The Zoo (Double Album) (2019)

Zwart, Frerichs, Oomkes, Mellema, Astari, Fridman, Houdijk, Borsboom

Merel Vercammen

On her first album at Native DSD Music, violinist Merel Vercammen recorded free improvisations with eight duo partners. The result is a double album of 25 tracks and over 130 minutes of music.

The album features a collection of intuitive, instant compositions, that reminded her of animals. So Merel named it "The Zoo", a place without chains or cages, a garden where every animal (or in this case musician) can move about freely.

The recording was divided over five days with two major sessions, one at Old St. Victor Church, a small 15th Century church in Batenburg.  The other session was recorded at the Orgelpark in Amsterdam, with a great selection of organs and (historical) pianos to choose from.

The 8 musicians Merel chose to improvise with are (in chronological order of recording):

  • Maya Fridman (Cello)
  • Bernadeta Astari (Voice)
  • Vincent Houdijk (Vibraphone & Singing Bowls)
  • Ties Mellema (Baritone Saxophone)
  • Wilco Oomkes (Accordion)
  • Tobias Borsboom (Piano)
  • Rembrandt Frerichs (Érard Piano)
  • Jaap Zwart (Organ)

Native DSD Music listeners will recognize cellist Maya Fridman and pianist Rembrandt Frerichs as musicians who have graced our DSD webstore with earlier DSD releases (1 from Rembrandt Frerichs and 6 from Maya Fridman linked below).

Session One: Old St. Victor Church, Batenburg
In this beautiful little church, all the non-keyboard instrumentalists were recorded. The church has an incredible reverb to it, much longer and more diffuse than you’d assume by the looks of it.

Especially for the Surround Sound edition of The Zoo, we wanted to put this special reverb on display as well as possible.  This resulted in us choosing the DPA d:dicate 4006A omnidirectional microphones in a 5-channel surround configuration. Merel and her improvisation partners were each given their own spot microphone, a DPA d:dicate 4015 sub-cardioid microphone.

Everything was connected through custom-made Furutech microphone cables, into the Merging Technologies HAPI. No additional equalization, compression or limiting was applied – even to the massive-sounding baritone sax of Ties Mellema!

Session Two – Orgelpark, Amsterdam
For the second session, with pianists Tobias Borsboom and Rembrandt Frerichs, as well as organist Jaap Zwart, the famous Orgelpark in Amsterdam was chosen as recording location. This because of its great organs and its historical Érard grand piano, on which Rembrandt Frerichs played.

Here, we also used the DPA 4006A microphones in conjunction with the 4015A sub-cardioids as spot mics. The result is the beautiful, lush reverb of the Orgelpark, but with enough directivity on the instruments. No EQ or compression applied whatsoever.

When we got to record Jaap Zwart on the organ, the immediate problem of height difference was noticable – the organ is high up on the walls of the venue. We therefore had to adjust our microphone height by almost two meters. To compensate for that, we had to build Merel a 1.2-meter tall platform to play on, to get back into the stereo image in much the same way that she had been for the other session, as to not shift the sound stage too much between tracks on the album.

Now it's time for you, the listener, to sit back and enjoy the music at The Zoo!

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Maya Fridman

Born on November 7th, 1989 in Moscow, Russia, Maya Fridman is a talented young cellist residing in The Netherlands.

From her early years of playing the cello, Maya was recognized as a prodigy and was taken under the hood of the Foundation of Yuri Bashmet, where she took part in TV and radio programs. While studying at the Moscow State College of Music named after Alfred Schnittke, she was awarded as the First Prize Winner in the International Festival of Slavic Music among many other reputable awards.

In 2010, Maya has been granted admission at the Conservatory of Amsterdam where she studied under Dmity Ferschtman. Here, on the 10th of June, 2016, she successfully finished her Master’s Degree with honours.

During these six years of studying, Maya has participated in several masterclasses and has worked with artists such as David Geringas, Pieter Wispelwey, Gary Hoffman, Frances-Marie Uitti, Anner Bylsma, Ernst Reijseger, and many more.

For the last five years, Maya has been performing regularly in The Netherlands and Germany. Her projects include a successful collaboration with singer- songwriter Jyoti Verhoeff. In December 2013, Jyoti and Maya became finalists of the Grote Prijs van Nederland, where Maya was awarded the Best Musician of 2013 Prize.

She has also accompanied legendary guitar virtuoso Harry Sacksioni on his Jubileum tour and joined bands such as Faun and Cesair as a special guest.

Furthermore, Maya performs together with Aengus Hackett and Mauricio Ramirez under the name of Dinosaur Trio. Dinosaur plays a variety of rock, jazz and improvised music and has toured trough Ireland in the summer of 2014.

In 2015 she released her debut album The Invisible Link which she recorded together with Daniël Kool and released under TRPTK.

Her next album will feature her own arrangement of Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel for cello and piano, on which she worked together with pianist Artem Belogurov. Her arrangement received an acknowledgement during her graduation exam and was nominated for the Amsterdam University of the Arts Graduation Prize 2016 as best work.

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The Zoo (Double Album) (2019)

Zwart, Frerichs, Oomkes, Mellema, Astari, Fridman, Houdijk, Borsboom

Merel Vercammen

    Opus Classic

On The Zoo, Merel Vercammen has surrounded herself with eight like-minded musicians and together they started improvising. Not as a group, but one on one. The improvisations have been given names from a zoo, sometimes with a first name: tristan albatros, melancholic rabbit, funky iguana. Naturally, each improvising partner brings in his or her own sound, and a mix of styles is created, a fun beast of things. The Zoo is a double album with two parts. One is called The Zoo, the other (a kind of bonus, considering the length) Endangered Species. Listen from the latter category especially the Striped Hyena by voice artist Bernadeta Astari. Hilarious! Merel Vercammen explains well why she came to this concept. She sees more and more improvising musicians with a classical education around her. And she is right, in recent years I have seen an increase in instrumentalists who have chosen improvisation for their encore: popping jazz by Denis Matsuev, nostalgic exoticism by Fazil Say, Finnish folk music by Pekka Kuusisto, klezmer by Martin Fröst, the list is long. Vercammen not only chose seasoned improvisers such as organist Jaap Zwart and jazz pianist Rembrandt Frerichs, but also adventurous musicians from the classical angle. It is precisely this diversity that creates a beautifully varied Carnival of animals with an exciting mix of New Age, avant-garde, jazz and classical. The humor is also not forgotten, witness the latest improvisation, The album is wonderful for the coffee table. I have nothing but praise for a perfectly recorded album with a great design and a good story.

Siebe Riedstra[read full review]

    NPO Radio One

You don't often hear improvisation in classical music. Violinist Merel Vercammen (30) changes that with her new album The Zoo, which consists entirely of improvised music. Vercammen says "I want to bring surprise back to the genre."

    NRC -

The Zoo, the second album by violinist Merel Vercammen, is a brave and exceptional project. With eight musicians, Vercammen ventures into what few classical musicians venture: free improvisation. Bundled under the title The Zoo passes a colorful parade of 25 pieces in which you are carried away associatively by the musical expressiveness of the collaborations. Vercammen takes a risk. Interaction and excitement are paramount, so if she is dragged into dialog with pianist Rembrandt Frerichs to the tinkling underwater world of the monkfish, you will hear vigorous scanning, raspy and ragged, full of dreamy enchantment. The Armenian mountain viper is still mildly introduced by Tobias Borsboom, but with Vercammen he immediately sticks out his giftong, in an exotic melody full of threat. Not all 25 pieces are enchanting from head to tail, that is impossible if musicians respond to each other live. But what Vercammen performs here is highly exceptional both as a project and in its implementation.

Mischa Game[read full review]

    Alpha Audio

Violinist Merel Vercammen was asked to do something new for the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, the oldest music festival in the Netherlands. Make an album where improvisation is central and then with classical musicians and classical music as a starting point. The Zoo is of a completely different order. They are tracks in which musicians create a piece of music in real-time. Without a previously agreed melodic structure, rhythm, and atmosphere. Improvisation from start to finish, that is. The musicians often have a classical background, just like Merel Vercammen, but there are also jazz musicians such as Rembrandt Frerichs (piano) and Ties Mellema (sax). Recording locations were a church in Batenburg and the Orgelpark in Amsterdam. During the album introduction of The Zoo, on the last day of the Gaudeamus Music Week in TivoliVredenburg, we hear Merel Vercammen with cellist Maya Friedman and pianist Rembrandt Frerichs. We experience it as a concert that is exciting from start to finish and musically of an unprecedented level. It is, as Vercammen also says, playing with your intuition, trusting your technique and each other. The musicians communicate with all senses and that happens. In the encore, Merel Vercammen makes the room sing a tone. We feel that we are watching and listening to something new. The improvisations cannot be categorized in terms of style (which we also do not). What makes this fascinating is that the music is created on the spot and that we as an audience witness it. This makes The Zoo a real new step in the performance practice of music. The Dutch label TRPTK has also seen this and turned it into a beautiful production. The recording and production were in the hands of TRPTK's producer and mastering engineer Brendon Heinst. They use premiere recording and playback equipment from Merging Technologies for Analog to Digital conversion, audio over IP and as a Digital Audio Workstation, JCAT for the network connections, Hegel amps and KEF Blade speakers for mastering, Furutech for cabling and DPA for the microphones. These have been used for The Zoo and the sound quality is so good that you can expect to hear more and more tracks from The Zoo at future audio system demonstrations and Audio shows. In any case, we are happy that we heard it performed live and are curious about what this collaboration between Merel Vercammen and TRPTK will deliver when the album is released in Stereo and Multichannel DSD and DXD.

Yung Lie[read full review]

The Zoo (Double Album) (2019)

Zwart, Frerichs, Oomkes, Mellema, Astari, Fridman, Houdijk, Borsboom

Merel Vercammen

Cables: Furutech custom microphone cables, Furutech custom loudspeaker cables, Furutech LineFlux XLR, Furutech NanoFlux NCF
Digital Converters: Hapi, Merging Technologies
Mastering Engineer: Brendon Heinst
Microphones: DPA d:dicate 4006A, DPA d:dicate 4015A
Producer: Brendon Heinst
Recording Assistants: Ernst Spyckerelle & Maarten Spekschoor
Recording Engineer: Brendon Heinst
Recording Locations: Old St. Victor Church, Batenburg, the Netherlands & Orgelpark, Amsterdam, the Netherlands - June 2019
Recording Software: Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DXD
Speakers: KEF Blade Two

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This album is available as ST+MCH download (Stereo + Multichannel)
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Album Download duration price
TTK0042: The Zoo (Double Album)
01:38:00   Select quality & channels above
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Monarch Butterfly
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Snow Leopard
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Armenian Mountain Viper
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Komode Dragon
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Melancholic Rabbit
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Funky Iguana
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Abyssinian Wolf
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Eurasian Curlew
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Tristan Albatros
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Striped Hyena
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Black Rhinoceros
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Giant Otter
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Saiga Antelope
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Mountain Gorilla
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