While each of the five had developed individual styles as performers and composers, they shared many of the same attitudes toward improvisation, regarding styles and tactics, genres to reference, ancestors and antecedents. They were keen to promote the music as well as take it further: to pass it on to students, and other musicians, and share it with audiences. With support from the Dutch government’s Performing Arts Fund, the five dOeK musicians have been doing just that ever since. (Tobias moved to Berlin in 2008 and Oscar Jan Hoogland took his place.) The five form the core of dOeK and decide its artistic direction. They and various groups they’ve initiated are at the heart of the organization.
dOeK stands for de Oefening de Kunst, alluding to the Dutch phrase oefening baart kunst: practice makes perfect. That’s the musicians’ philosophy: improvised music has to be practiced, not just in concerts but also in private and in rehearsals; with regular groups and in new situations where experience and expectations are tested; in local Amsterdam series or at international festivals.
The organization is as flexible and dynamic as the music. Of course dOeK is not the only organisation devoted to this type of musical practice, but it’s one where the core membership makes the decisions and shares responsibilities. Over time, and in different situations, the focus may shift from one group or musical idea or project to another. Thery create their own opportunities for experimentation, research and performance.
dOeK represents a way of improvising where the forms themselves may be created or mutated on the spot. Such ‘instant composing’ has a long tradition in Holland. dOeK musicians may use composed fragments, a few parameters, or their shared experience as a starting point. Highly developed improvisational skills and a feeling for form help the musicians blur lines between composition and improvisation; they sometimes created the impression that transitions and forms were previously agreed on. The musicians simultaneously mind the musical content and the way it’s expressed. Everything is up for consideration, including the idea not to cooperate within an improvisation. As the dOeKers move freely from one musical subject to another and back, individual themes or compositions become part of larger forms, which may make up a whole set.
dOeK is a stichting, or foundation, a non-profit. While its core members determine artistic direction, three part-time workers look after dOeK business: coordination is in the hands of Carolyn Muntz; Frank Verhagen is responsible for marketing; Anne Koperdraat handles the bookings. A three-member board completes the organization.
dOeK has received funding from the Dutch government since 2001. Currently, structural funding comes from the Fonds Podiumkunsten (Performing Arts Fund). Project support comes, or has come, from the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (Amsterdam Arts Fund), SNS Reaal, VSB Fonds, Prins Bernhard Fonds, NORMAfonds, BUMA, Schiphol Fonds, Goethe Institute, Muziek Centrum Nederland, British Council and Stichting Niemeijer.