The five Canons by Dick Raaijmakers are five works composed between 1964 and 1967, that attempted to research composing with electronic sounds on a fundamental level. Since this was a relatively new field, composers were developing all sorts of ideas and approaches, testing the possibilities of the electronic studio. The Five Canons were the result of a systematic that tried to connect the various levels, from sound production to the spatial aspects of performance. More then anything, this work was an attempt to open the discussion on such fundamental issues of composing in the electronic studio.
Mostly this discussion remained limited to an exchange of letters with his colleague Jaap Spek, who had moved to Cologne, Germany, where he was assisting the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen. In these letters and many additional notes, the progress of the Canons was meticulously documented. Not only the work on the Canons themselves was discussed, but also a number of concepts and ideas for which at that time there existed no tools to test them.
After four years, the work on the Canons came to an end, when the possibilities of the available technique had been exhausted. Moreover, the laborious work had gone mostly unnoticed or was received with disdain. Despite this ending, the important work done in this period would be the foundation of many later thoughts and works. In 2000, Raaijmakers summarised these ideas in a clear and condensed way in his theoretical essay Cahier “M”: A Brief Morphology of Electric Sound.
There are various reasons to go back to this early work on the Canons. First of all, although the Canons and the systematic behind them have been described on various occasions by the composer himself, and sometimes by others, this was done mostly from a phenomenological perspective. Moreover, there were and still are many misunderstanding about the Canons, what these compositions tried to achieve, the actual work that was done to construct them, and to what extent they were successful and where they failed.
The current research tries to uncover the chain of decisions in the work that led to the realisation of the Canons, with Canon 1 as a model. In addition, it tries to open other perspectives than the phenomenological one, in order to discuss various aspects that so far have remained unaddressed.
Dick Raaijmakers, Canon, Electronic Music, Symmetry, Spatial Music, Composition, Research by teachers of the Royal Conservatoire