Trio Scordatura

Alfrun Schmid

Dear family and friends of Bob,

Eight years ago Elisabeth and me had to play the Li Po Songs by Harry Partch in the Icebreaker in Amsterdam. During the rehearsals, whilst struggling with the tiniest of intervals Elisabeth promised: next week Bob is coming, then everything will be clear. I had no idea who Bob was.

Next week Bob came and sat down behind his Yamaha DX7, which was decorated with multicoloured stickers. He played us a 43-tone Partch scale with a big smile and indeed – everything was clear. Not long after he decided that the world was ready for a ‘microtonal’ ensemble.

Through the years so many outstanding composers have been willing to write pieces for us and I see many of you amongst us now. Scott Mc Laughlin for example did not only write for us but was also our sound guy and fourth member of the trio. Every time when we started rehearsing a new piece Bob was like a boy under the Christmas tree, exploring the music, analysing the tuning systems. He could play a single interval or a witty scale over and over with obvious joy.

Trio Scordatura Everybody in this room seems to share the same kind of utterly joyful experiences with Bob. Traveling together for example.

‘Scordatura on the road’ he used to shout whenever we stepped in the Skoda, packed with a viola, a viola d’amore, an adapted viola, perhaps a little violin, a gigantic amp, a small amp for the hotel room, a keyboard, a second keyboard, a composer, nuts, chocolate and us three. And ‘Oh yes, did we bring the computer’?

Bob missed every sense of direction but in the beginning in the car I kept following his directions, knowing that he was our leader. It resulted in long journeys across the Belgian countryside. We didn’t feel the urge to buy a GPS, because it didn’t matter, every extra hour in the car was a pleasure.

When Bob got ill the three of us continued like we did before except for less booze and more rest perhaps. I was stunned by his ability to think of new ways to be productive and I was deeply moved by the grace and dignity that he continued to show.

In 2007 Bob made an arrangement for the trio and percussionist Arnold Marinissen of Tao tao tao, the ending aria of part one of Vivier’s opera Kopernikus. In Bob’s own words: “Agni, the main character is on her way to death, the great passage. The aria ends with an abrupt gesture, the singer giving a loud handclap.”