A symphony orchestra of synthesisers and speakers

Electro Symphonic Orchestra

Colin Benders

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The boundaries between acoustic and electronic music disappear in this concert by Colin Benders’ Electro Symphonic Orchestra. After a successful preview at last year’s Holland Festival Proms, he is now presenting a full length composition for his brand new orchestra of modular synthesisers and many speakers at the Concertgebouw’s Main Hall – the Valhalla of orchestral music. By setting up the speakers on the stage and in the auditorium, Benders wants to make electronic music not simply in stereo, but with the transparency, dynamism and expressiveness of a symphony orchestra. Something not to be missed by lovers of unheard sounds from as-yet unexplored musical landscapes.

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‘I want to redefine what a classic concert hall is and does. What is an orchestra precisely? Why are instruments amplified? I want to play with the conventions of that concert hall at the Concertgebouw. And it’s also massively cool to play at such a legendary venue.’  


Those are the words of Dutch composer and multi-instrumentalist Colin Benders. Benders presented his Electro Symphonic Orchestra to the public for the first time at Holland Festival 2018. Instead of orchestral members each with their own instrument, dozens of modular synthesizers were set up on the stage of the Concertgebouw Recital Hall. Each with its own sound, timbre and audio source. Benders himself stood in front and ‘conducted’ his electronic orchestra through a seven-hour marathon from behind a desk full of knobs and slides. Improvising and shunning the clichés of techno he demonstrated his invention’s capabilities: dissolving the boundaries between contemporary and electronic music.


This successful pilot in the Concertgebouw Recital Hall was, in Benders’ own words, ‘a tool for discovering the possibilities of such an orchestra’. The next step is to write a composition worthy of his Electro Symphonic Orchestra and to perform it. This can be heard on 22 June in the Main Hall of the Concertgebouw.


As Kyteman, Benders proved himself ten years ago as an innovator. His hip-hop orchestra put out a sound that had never previously existed, achieving great success. He played at festivals such as Oerol, North Sea Jazz, Lowlands and Pinkpop and won the Buma Cultuur Pop Award in 2009. He showed courage in stopping at the peak of this success and completely changing course, swapping his trumpet for the analogue modular synthesizer and transitioning to electronic music. Again with success. In 2014 he opened the doors of Kytopia on the former premises of Tivoli in Utrecht. From this studio he has since worked in his own name on a new oeuvre centred on the modular synthesizer. Long nocturnal jam sessions are streamed live on his website. He has appeared at various big dance festivals, such as ADE and Awakenings.


You can’t escape your true nature. Benders began to think about an orchestra again. This time consisting of modular synthesizers. His thinking on this Electro Symphonic Orchestra really took off during a visit to Holland Festival in 2017. In 2018 it was time: he stood in the Concertgebouw with his synthesizer orchestra. Once again Benders proved himself an innovator, making a musical journey through different tones, sounds and dynamics over the course of his many hours long session. During this session he gained a great deal of experience with the new set of instruments. Benders: ‘When two sounds physically clash in the hall, it produces a completely different result from when you first mix them electronically.’


In his composition Electro Symphonic Orchestra Colin Benders breaks open the wall of sound so common in electronic concerts (think of the banana-shaped loudspeakers you see at most of the larger events). By setting up (the sound sources of) his synthesizers with plenty of space, Colin Benders makes electronic music with the transparency, dynamism and expressivity of a classic symphony orchestra.


It is no coincidence that Holland Festival has commissioned this piece by Benders in the same year that Karlheinz Stockhausen’s aus LICHT is on the programme. Stockhausen is one of the founding fathers of electronic music. He, too, experimented more than fifty years ago with spatial arrangements and other ways of giving electronics a place in the musical vocabulary. Holland Festival has a tradition of innovation. The connection of cross-pollination between contemporary and electronic music is a recurring theme. Colin Benders and his Electro Symphonic Orchestra operate in precisely that area.


Colin Benders (1986), previously also known as Kyteman, is a Dutch composer and multi-instrumentalist. He studied the trumpet at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and one of his teachers

there was Eric Vloeimans. His debut album The Hermit Sessions, in which he played all the parts himself, appeared in 2009. He went on tour with Kyteman's Hip-Hop Orchestra. The name was later changed to The Kyteman Orchestra, and a second album was produced under that title. Benders and his orchestra played several times at the festivals Oerol, North Sea Jazz, Lowlands and Pinkpop. The orchestra won the Buma Cultuur Pop Award in 2009. Benders played and toured with Relax, Krezip, Voicst, Wouter Hamel, C-mon & Kypski and Sting, among others. He brought out the album Kytecrash (2011) with Eric Vloeimans. In 2014 he opened the doors of Kytopia in the former premises of Tivoli in Utrecht. From this studio, which he shares with like-minded musicians, he has since worked in his own name on a new oeuvre centred on the modular synthesizer. Long nocturnal jam sessions are streamed live on his website. He has appeared at various dance festivals, including performances with T. Raumschmiere and others. In 2018 he debuted at Holland Festival with the first version of Electro Symphonic Orchestra.




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Colin Benders

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