Michael Vetter

O TRIOM remembers Michael Vetter


During one of my concerts in Taucha, Germany, last month, I asked the audience who knows the name Michael Vetter. Several people raised their hands. But as I expected, many people at the Ancient Trance Festival don’t know his name. Of course, quite a few more may have heard his music in the Age of Spotify: you listen but don’t know what album is playing, now that a physical relationship to the medium (as in the time of LPs, CDs) is outdated. Besides, Ancient Trance is not exactly overlapping with Vetter’s artistic direction. He was much more avant-garde, with musical influences from Baroque to Dada and Fluxus, and a host of visual influences, from mediaeval religious painting and Chinese calligraphy to comics.

In the next few weeks O TRIOM is looking back at the life and work of the instrumentalist, vocalist, painter, poet, pedagogue and ordained Zen master Michael Vetter (1943-2013). We will be showing how his legacy continues to inspire, inform and transform our performing today in several concerts, a lecture and workshops. Why? Certainly not because Vetter was such a fine overtone singer. There are and have been many fine overtone singers, and Vetter’s style of singing and performing was one of many – not ‘just’ one of many, but a very influential one, to be sure. In the 1980s, anyone wanting to do something with overtone singing went to Vetter’s workshops and bought his albums, at least in very active German-speaking areas (and The Netherlands too). Vetter set certain standards for overtone singing, for a certain period of time, and those standards hardly changed.


Michael Vetter making Indian ink drawings, Academia Caparaia, Italy, 2009. (Photograph Mark van Tongeren under protection of Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND)

The interest of O TRIOM in Vetter also started with overtone singing, but soon branched out in many other directions. For example: Vetter as a typical Zen Buddhist. He insists again and again that one should give undivided attention to what one is doing when making music (or anything else, though he would not talk about anything, but about art). And he applied this attitude in all his music, and all his other creative work, as well as his cooking and everyday life. When I read and re-read his texts, or when I go through the conversations we had and the interviews I did with him, I frequently stumble upon contradictions (literally: ‘counter-speaking’) concerning his spiritual or religious outlook. You may be looking to clarify his positions towards spiritual questions, and find that he has much to say about that. Many people felt he was a very religious person and his biography testifies to that. Certainly a believer! But then you will sooner or later find a remark in which he warns for overzealous religious interpretations. “Here and there one learns about the connection between overtones and Our Lord. That is far removed from me!” And yet, many of his art and music works bear very clear Christian (and not just Zen) elements.

It seems that it does not make sense. And that is exactly what we can take away from Michael Vetter (or maybe from Zen in general), and what keeps me coming back to him for fresh insights: there is no single, or final way to talk about or do anything. There are only temporarily, or partially ‘true’ or ‘convincing’ arguments to believe, or positions to take. As soon as one clings too much to certain truths, it is time to let it go again and look for yet another perspective .

In the weeks to come we will prepare ourselves with this in mind: try as best as you can to follow certain aesthetic and creative paths, and be always willing to throw them overboard again and replace them with something new. I am excited about this moment in our O TRIOM collaboration, which began in early 2022, if I remember well. And I salute the brilliant artist who bridged so many visions and visuals, sounds and musics, thoughts and dreams in a lifetime bursting with creative output.


Read an earlier post about why we should remember Michael Vetter here.





Lecture Transverbal

Time: 6th October (Friday) 2023, 19:00-21:30

Location: Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre, 2rd floor

Speaker: prof. CHUNG Mingder (Department of Theatre Arts, TNUA), Mark van Tongeren, LU Qi Chung, LEE Wei Lin


Workshop Michael Vetter’s Overtone Singing Methods

Time: 13th October (Friday) 2023, 10:00-17:00

Location: Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre, 3rd floor

Facilitator: LU Qi Chung, LEE Wei Lin


Workshop OKYO

Time: 17th October (Tuesday) 2023, 10:00-17:00

Location: Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre 3rd floor

Facilitator: Mark van Tongeren


Overtone Singing Concert for Michael Vetter

21st October (Saturday) 2023, 19:00

22nd October (Sunday) 2023, 14:00

Location: Dreamphony Hall (No. 59, Lane 97, Guangrong Rd, Luzhou District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 247)





O TRIOM Artists

LEE Wei Lin

LU Qi Chung

Mark van Tongeren


Organizer| Taiwan Overtone Singing Association TOSA
Executive Producer  | Lee Chichen
Visual Design  | Bai Chi Hao
Image source | Michael Vetter

Lecture| prof. CHUNG Mingder

Taiwan Overtone Singing Association is also on Facebook.

Photos from a 2014 concert by O TRIOM






O TRIOM 紀念米歇爾·費特大師 系列泛音講座、工作坊暨音樂會



時間 2023/10/6(五) 19:00-21:30

地點 牯嶺街小劇場二樓藝文空間

講者 鍾明德教授(北藝大戲劇系)、Mark van Tongeren、呂啓仲、李維琳







時間 2023/10/13(五) 10:00-17:00

地點 牯嶺街小劇場三樓排練場

講師 呂啓仲、李維琳







時間 2023/10/17(二) 10:00-17:00

地點 牯嶺街小劇場三樓排練場

講師 Mark van Tongeren


本工作坊將概述 Michael Vetter 的創作生涯,觀察他的作品中音樂/聲音和禪宗幾個主題,以及 20 世紀 90 年代及之後歐洲對禪宗日益增長的興趣如何與費特的作品呼應,以及他如何自由地採用“okyo”並對其進行改造。並一起唱送費特的okyo以及馬克本身創作的365則向費特致敬的 okyo。


O TRIOM 米歇爾‧費特大師 紀念音樂會



2023/10/21  六 19:00

2023/10/22 日  14:00



夢響廳 Dreamphony Hall



演出者:Mark van Tongeren.呂啓仲.李維琳




OKYO詩文唱誦,極簡而留白,這是泛音音樂傳承的其一精神支脈。本演出亦是對開創性的德國藝術家、作家、教育家米歇爾·費特(Michael Vetter,1943-2013)的生平及創作致敬,他將所有作品的總體概念命名為《Transverbal》—穿越言語。






Mark van Tongeren 馬克・范・湯可鄰


主辦單位| |台灣泛音詠唱協會

執行製作  | 李紀辰

視覺設計 |  白濟豪

圖片來源 | Michael Vetter

講座講者| 鍾明德教授





Read an earlier post about why we should remember Michael Vetter here.


Spring Program 2024

Concerts, workshops and other upcoming events.

Details below



Mark is taking a short break from physical workshops and postponing some that were planned already to later this year.
Please check back here, get on the email-list  or ask to be notified for a specific workshop.

April 15|4月15日

Free Online Overtone Singing Class 免費泛音詠唱線上課

From now on I start teaching online one-on-one voice classes!
I am offering two free online sessions for two learning pathways that you can just try out if you are interested, without further obligations.
If you have any issues with your overtone singing technique, overall resonance or vocal delivery, or wish to develop more grounding or authenticity in your voice, I am here to help with that.
So to start with, I have outlined two main sorts of questions that I can help with:
1. overtone singing in a therapeutic way,
2. overtone singing as a musical, artistic path.
The first one does not emphasise too many technical issues and musical terms, and is more focused on being completely present and as resonant as needed (a big booming sound is certainly not what everyone needs, on the contrary).
The second path is for those who want to know exactly what overtones they sing and use that in musical contexts. Obviously, the two paths can be totally mixed up. Personally I have always combined the therapeutic with the artistic. But not everyone is interested in scales and intervals, neither do they need to be, so if you decide to take some lessons this is one thing that you need to figure out.
In online classes, you will
– try out some exercises with me
– get your questions and concerns answered
– understand more about my overtone singing approach
Do join if you like! Just sign up and we give you the access details.
Free Online Overtone Singing Class – Therapeutic Pathway
▶ Date & Time: 15. April 19:00
Free Online Overtone Singing Class – Artistic Pathway
▶ Date & Time: 15. April 20:00
▶ Place: Online (Zoom meeting)
▶ Fee: FREE!
▶ Language: English
▶ Sign up: https://bit.ly/freeOSclasses
(Once signing up through this link, we will send you the link to the online meeting room as soon as possible. You will be automatically added to my mailing list. You can unsubscribe at anytime).


April 18|4月18日

Perfect Improvisation 完美即興

>>>> Learn more/活動詳細資訊 <<<<<<

Read all about it here.


April 26|4月26日

聽見泛音 ‧人聲詠唱音樂會

2024/04/26(五) 19:30- 20:10
Suezu, Kovida, Amang, Sunny, Jackal, Haopin
提醒您要 預先訂位 喔~~

December 21 – 24 |12月21-24日

Voice Yoga Winter Retreat  聲音瑜伽:冬至療癒假期

 >>>> Learn more/活動詳細資訊 <<<<<<

Read all about it here.




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or how to combine the art of writing meaningful non-sense texts with hypnosis methods


Next week I am teaching a group of hypnosis students in Taipei. They are the students of a man who goes by the nickname of La Mian (ramen, or Japanese thick noodles) who is specialized in hypnosis and teaches and applies it in a wide range of methods. He came to my workshop Ocean of Voices recently, a 3-day exploration of the richness of musical traditions around the world (focusing on the voice). We had several amazing sessions where everyone went through his or her own transformations while singing, chanting, drumming, playing, or just listening to everyone else. Paths to change the body, change the mind and empower your creative imagination through the voice: a dynamic key or bridge that sits in between the body and mind, working its logical and illogical ways in both directions.



Photos taken during the Oceaen of Voices of workshop in Nantou, Taiwan. Above, La Mian with the Bunun people from XinYi. Below, session during the workshop.


You could call the logical part the verbal: the voice as speech, as reason and gossip.

You could call the illogical part transverbal: the voice as sound and music, as noise and non-sense.


Transverbal is a term Michael Vetter coined to group together, and give purpose to, his vast corpus of creative work, in music, in visual arts, in writing. It led, among other things, to his writing of okyo’s, which is Japanese for sutras. His sutras were not Buddhist texts, but used the sounds of the Japanese language as a template from which he created ‘texts’ without meaning. It was not merely a capricious thing, a joke, or an anti-religious sentiment. Vetter was serious about it. He had practised chanting and reciting actual sutras for year after year during his 13 year stay in Japan, going about the streets begging for alms or performing ceremonial. But, in a true Zen vein, he would not eschew the occasional humorous twist in his own okyos either.


I got to know Michael Vetter’s okyos in the mid 1990s and was impressed with their form and sound and Vetter’s precise reasoning for why he created them. Later I began to write my own occasional okyos. Last year I decided to write an okyo every day for one year, to commemorate Michael’s birth (in 1943) and passing (in 2013), now eighty and ten years ago. I shape these okyos, naturally, but they also shape me, and invite me or teach me to push for new ideas about sound, language and symbol. Here is one example which I will take to the Hypnokyo workshop:



Here is another one

And here is one that you can listen to in the video, below:


So next week my okyos are going to be tested by students of hypnosis. They learn a range of sounding techniques that could enhance or expand their hypnosis practise. I am really looking forward to see what they will do with it, and hope I can be their guinea pig to test the efficacy of the okyos. Not long ago, hypnosis was regarded as somewhat occult, esoteric and strange. In recent years it has become more widely accepted and it began to loose its strangeness in public opinion. The approach now seems to be more practical: it is yet another way for us – complicated, sensitive and often limited and hyperrational human beings – to understand the mysteries of life and self, and to make sense of the world around us in new, more attuned ways.


You can enjoy listening to one of my okyos in this video (thanks to Sky for editing).

And I will read this week’s episode of one of my favorite newsletters, which happens to be devoted to clinical hypnosis.

Introducing: IUooUI

A new group called IUooUI is going to give its first series of full performances. Most of us know each other for many years now and share a deep passion for overtone singing, throat singing and improvising with voices and instruments, as well as work on the body-mind relationship. We decided to take it a step further and create surprising performances based on all those amazing sessions we had during workshops throughout the years. We all have dreams and desires to bring the music in our heads alive, for others to hear. This is a challenge. We leave the intimate comfort zone of a workshop space. We are ready to confront an audience of curious listeners in unusual settings, and to envelop them with our resonances, overtones, mantras, syllables, shrieks, assisted by drums, Jew’s Harps, shruti boxes and more.




The name UIooUI stands for the mantra-and sutra-like phrases that we often use, inspired by the okyo of Michael Vetter (1943-2013). Michael transformed these traditional Japanese sutras to expand his own musical language, and this has become part of my own language now. IuooUI also stands for:


Of course, the syllables i-u-o-o-u-i  make a small overtone piece in themselves.

The name was proposed by our in-house poet, Amang, whose Chinese name is , which is the last part of IUooUI when it is pronounced as a three-character Mandarin syllabe, yiwoyu.

Our in-house designer JiJi Liu created the logo for us.


The name TWEAKS refers to the process of tweaking, adjusting, making things better by smaller or sometimes bigger changes. It is my hope that next week we can really tweak all the musical elements so that they keep on growing, changing and move towards a more refined shape. This week, at least, some of us were still busy tweaking, like JiJi and Sky, who came up with this after the dress rehearsal:



It has been inspiring to see how busy all members got in recent months to prepare for this first complete performance. They have been working diligently on their sounds and pieces, of which more than half is composed by themselves in smaller units. They took care of sound and light, finding equipment and personnel to handle it, costumes …


Earlier this year we have done some smaller performance, to warm up, and as teasers for our bigger program.



Sunday August 21 – 19:30

Wednesday August 24 – 19:30

Friday August 26 – 15:00 and 19:30

Sunday August 28 – 19:30

The performances will be held at VENUE, on its 5F space, No. 10, Lane 107, Linsen North Road. This is a bustling area and if you have the time, you can have diner before at a nice Japanese restaurant, Umeko, right next door to VENUE  (no. 8)!

Limited 20% discounted tickets available, please write to: iuooui.taiwan@gmail.com
to secure your seat. Tickets: https://www.opentix.life/event/1536284030369976325

Our Facebook and IG:





IUooUI : 全新泛音詠唱團體的誕生
8月【漪渦⿂】 就要正式公演了~
我們即將參與 2022臺北藝穗節,一共演出5場~
1:【8/21 19:30】 (日) 晚
2:【8/24 19:30】 (三) 晚
3:【8/26 15:00】 (五) 午
4:【8/26 19:30】 (五) 晚
5:【8/28 19:30】 (日) 晚

演出資訊: https://www.opentix.life/event/1536284030369976325



I still hear you!

Today it is 6 years ago since Michael Vetter (1943-2013) passed away. One year after his passing I wrote a blogpost called ‘Five Reasons to Remember Michael Vetter’ and those reasons still stand. In part I still ‘think through’ Vetter’s way of looking at the world and of looking at creative processes (not to mention in practising music and other arts). That is, I wonder how he did things I am doing or want to do, and try to find what I can still learn from him. Since that time (and in fact long before that, to be sure), my taste for music and sound ventures (or ventured) in many directions where his taste certainly did not go. But it is not his art alone that matters. With all that searching and groping, I sometimes lose a sense of what is essential. Not for music and sound per se, but for the bigger picture of how it all fits in with the other aspects of life (and death). And it is here that I find enduring inspiration from this versatile German artist.


Michael Vetter had a remarkable critical attitude towards a wide range of topics, traditions and disciplines. He knew exactly what he needed from them and was always able to state with great clarity how they related to each other and, if applicable, to his own work. Another feat is how he succeeded in developing a total vision for the many arts he practiced (fine arts, performing arts, and writing, to start with) and for spiritual and contemplative practises, primarily Christianity and Zen Buddhism. He knew both from inside out – and that is something not many composers or musicians could say. Most of them who claim Zen inspiration have flirted with it or studied it from a distance. Vetter lived the life of a monk several months a year for a decade, practising alongside Japanese monks and the occasional foreigner. He also studied theology for some years, which at the time (early 1960s) meant deep-reading of existential and other philosophical and psychological authors. Small wonder a large portion of his work is imbued with themes at the heart of the human experience. Often, in fact, he looked one or more levels deeper, beneath the surface, to find the roots of symbol, communication, emotion, illusion, aesthetic form, signs …


Michael Vetter making Indian ink drawings, Academia Capraia, Italy, 2009 (photo by Mark van Tongeren)


Some of Michael Vetter’s boxes with about two years worth of daily ink drawings, Das Buch der Zeichen. Photo by Mark van Tongeren


There is a lot of music out there that can touch me deeply, from the abstract (Morton Feldman’s Coptic Lights) to the popular (Stevie Wonder’s Black Man or As, which recently made me burst out in tears), from the dream-like and hallucinating (Biosphere’s Substrata) to the Romantic (Schubert/Müller’s Winterreise), etc .etc. And even though I know and do believe that quite a few of all those artists that I like have interesting ideas, I also know that many of them don’t necessarily have a vision that resonates deeply with me. The case with Vetter is different. He was someone whose works I often enjoyed or admired, but who also inspired me with his grand vision about, well, almost anything. I have deep respect for the way he could balance his own interests in the arts, in society, in spirituality and religion, and –not last but not least either – in everyday life. And then how he weaved all those themes together in a remarkably consistent and coherent whole, so that each part could always be linked in multiple ways to any other part. Many of us would at some point have to let others do the talking, for example when tough philosophical questions come up; or shy away from certain artistic challenges; or not quite know how our contemporary work relates to, say, late mediaeval painters; not so with Michael. He would always have an answer and keep you wondering about the next three questions. Which, of course, he would whole-heartedly welcome and answer too.

O yes, it is time I write up some of my ideas about him in a more substantial way – even if it were to see if I could emulate his ability to answer just a single tough question of some scope (I did try it, partly). The magnitude of his vision was simply too much to know where to begin during these past six years, but I consider it not yet too late to do so.

I still hear you, Michael Vetter!


Bonus video: Jetzt… Du (Now… You), from the 1986 Zen record series, played on the Japanese koto zither.


Vetter-Transverbal Workshop (1-day Taipei)

This one-day workshop introduces the work of the influential musician-painter-poet-thinker Michael Vetter. He developed many tools to let students enter into a direct, open dialoge with art and creative processes. Combined with his well-informed reflections about art and spirituality, Vetter’s method makes music and visual arts accessible to many people, with or without an ‘art’ background. Very few artists cover the width and depth as Vetter does, while still being able to teach and inspire anyone from layman to professionals.

Michael Vetter (1943-2013) is probably best known as an overtone singer, but he spend at least as much time as an instrumentalist, painter, poet/writer, visual artist and educator. His life and work defied boundaries. He spent 13 years in Japan, pursuing intensive zen studies with two roshis (1970-1983). He visited Taiwan two times, exhibiting and creating new works, performing and teaching.

Vetter’s method makes music and visual arts accessible to many people, with or without an ‘art’ background. To continue Vetter’s line of creating and understanding art after his passing away in 2013, this workshop will introduce his methods to those who do not know him and go deeper for those who already know his work. The emphasis lies on practical, hands-on experience and getting a feeling for the overall, underlying connections between different art forms.

The day is divided in four parts, which will be woven together to show how they are linked in Vetter’s integral approach to art, called Transverbal.

Heart sutra:    The Hannya shingyo according to Michael Vetter.
Okyo:            Vetter’s approach to the Japanese approach to Indian Buddhist mantras. A practical exploration of transmutations.
Voice:            What is the voice? how can it teach us? Some of Vetter’s answers in theory, but as always practice comes first.
Lines:            Drawing lines, and understanding what simple lines can tell us about art and life. Bring paper and some colour pencils/pens.


For whom:        Individuals interested in creative processes (visual, musical), as well as creative professionals seeking to deepen their skills and understanding of the arts. Motivation to try out new things is essential, skills are not essential.
Language:        English (with Chinese translation)
Date/Time        Sunday December 20, 10 AM until 5 PM. Lunch on your own (1-2PM).
Place:            Canjune Training Center
Price:             1800 NT$
Discounts:        students 20% (bring your ID)
Participants:     (min.) 8 – 20 (max.)


Interested? Get more inquiries from Mark (info@fusica.nl) or Yvonne (chichenlyv@gmail.com) or just register and we’ll send you the payment details. Call us at 0910382749 (Mark) / 0933178272 (Yvonne).

Festival Transverbal

A gong resounds on the groundfloor of a spa. Through the mezzanine situated at the spa’s glass façade, its sound waves travel to the basement, where a voice answers the gong. A multi-level dialogue begins, in more than one sense of the word. Instruments and voices, audience and performers mingle in a unique sound-space-event that tests the limits of music, mind & body.

Festival Transverbal is dedicated to the memory and legacy of the German multi-medial artist Michael Vetter, who passed away, aged 70, on December 7, 2013. It bridges an ongoing search for sound’s soothing inner secrets with its more expressive post-modern/avant-garde forms.

Expect voices, singing bowls, sheng (mouth organ), a gong, performers moving through the space, an immersive 60-minute sonic surrounding. Talk to or play with the musicians afterwards!

Through this Festival we keep alive the spirit and works of Michael Vetter, who inspired many musicians, artists, and other individuals along his extremely versatile and moving career in Europe and Asia. Michael Vetter had an incredible output of art works (starting at age 5); compositions, LPs/CDs; tours and performances; and educational methods for (experimental) flute, voice and instruments, among many other things. His musical career spanned the period from his late school years (early 1960s) until the months before his death (september 2013), when he worked on pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen that many musicians have played and performed piecemeal, while none really gave them a try in their entirety. Thus, shortly after his death, Natascha Nikeprelevic, Vetter’s foremost successor, and Stockhausen Verlag worked on the publication of Expo, one of Stockhausen’s scores with pluses and minuses (+ -) as guiding points. Vetter recorded it with Nikeprelevic and FX Randomiz 8 weeks before he passed away. (The CD appeared in May of this year, listen here).

Expo cover

Michael Vetter’s visit to Taiwan, together with Natascha Nikprelevic, left a great impression on those who had the chance to see/hear them or work with them, during their residency at the Taipei National University of Arts, where Chung Minder from the Theatre Department invited them.

Michael Vetter always straddled the paths outside clear-cut styles, usually combining elements from here and there, and most of all relying on his own experimental genius to create fresh insights and sounds at every moment. His long-time affiliation with zen in Japan and outspoken zen themes in the 1980s aliened him from some of his former avant-garde colleagues, who shied away from (or were not interested in) anything to do with Eastern “spirituality”. However, looking back on his life in its entirety, it is clear that Vetter was dedicated to creative imagination and disciplined, daily musical and artistic rituals, above anything else. For Vetter, the world itself was constantly exploding with creation, unfolding, coming-into-existence, into a myriad forms, colours, sounds. He observed this world with intelligence, humor, commitment and compassion. His love and dedication to the arts and existence (‘Dasein’) as a whole was the starting point for his creative response to them. Or rather, it seemed he was able to let creative forces take their course through him, as a critical, subtle moderator.

Michael Vetter making Indian ink drawings, Academia Caparaia, Italy, 2009

Michael Vetter making Indian ink drawings, Academia Caparaia, Italy, 2009

It is in this spirit of capturing the uniqueness of every meeting (between performers, with a certain space and with a certain audience, at a given time) that we want to inaugurate a Festival which we hope to repeat in following years.

We prepared this Transverbal Festival in collaboration with Canjune Spa and Nicole’s Creative agency. It will be held on Sunday, November 16 at Canjune Spa. There are two identical concerts, you can join us either in the afternoon (3 PM) or in the evening (7 PM). The participants are Hans de Back, Lu Chi-Chung and Lee Wei-Lin, Li Li-Chin and Mark van Tongeren, and probably a few more musical assistants.

For more information and tickets, please follow this link to accupass.

Limited number of tickets!

Please also note that there will be a limited number of seats in the space, and limited storage space for your bags. Do not bring your own food/drinks.

We believe this concert will be less suitable for young children.

Five reasons for remembering Michael Vetter


All photos in this post from www.vetter-transverbal.de

Today, December 7, 2014, it is one year ago since the German artist Michael Vetter passed away, shortly after turning 70. Several musical events commemorate the passing away of this visionary artist, who is best known as an overtone singer. Three weeks ago we had a Festival Transverbal here in Taipei, the German radio repeated DuO, a fantastic radio play by Michael Vetter and Natascha Nikeprelevic from 1997, and there will be a reprise of his Missa di Natale (1998) by his former students of the Diaphonisches Vokalensemble in Cologne (see links at end of the posting). But Michael Vetter did much more than making music, and here I will put his creative life and his critical mind in a wider perspective than is usually done.


painting ‘Altar’, 1960s

1. An outstanding and extremely productive visual artist
After spending many years of his youth already drawing and painting seriously, Vetter developed an extraordinary visual language of his own during the 1960s and 1970s, He used a wide range of techniques, from China ink drawings, paintings, watercolours and linocuts to ‘writing pieces’, perhaps his most far-fetching concept. Just like in music, Vetter was completely self-taught as a visual artist. Though he did of course absorb current techniques and styles, he drew much inspiration from Mediaeval techniques – a quite unfashionable source for artists in that period. His passion for great masters of the past was such, that as a teenager he already began collecting original Mediaeval volumes, which he apparently used as source material for his own techniques (he also kept hundreds of art books at home in recent years). If you ever heard Vetter talk about art – or read about his work in his own words – you know that his work was fully developed on a conceptual level: he was acutely aware of the peculiarities of all the major periods and styles in Western art of the second millennium, even of many artists and their development.


From ‘Buch der Zeichen’

2. Laying the basis of Western/contemporary overtone singing
Of course, overtone singing would not look the same if Vetter had not helped to define its modern, Western style. He educated dozens of students that became singers in their own right (some of them well-known), and inspired many more – in fact he blew away many listeners, who had never heard such things before, including myself. Again, Vetter did not just perform a trick, or ‘just make sounds’, like many overtone singers are tempted to do. His melodic-harmonic approach to overtones betrays deeper connections, like with his great example Johann-Sebastian Bach. Few overtone singers are able to achieve such clarity of tone and such variety in the development of their compositions / improvisations as Vetter did. Besides setting an example with his NG-RR techniques (for singing lower and higher overtones, respectively), he produced extensive learning materials for his students and developed at least one unique way of singing overtones I never heard anyone do.


Playing ‘Steinspiel’ in Vetter’s Academia Capraia, Italy

3. Beyond zen
Zen is too fashionable these days. You encounter the most obtuse uses of the word ‘zen’ in attempts to brand something as ‘spiritual’, ‘Asian’ and ‘cool’. Fortunately many people have also had genuine, first-hand zen experiences, among whom many artists. I think overall the transference of zen ideas to the West has led to some great artistic innovations. John Cage’s classes with the zen teacher Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki at Columbia University in the 1940s had far-reaching effects in every imaginable artistic discipline, well beyond the confines of his work as a composer. But Cage never sat cross-legged nor did he learn to meditate. Philip Glass, another big-name twentieth century composer who professed being influenced by Buddhism, did not have the kind of in-depth experiences that traditional students of Buddhism have. Vetter is one of few composers/musicians/artists who did go through the process more thoroughly. He observed daily morning meditations at his master’s shrine when he visited him, several months a year, while dedicating most his time to his own artistic work. He also spend several months a year at a monastery, where he took part in all the rituals, chanting, dressing up, begging for alms, et cetera.

For that reason, and for his superb grasp of art and aesthetics as a whole, I have high regard for the way he appropriated zen performing/visual art for his own artistic means. One of his best ideas is to transform the zen garden into a play, a dynamic process of moving and placing stones and other objects in an open-air surface. Another is his transformation of the okyo, the zen sutra’s. I will not go into those transformations here. Suffice it to say that the changes he made to these two zen traditions were well-informed, and in a way so much in tune with zen thought and practice, that they appear to be a logical step beyond traditional zen (as far as the overtone singing goes, monks disapproved when Vetter would slightly change the sound of his own okyos to amply certain harmonics).


From ‘Buch der Zeichen’

4. ‘The book of signs’: a 40+-year disciplined effort
Since 1972 or 1973 until his death, Vetter spent some time almost every day to work on a Magnus Opus of unusual breath: ‘Das Buch der Zeichen’ / ‘The Book of Signs’ (and that’s more than 40 years). In quick, improvised strokes, he would produce about 15-150 small China ink drawings. At the times I spend with him, he would do this after lunch. He carefully observed how the ink would flow, but as he continued to pull his brush across the paper, the ink would usually continue to flow. This would leave the final result undetermined by the time of his painting. He would continue to produce one drawing after another, mostly abstract, and pile them up while still wet. Then after 30 minutes or so, he would go through all the drawings one by one, carefully observing how the ink had settled. Like in some of his other work, it was his way of letting movement express itself, as it were, flowing through his hands not according to predetermined designs, but as an inevitable result of time unfolding. Each drawing is like a testimony of the flow of time expressed through spontaneous hand movements. I do it myself from time to time, like here, for example, as an ode to Michael. But I realised a few years ago, that if there is one thing I would wish I had (or could develop still), it was Michael’s discipline.


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5. humour
O yes, you could have great laughs with Michael. He was full of wit, full of stories of his own adventures, of poems he could recite by heart (and certainly not the romantic ones, but absurd and perplexing ones). He had this mix of seriousness with lightness, bringing everything in balance again after the mind-boggling, or physically-straining or emotionally-charged practicing was done. In his work there were always these unexpected twists, which sometimes turned out very funny. He once told me a story of an invitation to an annual congress of recorder players. Vetter first made his name as an avant-garde recorder player, who completely redefined the instrument in the 1960s. Some of the greatest composers of our time wrote new pieces for him in the 1960s. But when Vetter was heralded as the former avant-garde innovator at the European Recorder Festival in 2006, he noticed that all the vigor had gone. The new generation of students played the radical works of the 1960s almost like classical pieces. What had been thrilling and upsetting 40 years earlier, now sounded tame. Vetter himself played one of J.S. Bach’s violin sonata’s on his recorder at the festival, but not without making the necessary adjustments in timing and phrasing, due to the transference of the piece from violin to recorded. This shocked many a conservative lover of Bach music, so much so, that just like in the 1960s, people left the concert hall, some of them protesting loudly. He recalled this episode with much enjoyment, and though it is not a typical example of Vetter’s humor as such, I treasure those moments when he would tell of all the strange and funny moments in his carreer – or simply tell a joke.

Find the links to the events here:
listen here to the radio-play DuO (click on the photo; introduction in German)

Concert in Cologne

Natascha Nikeprelevic also updated Vetter’s biography on her own website and posted some in memoriams.

Photos from Festival Transverbal on my Facebook page.

Jonathan Harvey’s Forms of Emptiness morgen bij Musica Sacra

Morgen opent het Musica Sacra Festival in Maastricht met Forms of Emptiness van de onlangs overleden Britse componist Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012). Een groots opgezet stuk voor drie koren en twee boventoonzangers op basis van de onovertroffen Hart Soetra (een fascinerende tekst die ik zelf sinds een jaar of wat reciteer) en teksten van E.E. Cummings. Was ik in Nederland geweest, dan had ik meegedaan, maar met Diem Borg Groeneveld hebben ze in ieder geval 1 goede boventoonzanger. Hij laat weten zelf wat meer te doen qua boventonen dan wat de partituur voorschrijft. Waarschijnlijk wist Harvey in 1986 nog niet wat er allemaal mogelijk was, of kon hij niemand vinden die kon doen wat hij graag wilde horen. Neemt niet weg dat Harvey een uitstekende componist was met interessante ideeën over muziek en resonantie, zoals na te lezen in zijn boek In Quest of Spirit.

Overigens is deze week de 70e verjaardag van Michael Vetter, avant-garde fluitist en later ook deelnemer aan Stockhausen’s vroege werken met boventoonzang (maar weer niet de eerste, Stimmung, uit 1968). Vetter’s half-Japanse dochter Mayuko schreef nog vóór Harvey’s stuk uit ’86 een boek vol zeer ingewikkelde boventoonzang-etudes. Zij was toen 6 jaar oud…. (en kon elk stuk zelf zingen). Er was dus wel degelijk meer gaande dan Harvey vermoedde. En nog steeds weten componisten niet goed wat ze moeten of kunnen doen met boventonen. Als alles goed gaat zullen Rollin Rachele en ik, alias het Superstringtrio, in november van dit jaar nog eens laten horen wat je allemaal nog meer kan met vokale boventonen, in Amsterdam en in Polen. We houden je op de hoogte. Eerst genieten van Harvey’s Forms…  bij Musica Sacra, gezongen door Studium Chorale o.l.v. dirigent Hans Leenders.