Michel van der Aa

Michel van der Aa (Dutch pronunciation: [ˌmixəl vɑn dər ˈaː]; born 10 March 1970) is a Dutch composer of contemporary classical music.[1]

Early yearsEdit

Michel van der Aa was born 10 March 1970 in Oss. He trained as a recording engineer at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and studied composition with Diderik Wagenaar, Gilius van Bergeijk and Louis Andriessen.


The music of van der Aa has been performed by ensembles and orchestras internationally. Those include the Asko|Schönberg ensemble, Freiburger Barockorchester, Ensemble Modern, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Dutch National Opera, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Seattle Chamber Players, Ensemble Nomad Tokyo, musikFabrik, Continuum Ensemble Toronto, Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Orchestras, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, Sweden, and the Helsinki Avanti! Chamber Orchestra.[2]

He completed a short program in film directing at the New York Film Academy in 2002. He also participated in the Lincoln Center Theater Director's Lab, a short, intensive course in stage direction in 2007.

Michel van der Aa's music theatre works, including the chamber opera One (2002),[3] the opera After Life [nl] (2006, Amsterdam) and the music theatre work The Book of Disquiet, have received international critical praise.[4] The innovative aspect of these operas is their use of film images and sampled soundtracks as an essential element of the score.[5]

He directed the television production of One for the Dutch national broadcasting company NPS. Passage (2004), a short film by van der Aa, has been shown at several international festivals and has been aired on Dutch national television.[6]

He has been a featured artist at the Perth Tura New Music Festival and Holland Festival. He has collaborated with choreographers such as Kazuko Hirabayashi, Philippe Blanchard, Ben Wright and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.[7]


Van der Aa was recipient of the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1999. He also received the prestigious Matthijs Vermeulen Award for One in 2004. He received the Siemens Composers' Prize in 2005. He also received the Charlotte Köhler Prize for his directing work and the interdisciplinary character of his oeuvre in the same year. He was awarded the Hindemith Prize of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in 2006.

In November 2012 it was announced that van der Aa would be the recipient of the 2013 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, for his cello concerto Up-Close, a 'highly innovative fusion of musical and visual art'[8] written for Sol Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta.[9] In 2013 he won the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize.


Van der Aa's 3D film-opera Sunken Garden, a collaboration with David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas,[10] was a joint commission from English National Opera, Barbican Centre, Toronto Luminato Festival, Opéra National de Lyon, and the Holland Festival. It was given its première by English National Opera conducted by André de Ridder at the Barbican Centre, London, on 12 April 2013,[11] with Roderick Williams in the role of Toby.

His music is recorded on the Harmonia Mundi, Col Legno, Composers' Voice, BVHaast, and VPRO Eigenwijs labels, as well as his own label Disquiet Media.[6]


Opera and music theatreEdit


  • See-Through (2000), for orchestra
  • Here [to be found] (2001), for soprano, chamber orchestra and soundtrack
  • Here [enclosed] (2003), for chamber orchestra and soundtrack
  • Second Self (2004), for orchestra and soundtrack
  • Imprint (2005), for Baroque orchestra
  • Spaces of Blank (2007), song-cycle for mezzo-soprano, orchestra and soundtrack
  • Violin Concerto (2014) for violin and orchestra


  • Span (1996), for ensemble and soundtrack
  • Between (1997), for percussion quartet and soundtrack
  • Above (1999), for ensemble and soundtrack
  • Attach (1999–2000), for ensemble and soundtrack
  • Here [in circles] (2002), for soprano (with small cassette player) and ensemble
  • Mask (2006), for ensemble and soundtrack
  • Up-Close (2010), concerto for solo cello, strings ensemble/orchestra, soundtrack and film

Chamber musicEdit

  • Auburn (1994), for guitar (classical or electric) and soundtrack
  • Oog (1995), for cello and soundtrack
  • Double (1997), for violin and piano
  • Quadrivial (1997), for flute, violin, cello and prepared piano
  • Solo (1997), for percussion solo
  • Wake (1997), for percussion duo
  • Caprce (1999), for violin solo
  • Just Before (1999), for piano and soundtrack
  • Memo (2003), for violin and portable cassette recorder
  • Transit (2009), for piano and film
  • Rekindle (2009), for flute and soundtrack
  • And how are we today? (2012), for mezzo-soprano, piano and double bass
  • Miles Away (2012), for mezzo-soprano, violin, piano and double bass

Dance and filmEdit

  • now [in fragments] (1995), for soprano, clarinet, cello and soundtrack
  • Staring at the Space (1995–96), for chamber orchestra
  • Faust (1998), for ensemble and soundtrack
  • The New Math(s) (2000), for soprano, traverso, marimba, violin and soundtrack
  • Solitaire (2003), for violin and soundtrack



  1. ^ "Michel van der Aa". Boosey & Hawkes. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Vanderaa.net: News: World premiere of double concerto 'akin'". www.vanderaa.net. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  3. ^ Picard, Anna (1 April 2012). "Riccardo Primo, Britten Theatre, London Life Is a Dream, Argyle Works, Birmingham Timberbrit, Bussey Building, London". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 May 2022. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  4. ^ Clements, Andrew (25 February 2016). "The Book of Disquiet review – a beautifully crafted Van der Aa theatre piece". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Joshua Barone (3 October 2021). "Review: In Upload, Do Blockchains Dream of Electric Lizards?". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b Clements, Andrew (22 March 2016). "Van der Aa: Blank Out review – enigmatic but effective and fluent". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Vanderaa.net : Biography". www.vanderaa.net. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Up-close wins music prize for van der Aa". Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  9. ^ "Vanderaa.net : News : Michel van der Aa wins 2013 Grawemeyer Award". www.vanderaa.net.
  10. ^ "Michel van der Aa – Sunken Garden", intermusica.co.uk
  11. ^ Sunken Garden – Vanderaa.net Michel van der Aa website. Accessed 17 September 2014
  12. ^ "Virtual International Philharmonic". Archived from the original on 26 May 2014.
  13. ^ The Book of Sand Archived 14 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Holland Festival 2015
  14. ^ "Michel van der Aa – Time Falling (feat. Kate Miller-Heidke)", album details, Disquiet Media

External linksEdit