station Play (BBWV 2003.01) are landmarks in Buckinx' worklist.
2004-today [late works]
Buckinx continues to write - in an irregular pace - mostly short works, with remarkable exceptions like the four hour lasting Pianokwartet nr.14 (BBWV 2019.01). Since 2004 several hundreds of compositions have been created, often featuring less common instruments, not - or no longer - taking into consideration whether this could be realized or not. Buckinx states that he does not write for others, just for himself. It is not 'music written to be played'. It is just 'music'. In 2012 the organist Yves Senden went to Spain, where Buckinx is living for several months of the year, to make the inventory of all scores and move them to Belgium. Between 2012 and 2015 the entire manuscript collection was scanned. Next, the entire archive was given to the Library of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp where it can be consulted. The immense oeuvre - more than 1350 works (counting the 1001 Sonates as one composition) - remains largely unplayed; only about 400 works were performed. Or, to put it like this: the music of Boudewijn Buckinx is waiting to be discovered.
for further biographical details see: www.boudewijnbuckinx.com