An Interview with Mark Nieuwenhuis

Photo by Mirko Merchiori.
  • Tell us a few things about yourself and how you got involved with music.  

My parents used to play a lot of classical music when I was a child. It triggered my imagination and I could hear new melodies in my head. At that time, my grandma taught me the basics of playing the piano. A little while after that when I was eight years old, I started to learn the  trumpet. Now 30 years later, I live in Amsterdam, I still play the trumpet, and am professionally as well as voluntarily involved with performing, producing and composing now for almost 15  years.  

  • Describe your music in 3 words!  

Melody, Rhythm, Atmosphere.

  • Who is your favorite trumpet player?  

There are a lot of players I like, but I am really happy the way I play myself. So, I think I can say I am my own favorite trumpet player. But of course, there are other trumpet players I like and  listen to: Roy Hargrove, Ibrahim Maalouf, Miles Davis, Freddy Hubbard.  

  • Trumpeters like Ibrahim Maalouf introduced microtonal music to an audience that was  unfamiliar with it. Why do you think it took so much time for this great music to be  appreciated? 

The way I see it, Maalouf uses the microtones in Arabic sounding scales, as a seasoning of his
music that to me sounds more like a mix of jazz, funk, rock and Balkan. His personal style of
playing is what introduced a lot of Western people to these scales and tones. It’s accessible
because he mixes it up in styles that people are already familiar with. I believe he worked very
hard for many years to build his audience, and for good reasons he ended up playing around the
world for big crowds.

  • You have released a self-titled debut album and have been occupied with different  projects/collaborations through the years, such as ‘The Athens String Project’ ‘Music for  Museums’. Tell us about the idea behind them.  

I released my first album in 2014, after playing in many bands with different styles. All those  impressions mixed inside of me and produced an album with many different flavors. I am still happy with it. Some tracks of the album will be featured in a new movie by Dutch film director Joost van Ginkel, that is being made right now, shot in The Netherlands and Georgia. It will be out somewhere in 2021.  The track “Waantje” was featured multiple times on national television as music for travel  programs.  

The “Athens Strings Project” has a more recent history. In 2017 I joined a Greek band of the singer Giannis Haroulis, for a European tour and a Greek summer tour across the whole country and islands. So far, I played with them for three summers (for four months in the year) while living in Athens. In the first year I was alone in this new place, exploring the city, playing trumpet all the time and composing music. It was an amazing experience. For two friends I knew from the band, Lefteris Andriotis (lyra) and Mihalis Kalkanis (double bass) and also Elsa Papeli  (cello) I created two original pieces and two interpretations of Greek songs and arranged them  for a trumpet and strings ensemble. At the end of the first summer we managed to record it in  Sierra Studio’s in Athens and made nice videos too.  

Music for Museums is my most recent release. It started as an audiovisual collaboration with visual artist Martin Boverhof, where I brought an electronic live set and performed in a museum where Martin setup a visual installation. After a couple of performances, I decided to digitally release an EP with four songs. We presented the EP in February 2020 with an audiovisual show and a live band and multiscreen projection setup 

If I may add something else, it would be a project called “The New House”, which is a band I  started in 2016. We made a six track EP called “Moves“.  

  • Can you think of anything that the Amsterdam music scene is currently missing?  

It can be good and/or bad. It is missing public places for playing live music that are free of permits and regulations and harassment by complaining people. The local live music scene is getting smaller and smaller as a lot of small venues are having a hard time paying high rents and dealing with regulations and complaints related to the sound. Luckily in Amsterdam there are many talented and creative people, and they do make a lot of nice things happen. New spots pop up regularly, but a lot of places have closed as well.  

  • What is the kind of connection between your music and the urban space?  

One connection is that I like to play the trumpet outdoors, and when I do that, I look for the places with the most interesting acoustics. I also like to use sounds in my music that I’ve recorded outside or make recordings of musicians in special places. It presents me with surprising musical ideas from very random sources. I used this concept when I was the resident composer for the municipality of Zaanstad from 2012–2015. In one the concert, we took the audience for a walk, recorded the sound, and when we returned, we played back the sound, and  improvised along with it using drums, cello, piano and trumpet. I also made a lot of audiovisual compositions. At the end of the period I performed my work with an orchestra and visuals under  the name of Soundstad.  

  • What should we expect from you in the near future?  

At the moment I am recording the second album with The Soul Travelers, an acoustic hip-hop  group, which will be released soon. Last week I also recorded with saxophone player Chris Corstens. In October and November, I will present some new music, together with other  musicians that have worked together with musician and actor Felix Strategier whose poetry  inspired the music theatre group Flint. In his memory we will have concerts in The Roode  Bioscoop in Amsterdam. And soon I will play again with the composer/guitarist Corrie van Binsbergen and singer Frederique Spigt. We were touring in the beginning of 2020, but the tour  was cut short due to Corona. As always, you’ll find me now and again playing in the tunnel under the train tracks in Westerpark or opposite the Bimhuis. 

Thanks Mark!

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