1987 Wapserveen

There was never a quiet moment in the house where I grew up.
My father would be testing the flutes he made.
Students came to study the flute with my mother.
I chose the violin.
Baroque music, studies, scales.

I wanted to take part in a competition. It was not a successful experience.
I realised that the road to the classical stage was long and hard.
I got to work and studied hard.

1993 The Hague

I was accepted onto the foundation course at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, so I moved out of home and rented a room in Scheveningen. It was amazing to finish high school with other young musicians and dancers.

I wrote my first pieces.
My dream was to combine different art forms.

But first I had to master my instrument.

1998: Music is space

The composition class had a monthly performance in a small hall up in the loft of the conservatoire in Amsterdam. So obviously you ended up writing music that suited the space.

When I was given the opportunity to stage a concert in the Oude Kerk, I experienced how this space changed the music. I decided to change my piece and I placed my musicians spread out around the church. During the piece they slowly moved towards the audience. The spatial effect of sound is fascinating.

Since then, I have rarely allowed my music to be confined by a stage.

1999: An attempt to grasp something fleeting

In the summer of 1999, I travelled all over Europe. I handed out about a thousand leaflets in six languages, inviting people to document something small from their lives during the last 99 days of the twentieth century. Something that to you is worth observing, but that would otherwise go unnoticed.

And so, between 24 September and 31 December 1999, a curious portrait of our time was created out of hundreds of disparate little things from the lives of around fifty different people from seven different countries.

There was a gallery in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum that was willing to show it. Exactly a year after the start of those 99 days, people were able to wander around and see these testimonies of a fleeting existence.

2000 Breaking with concert hall traditions

Why are the trappings of a classical concert so rigid? When you are producing new music, surely it is strange that the musicians look and behave exactly like they did 150 years ago?

I wrote a big piece for a large orchestra that started during the tuning and the warm-up. The conductor came on unnoticed, started beating time almost imperceptibly, and slowly the music became more rhythmical. The music emerged without any clear starting signal having been given.

The audience was confused. I had managed to compose a brief, precious moment of astonishment.

Listen to the piece, “Gush”, here
Click here for the sheet music

2001 Beauty and confusion in Japan

I visited Japan. Together with school children and local musicians, I designed concerts and creative classes, with a big performance at the end. I kept coming back, made a lot of contacts, attended and taught classes at the conservatoire of Tokyo.

The Japanese aesthetic and culture has made a tremendous impression on me. The subtlety, sophistication and fluctuating nature. How impermanent it is. How fleeting…

A reviewer from Dutch newspaper Het Parool wrote about the Japanese influence that was evident in my work – even though the piece was written before my trip…

This was the piece he was referring to: If you reveal

Read more: articles about the Japanese aesthetic

2003 Confusion in the concert hall

In ‘Alexei Larionov, a requiem’, the orchestra was on the balconies, actors were mixed in with the front of house staff and the 80 members of the choir were spread around the audience.

The reviewer was perplexed as well:
“…It was perfectly possible that your neighbour, who you had thought to be an ordinary punter like yourself, would suddenly stand up and start taking part in the performance. Initially, the vocal part merely consisted of mysterious sentences such as ‘we are helpless in the face of the common good’, but this eventually grew into a collective hymn. At first glance, this piece by Twaalfhoven seemed naïve and loosely structured. On closer inspection, however, it revealed an intricately woven structure of cleverly spaced subtle details that testified to a fertile imagination.”
– Aad van der Ven in the Haagsche Courant, 06/10/2003 –

LListen to the live broadcast on Radio 4

Watch a video of the performance here

2004 Blindfold

Without your eyes, the world sounds different. In a number of different locations, I designed blindfolded concerts: waves of sound, delicate melodies and intimate whispers surrounded the listeners, who were lying on pillows. Your experience of music turns out to be entirely different when you are not looking. Little sounds get a character all of their own. Soft sounds come intimately close.

Watch the recording of the performance in the Oosterpoort Groningen here.

2005  Fighting for breath at the bottom of the sea

The audience was given a uniform and a medical examination. One by one, they crawled through an old Soviet submarine. Inside, they met the crew of the Kursk in their final hours. Music, sounds, memories and dreams merged into one.

Watch Kursk op het Over ‘t IJ Festival here

2006 A piano with a mind of its own

Pianist Tomoko Mukayama mixes all styles of music and weaves snatches of compositions into a new piece. We designed a concert together in which the sounds of the piano sometimes came back to you from far away, where singers joined in with a few bars from the audience, light and projections were integrated into the piece and electronics played an almost imperceptible part.

Watch the recording of the concert ‘La Nuit de Tomoko’ in the Oosterpoort 

2011 The Air we Breathe

An old grain silo in the Rotterdam harbour: singers are standing around and among the audience. Delicate Scandinavian folk songs, Syrian orthodox improvisation, pop voices, a classical choir and Bulgarian sounds mesh together.

DYou can watch the film made by Saskia Haberman here.

2013 The soft sound of the hall

It is the opening of TEDx in Amsterdam and the Concertgebouw is full to the rafters. The Netherlands Radio Choir is singing smooth, solemn chords. Then, the conductor turns around. The hall starts to reverberate with sound. Soft, yet full. We are doing this together. We are all here.

You can watch the fragment here.

2014 Notes fly into the audience and are caught

In On Parole children surreptitiously start to join in with the musicians on stage. Their sound starts from behind the doors. What is happening on stage resonates, reverberates and echoes in the string instruments in the audience.

You can watch the Kronos Quartet in Carnegie Hall (rehearsal video) here and the Lendvai Trio in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam here (performance).


2016 A sea of bassoons in the Concertgebouw

Spread out around the auditorium were countless bassoons. Waves of deep grumbling, a swelling drone and glorious waterfalls of sound. The audience walked around in this bath of intense sound, from which snippets of Mozart’s bassoon concerto would seamlessly emerge from time to time.

See an impression of the concert in which 274 bassoonists took part.
Listen to the entire composition here.
Watch an impression of the rehearsal here.
You can watch the TV broadcast about the Holland Festival here

2017 Four Drifting Seasons in Carnegie Hall

Op the 19th of September 2017, I was invited to contribute to the Concert for a Sustainable Planet at Carnegie Hall, which was part of a UN conference on sustainability. Here, with a children’s choir, I made the global temperature rise audible by converting measurements from the last 137 years into sounds. With Four Drifting Seasons, the story of climate change gets a physical, audible form. This offers a different perspective than what you get from the usual graphs. Can music increase the awareness of rising temperatures in this way? I dare not say it, but I do want to invite everyone to experience this piece by singing it yourself. For this I have developed an app for smartphones together with Marco Alkema, Kilian Elbers and Jan Driessen. This makes the performance of this piece possible for everyone.

View the performance of Four Drifting Seasons in Carnegie Hall.