‘A Great Dutchman’

Dutch identities in the Sweelinck Monument

A few years ago, Harry van der Kamp (baritone singer) and his Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam presented the Sweelinck Monument, a first integral recording of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s (1562-1621) vocal works on 17 CDs. The Monument is a luxurious set of six books, containing CD’s, but also introduction and background articles by artists and scholars on Sweelinck’s music and time, and texts and translations of the music on the CD’s. On the 20th of October 2010 the presentation of this landmark publication (landmark, because it is the first integral recording) took place in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (the church where Sweelinck was the organist for more than 40 years as an organist, giving daily recitals for the visitors of the church) where Queen Beatrix received the first copy of the Monument.[1]

It is remarkable that this project only just recently came about, because Sweelinck is probably the most famous composer from Dutch (classical) music history, most certainly when the southern parts of the former Low Countries are not taken into consideration (until 1830, Belgium was part of this state as well, which would possibly make Josquin the most well-known composer from the area). Van der Kamp mourns the deplorable status of Sweelinck in the national canon:

It is true that the Dutch are proud of their great sons, but they refuse to commemorate them respectfully.[2]

Van der Kamp states that Sweelinck’s status is a national issue and proposes to erect a statue, a monument for Sweelinck (after recalling all the hassle and failures with statues of Sweelinck since the 19th century).[3] The design of the Monument seems to underline this statement, by displaying (variations on) ‘typical Dutch’ imagery (see Figure 1); the prominent use of the color of orange is, of course, remarkable, but the imagery reflects Dutchness as well by evoking the visual language of the 17th century, the Dutch ‘Golden Age’. The church buildings portrayed are all from Amsterdam, with typically 17th-century Dutch ornamentation and style, and the flowers remind of botanic encyclopedias of the same era, but also of a Boerenbont, a brand of crockery which presents itself as ‘typically’ Dutch (see Figure 2).[4] A similar narrative can be found on the website of the project (‘a great Dutchman’), and the sponsor list, which includes several government funds and national banks.[5]

sweelinck monument
Figure 1. The cover designs of the Sweelinck Monument.

Of course, appealing to national identities in such productions is not problematic or objectionable whatsoever, but it might be interesting to look more deeply into the different mechanics of identity constructing in and around the Monument. Is Sweelinck portrayed as a ‘typical’ Dutch composer in the texts of the Sweelinck Monument? Are there certain stereotypes applied when constructing his identity? If so, which are these, and how can they be related to national identity(/ies)? Or, in more precise formulations:

How does the Sweelinck Monument articulate Sweelinck’s status as a specific Dutch composer, or more in general, a Dutchman? Are certain trends or tropes which appeal to national identity traceable in the corpus (texts from the books and the website)? What does it say that this Monument is a commodity, which has, perhaps, as the main requirement that it is sellable?

In order to come up with a sensible method and analysis, it is useful to reflect more deeply upon the concepts of nationalism, nation branding, ‘monuments’, national stereotypes, and Dutch stereotypes.

boeren
Figure 2. An impression of Boerebont’s design style.

Concepts

Nationalism is a term with an unpleasant taste; one might still think that this very paper wants to reproach the Sweelinck Monument producers’ nationalistic thought. That is, however, not the case, because nationalism can vary from innocent love for one’s country to militant nationalistic political agendas.[6] Historically, the emerge of nationalism is often traced back to the 19th century, when historicism (interests in historical architectural styles, local histories, folk stories and music, etc.) tried to function as an answer to the ever-accelerating modernization and technological developments of the time.[7] Core mechanisms in processes of historicism are canonization, remediation, and, in the end, banalization of (the meaning and function of) cultural artefacts. Canonization is the construction of hierarchies of cultural artefacts, giving some more and other less status in the formation of collective identities. Once canonized, artefacts or symbols are often remediated: architectural styles of a nation are, for example, rebuilt on theatre stages, or printed on tea boxes. So, very slowly, national symbols tend to become omnipresent and unremarkable.[8] This ‘banal nationalism’ is very powerful and very habitual at the same time.[9] Banal nationalism is what makes nation branding possible and successful: national identity as a set of objects which are attractive to buy because they are recognizable and relatable.[10]

Processes of canonization often involve transformations of the public sphere. For example, the important figures of national history become inescapable, in the sense that the public space is being filled with representations (statues) of these figures. According to Annie Jourdan, statues and monuments have magical and religious roots but are still effective in a more secularized way.[11] The function of monuments is to recall ‘someone or something to our mind or memory’, but they can do so in different ways.[12] Traditionally, statues of patriotic heroes resemble these figures quite precisely, but that has become a bit old-fashioned (and reminiscent of dictatorial regimes, perhaps).[13] However, Jourdan sees a revival of historicism nowadays, which erects statues, but statues which are often abstractions or symbols of what they represent.[14] Jourdan discusses ‘real’ monuments in public spaces; whereas the Sweelinck Monument is a more abstract one, because it does hardly resemble Sweelinck’s physical appearance as an object, but also because it functions more as a narrative, a discourse. Nevertheless, Jourdan’s ideas are probably applicable because the Sweelinck Monument (just see its title) is meant to function as a monument.

The discursive nature of this ‘monument’ makes very clear that, in this case, Sweelinck’s identity is constructed through narrative – it is hardly a ‘stiff object’ (apart from the material ‘realness’ of the object). How then does this monument represent the figure of Sweelinck, and how is that representation related to national identity?

In literary studies, a field called ‘imagology’ deals with problems like these. The field departs from the notion of ‘imagined communities’ by Benedict Anderson, stating that a nation is ‘actually an artificial community, and its specific characteristics of identity are cultural fantasies and social constructs’.[15] This does not mean nations are ‘all fake’ or ‘just discourse’, but it says that nations are always also constructs and can be studied as such. Imagologists study how ‘nation’ and ‘identity’ are imagined as systems of stereotypes.[16] They do discourse analyses and try to find literary tropes in a corpus or context that can be related to national or collective construed identities.[17] Beller and Leerssen already collected many such tropes and categorized them per nation – not as a closed system, but as a changeable set of relations.

In this categorization, Ellen Krol discusses the recurring tropes regarding Dutch identity.[18] First, she defines the revolt against the Spain (in 1581) as a common source for the idea that the Dutch fight for freedom, or defend themselves against external tyranny. This political and religious revolt (with Protestantism also being a dominant trope) reinforces, paradoxically, the idea that the Dutch are a ‘small humble nation, populated by peace-loving, simple and shrewd inhabitants, who fought valiantly for their freedom’.[19] The emphasis on Protestant sobriety, simplicity and even humbleness strengthen a typical North/South-contrast: the South being ‘pompous and frivol’, turbulent, ‘Burgundian’ and Catholic, and the North being moralistic, austere, and ‘realistic’. This last term refers to the ‘Dutch’ painting style in the 17th century, which focused on ‘real life’ instead of drama (as they said in Italian painting was the case), and the absence of abstract philosophical schools instead of a literature with great attention to real life.[20] Other tropes are the Dutch fetish of cleaning, the 19th century idealization of peace-loving morals, homelike and sensible disposition (comparable to Biedermeyer), egalitarian social structures, insensitivity to the adoration of heroes, the ‘poldermodel’ (practice of negotiating politics and policy), and the self-image that the Dutch are not susceptible to internal dictatorial regimes (because there has never been one) and are very civic.[21]

Method and corpus

First, I will discuss how the Sweelinck Monument fits the categories and concepts of nation, nationalism, the ‘monument’ and nation-branding. Then, I will present the results of a discourse analysis which tried to indicate the presence of some stereotypes/etnotypes in the texts of and around the Sweelinck Monument.

The texts taken into account are all the background articles from the books and some parts of the website of the project:

  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken
    • ‘Harry van der Kamp, ‘Een Nationaal Monument in Muziek’
    • Pieter Dirksen, ‘De wereldlijke werken van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’
    • Henk van Nierop, ‘Het Amsterdam van Sweelinck’
    • Paul J. Smith, ‘Sweelinck en de Franse poëzie’
    • Harry van der Kamp, ‘Sweelinck, de madrigalist’
  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II A. Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids
    • Harry van der Kamp, ‘Levenswerk in uitvoering’
    • Pieter Dirksen, ‘Het Eerste Psalmboek van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’
    • Dick Wursten, ‘Het ontstaan van het Geneefse psalter’
    • Sybe Bakker, ‘Psalmberijmingen van Datheen en Marnix’
  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II B. Tweede Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids
    • Harry van der Kamp, ‘Acht Heren’
    • Pieter Dirksen, ‘Het Tweede Psalmboek van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’
    • Rudolf Rasch, ‘Het Geneefse Psalter in de Nederlandse Republiek’
    • Koen Ottenheym & Niek Smit, ‘Hendrick de Kesyer, stads- en tijdgenoot van Sweelinck’
  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II C. Derde Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids
    • Harry van der Kamp, ‘Tweeëenheid’
    • Pieter Dirksen, ‘Het Derde Psalmboek van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’
    • Ignaz Matthey, ‘Het vernietigde Sweelinck-beeld van Frans Werner’
  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II D. Vierde Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids
    • Harry van der Kamp, ‘Sweelincks zwanenzang’
    • Pieter Dirksen, ‘Het Vierde Psalmboek van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’
    • Hans-Peter Schreich-Stuppan, ‘Een Sweelincktraditie in Retië’
    • Guido van Oorschot, ‘IJveraars en helpers: hoe Sweelinck herleeft in druk en klank’
  • Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel III. Cantiones Sacrae
    • Harry van der Kamp, Verbrande psalmmelodieën
    • Pieter Dirksen, De Cantiones Sacrae van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
    • Eelco Elzenga, Met de ogen van Sweelinck
    • Jurjen Vis, Sweelinck tussen katholiek en protestant
    • Juren Vis, Jan Daniël Boeke – Middelaar in muzikale tradities
  • ‘Historisch opnameproject’
  • ‘Over Sweelinck’

All these sources are subjected to a discourse analysis with a quantifiable outcome: the frequency in the texts of tropes from Krol’s text is noted, and possible new tropes will be discussed. The tropes of Dutchness in the texts will only be taken into account if they are directly related to Sweelinck himself (so, not when they are just about Amsterdam or another context). I will then make a distinction between text fragments which contain a trope+Sweelinck without explicit reference to the ‘national’ and fragments which relate the trope+Sweelinck explicitly to nationality or Dutchness.

Analysis

The artwork of the Sweelinck Monument clearly remediates several national visual tropes: the orange of the Dutch royal banderole and national sports outfits is put on the books and website of the project, buildings in an obvious 17th century architectural style from Amsterdam are depicted on the covers and some pages inside, and the aesthetics of a nationally well-known crockery brand (Boerenbont) seem to resonate in the design of the book covers as well – making them attractive and relatable. These object fit, I suppose, in the category of banal nationalism, and can be seen as a form of nation branding. An argument against this statement would be that the Sweelinck Monument is rather expensive (and maybe should be per se, to maintain its status of a ‘monument’), so could not totally be compared with more common forms of nation branding (like the items in souvenirs shops, for example).[22]

So, it does still make sense to consider these objects as, indeed, parts of a monument. These ‘as-if-statues’ are, indeed secularized (despite the clear religious content and function of the music, there are no theological texts included, but merely contemplative, reflective, (pseudo-)academic essays), and do not resemble the physical appearance of Sweelinck: the books depict abstractions from  and associations with Sweelinck’s life on the cover. Inside, a portrait of Sweelinck can be found, but alongside with portraits of the singers of the Gesualdo Consort. The status of Sweelinck’s portrait is thus problematized by the presence of other portraits, encouraging the interpretation of this monument as a very abstract one.[23]

The outcomes of the discursive analysis are remarkable in some aspects. For example, 92% of all the tropes in the books do not relate the trope to Dutchness, against 19% on the website. So, the website often relates Sweelinck to national identity, claiming for example that his music ‘depicts the Golden Age’, ‘resembles the clarity of Vermeer’s paintings, or that Sweelinck’s religious vagueness (is he a Catholic or a Protestant?) fits perfectly the so-called Dutch tolerance – which, according to the website, already started with William of Orange (!).[24]

This trope of religious tolerance is, notably, not mentioned by Krol, but is very present in the corpus. 15% of all trope-places in the books are about this theme, versus 7% on the website. However, most of the times the trope is just related to Sweelinck, and not to national identity. But when the tropes of a ‘civic’, ‘peace-loving population’ that ‘negotiates about politics and policy’ are also included, the trope covers 42% of the relevant parts of the book (the passages that are about Sweelinck himself and a trope) and 19% of these passages on the website.

Of the several authors of the articles in the books, Harry van der Kamp is most explicitly relating Sweelinck to national identity. This is not very surprising, since most of his texts are introductory in character, with a bit more popular style than, for example, Pieter Dirksen, who is more technical in analyzing the recorded pieces by Sweelinck. Dirksen does, however, quite often (implicitly) suggests Sweelinck’s liberal religious stance, which is actually hard to determine, because there is very little information about his personal and religious life.[25]

Apart from the trope of religious tolerance, one other trope stood out in the corpus: Sweelinck’s social status and international orientation. Dirksen, for example, often mentions that Sweelinck never used Dutch texts to his music, because of his cosmopolitan contexts and contact with international singers.

Even though national characters are not very present in the books, North/South-divisions are often made. 13% of all the relevant passages are dealing with this trope, stating that Sweelinck ‘blows a Nordic wind through the warm-blooded Italian madrigals’[26] or contrasting Sweelinck’s noble and honest character with the emotional, expressive nature of Italian music.[27]

One trope did not occur in the corpus at all: the Dutch fetishism of cleanliness.

Conclusion and discussion

On one hand, the Sweelinck Monument is quite abundantly constructing Sweelinck’s identity (having broad assumptions and making large claims) but is – on a textual level – not overtly nationalistic. The texts on the website appeal much more explicit to national identity than the content of the books; this difference could be declared by the different aims of the texts: selling an attractive product versus sketching Sweelinck’s context in more detail. As a monument, it is concrete (referential) and abstract at the same time. This abstraction makes the product more sellable, as it fits banal/habitual nationalism and the typical, mainstream branding of the Dutch nation. The notion that this ‘monument’ is sellable does not have much influence on the very status of the monument because the product is quite expensive and seemingly aimed at upper-middle classes.

So, is Sweelinck an obvious Dutchman in this case? Yes, according to the website and the visual imagery. Yes, a bit, according to Van der Kamp’s writings (describing Sweelinck’s honesty and the ‘polder’ aspects of ensemble singing). Not per se, according to Dirksen, who portraits Sweelinck as a cosmopolitan humanist dreaming of pan-European liberal Christianity.

Richer insights in this matter could perhaps be gained by including the newsletters of the project, more thorough visual analyses, and analyses of subsidies and funding. These would shed more light on financial and marketing strategies. However, the imagologist discourse analysis in this paper hopefully differentiated between various mechanisms of nationalism, nation branding of Sweelinck as a (not-so-)Dutchman in the Sweelinck Monument.


Endnotes

[1] ‘Over Sweelinck’, Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken, accessed October 17th, 2017, http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/over-sweelinck. See for a short video impression of the event: super208productions, ‘Sweelinck Monument’, YouTube, accessed October 17th, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc-mW-GJZG4.

[2] Harry van der Kamp, ‘Een Nationaal Monument in Muziek’, in Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken, edited by Harry van der Kamp (Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2008a), 8. [my translation]

[3] See Van der Kamp, 2008a; Ignaz Matthey, ‘Het vernietigde Sweelinck-beeld van Frans Werner’, in Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II C. Derde Boek der Psalmen Davids, edited by Harry van der Kamp (Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010), 43-59.

[4] The brand identifies itself with ‘Dutch design’, hence the website: ‘Boerenbont, al 175 jaar het meest beroemde servies van Nederland’, Boerenbont servies, accessed October 17th, 2017, http://www.boerenbontservies.nl/het-verhaal.

[5] ‘Over Sweelinck’, Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken, accessed October 17th, 2017, http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/over-sweelinck. [my translation] See for the list of sponsors: ‘Sponsors’, Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken, accessed October 17th, 2017, http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/sponsors.

[6] The first could be identified as ‘habitual’ or ‘emotional’ nationalism, and the latter as ‘programmatic’ nationalism. See: Joep Leerssen, Nationalisme (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015), 58-61.

[7] Leerssen, Nationalisme, 65-69.

[8] Leerssen, Nationalisme, 90-91.

[9] Leerssen, Nationalisme, 91-95.

[10] Leerssen, Natioanlism, 96.

[11] Annie Jourdan, ‘Monument’, in Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007), 371.

[12] Jourdan, 371.

[13] Jourdan, 372.

[14] Jourdan, 373.

[15] Benedict Anderson, quoted in: Manfred Beller, ‘Perception, image, imagology’, in Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007), 12.

[16] Leerssen, Nationalisme, 99-104.

[17] Joel Leerssen, ‘Imagology: History and method’, in Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007), 26-29.

[18] Ellen Krol. ‘Dutch’, in Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen  (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007), 142-145.

[19] Krol, 142.

[20] Krol, 142-144.

[21] Krol, 143-144.

[22] Van der Kamp subtly reveals in one sentence how high his ambitions are: ‘We recorded all his works, so it can be listened to by everybody, all around the world.’ See: Harry van der Kamp, ‘Levenswerk in uitvoering’, in Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II A. Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids, edited by Harry van der Kamp (Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010), 14. [my translation]

[23] See: Jourdan, 372.

[24] See: ‘Historisch opnameproject’ and ‘Over Sweelinck’.

[25] He states for example that the Cantiones Sacrae prove Sweelinck’s ideal of a pan-European, liberal Christianity. See: Pieter Dirksen, ‘De Cantiones Sacrae van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’, in Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel III. Cantiones Sacrae, edited by Harry van der Kamp (Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010), 28-29.

[26] Harry van der Kamp, ‘Sweelinck, de madrigalist’,  in Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken, edited by Harry van der Kamp (Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2008), 50.

[27] See: Van der Kamp, ‘Sweelinck, de madrigalist’, 54; Dirksen, ‘De Cantiones Sacrae van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’, 32.


Bibliography

Beller, Manfred. ‘Perception, image, imagology’. In Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen, 3-16. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007.

‘Boerenbont, al 175 jaar het meest beroemde servies van Nederland’. Boerenbont servies. Accessed October 17th, 2017. http://www.boerenbontservies.nl/het-verhaal.

Dirksen, Pieter. ‘De Cantiones Sacrae van Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’. In Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel III. Cantiones Sacrae. Edited by Harry van der Kamp, 24-40. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2008.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II A. Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II B. Tweede Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2009.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II C. Derde Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II D. Vierde Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel III. Cantiones Sacrae. Edited by Harry van der Kamp. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

‘Historisch opnameproject’. Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken. Accessed October 17th, 2017. http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/historisch-opnameproject.

Jourdan, Annie. ‘Monument’. In Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen, 371-373. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007.

Kamp, Harry van der. ‘Een Nationaal Monument in Muziek’. In Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken. Edited by Harry van der Kamp, 7-9. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2008.

Kamp, Harry van der. ‘Sweelinck, de madrigalist’. In Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel I. De Wereldlijke Werken. Edited by Harry van der Kamp, 50-54. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2008.

Kamp, Harry van der. ‘Levenswerk in uitvoering’. In Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II A. Eerste Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp, 12-22. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

Krol, Ellen. ‘Dutch’. In Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen, 142-145. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007.

Leerssen, Joep. ´Imagology: History and method’. In Imagology. The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters, edited by  M. Beller and J. Leerssen, 17-32. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2007.

Leerssen, Joep. Nationalisme. Amsterdam University Press, 2015.

Matthey, Ignaz. ‘Het vernietigde Sweelinck-beeld van Frans Werner’. In Het Sweelinck Monument. Deel II C. Derde Boek der Psalmen Davids. Edited by Harry van der Kamp, 43-59. Heidelberg: MusiContact GmbH, 2010.

‘Over Sweelinck’. Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken. Accessed October 17th, 2017. http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/over-sweelinck.

‘Sponsors’. Het Sweelinck Monument. Complete Vocale Werken. Accessed October 17th, 2017. http://www.jpsweelinck.nl/sponsors.

super208productions. ‘Sweelinck Monument’. YouTube. Accessed October 17th, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc-mW-GJZG4.

Geef een reactie

Vul je gegevens in of klik op een icoon om in te loggen.

WordPress.com logo

Je reageert onder je WordPress.com account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Google photo

Je reageert onder je Google account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Twitter-afbeelding

Je reageert onder je Twitter account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Facebook foto

Je reageert onder je Facebook account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Verbinden met %s