Ivan Boumans, winner of this year’s ICMA Composer Award is a very versatile musician. Besides composing, he is also a passionate teacher and conductor. His newest orchestral work, Organic Beat, was to be premiered at the ICMA Gala in Seville. After the cancellation of this event, the ICMA Board decided to cancel the 2021 Award and to postpone the one from 2020, so that Ivan Boumans’ work can be premiered at the next Gala with the Liechtenstein Symphony Orchestra in 2021. Jury member Guy Engels (Radio 100,7, Luxembourg) made the following interview with the awardee.
When did you start to be seriously interested in music?
I grew up in a small Spanish village where there wasn’t much going on until one day the idea of starting a wind orchestra came up. My parents thought it would be a good opportunity for their son to do something meaningful in his spare time.
I didn’t enjoy it at first, but I had a certain ease and quick musical perception. The real interest, the passion, only came in 1998 when I moved to Luxembourg and enrolled at the local conservatory.
Was the urge to compose already there at that time?
Even as a child, together with friends from our wind orchestra, I wrote small pieces. However, I only began to develop my creative potential during my studies at the conservatory where I had the chance to perform my works at student concerts.
Having a look at your catalogue of works, we can see that you have no fear of contact, that you are at home in all genres.
I am an open, curious person. Moreover, in our society today, one must not limit oneself, one must not close oneself off to things. The music market itself also demands this. Only with purely classical compositions you can hardly survive as a composer today. Anyway, I write mainly on commission, and then you can’t withdraw into a niche.But it’s not difficult for me to commute between the genres.
You studied with Claude Lenners, among others, a representative of contemporary electro-acoustic music. But your own music is tonal.
During my studies with Claude Lenners I fortunately had a controlled freedom, i.e. I had to submit to the rules of composition, but I was totally free in expression.
For me, music is not a mathematical exercise. I want to be understood by my audience, therefore melody is an essential element in my work. It is something that goes without saying anyway. People do not sing rhythms, no complex chords, they sing melodies. I would therefore describe my style as neo-tonalism.
Over the years my music has naturally developed and changed. I have gained experience, know more about music and have different reflexes when writing.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration is a very difficult, almost incomprehensible term and also difficult to explain. For me, a lot depends on moods, also on my physical condition. I listen to a lot of music, following what is happening in the music world in all areas. Above all, I always have my notebook with me, in which I note down spontaneous ideas, some of which may have the potential for a composition.
When I listen to classical music myself, it is preferably aAmerican composers like John Adams and other representatives of minimal music that has a special energy for me.
You are a very versatile musician. Besides composing, you also conduct a wind orchestra and teach at the conservatory in Luxembourg.
I am a person who likes to share his passion for music with others. Conducting has also always interested me, and since I am a perfectionist, I wanted to learn this subject thoroughly.
Also in teaching, I can pass on my joy for music to younger people. Moreover, the exchange with my students is also an enrichment for myself.