Musicus index legum! Interview with Piet Kee by Hans Fidom

by Hans Fidom | Het ORGEL | Year 100 | (2004) | Issue 1

Hans Fidom Musicus index legum! Interview with Piet Kee
Het ORGEL 100 (2004), nr. 1, 5-14 [summary]

Piet Kee (*1927), until the end of the 1980s organist of the famous organs in the city churches at Alkmaar and Haarlem and teacher at the conservatory at Amsterdam, concentrates more and more on his work as a composer. Well-known works of his for (or with) organ are Bios, Bios II, Network and The Organ.
An important aspect of the way Piet Kee works is his quest for the quintessential in art. He studied art (such as paintings by Pieter Saenredam) and music (such as the passacaglias of Bach and Buxtehude) of the 17th and 18th centuries, and observed some ‘composition models’ based on proportions. Characteristic of the way Piet Kee incorporates such knowledge in his work is his soberness: music has to be constructed in a clear way and should sound thus as well. Notable 20th-century influences in his work are the use of serialism and bird song. 
In Piet Kee’s opinion, an artist should develop his own and consequently contemporary style; this would include a perspective in which other arts than his own are incorporated completely. Organists should not just focus on organs and organ music, nor should they devote themselves to historicism. On that topic, he says: ‘It is not the age of works of art that I criticise, but the way historicism treats works of art. My criticism has two aspects. Firstly, I do not see the point in looking back hoping to find a reference for my work in the past. Secondly: excessive attention to historical objects easily leads to preciousness.’
As a slogan, Piet Kee sometimes uses the three words that can be read on an anonymous portrait of Christoph Gottlieb Schröter (1699-1782). They are located around a little picture of some triangular numbers, and read ‘Musicus index legum’, which means that the musician shows the law – or, according to Piet Kee’s 21st-century interpretation, that the artist shows the quintessence oflife.