Nicolaas Cottenie

At the moment I am based in Leipzig, Germany. For a long time, my main interest has been klezmer music, and how to combine the rich and fascinating Jewish musical tradition with other things musical that I like, mainly (extended) tonal harmony, contemporary classical music, and improvisation. Lately, however, I have gotten more and more into Greek music and Romanian music, and that is where my main research focus and compositional activity is at the moment.

I learned to play the violin by ear as a child and only learned to read music way later. I got very deep into experimental electronic music as a teenager, opening my ears to the quality of timbre and sound. Later I studied jazz and went very deep into free improvisation, learning a method called Present Time Composition. I worked as an academic researcher in the University of Leuven (Belgium) researching Embodied Music Cognition and its relevance to musical improvisation. After that, I worked as an artistic researcher in the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp (Belgium) looking into how to apply the things I learned in Leuven to the task of teaching classical music students to improvise. At the same time, I took a deep dive into classical harmony and voice leading.

Right now I’m focusing my research on Romanian and Greek traditional music, and where they are linked to klezmer music. In practice, that means sitting down to transcribe and analyse as many tunes as possible and to learn to play them in as many keys as possible on several instruments. I use what I learn there to write the music for my projects.

In the rest of this website, you can find some more information about my main projects at the moment: a contemporary Eastern European Music project called Halva, a traditional klezmer duo with Alina Bauer called Azind, and a silent film project called No Words.