minimal damage

albert van veenendaal

  • 1 the spy & the vampire (5:28)
  • 2 tear dance (1:48)
  • 3 frog song (1:28)
  • 4 mechanic mushroom (2:45)
  • 5 pirouetteke (1:50)
  • 6 daily values (1:39)
  • 7 sea monkeys (2:46)
  • 8 minimal damage (5:28)
  • 9 old frogs (0:59)
  • 10 histoire pneumatique (2:02)
  • 11 whales (3:17)
  • 12 goodbye pork pie hat (2:10)
  • 13 dark days & the moon (1:50)
  • 14 transition (2:00)
  • 15 zen gardening (2:55)
  • 16 slow boat (2:52)

Album Info

total playing time: 41:19

recorded by albert van veenendaal,
january – december 2009,amsterdam;
track 13 recorded by frank van der weij, july 17, 2007,
at leroy studio, amsterdam;
track 2, 12, 14 & 16 recorded by micha de kanter, june 2008,
at het huis van eustachius, hilversum, the netherlands
mixed and mastered by albert van veenendaal
produced by hans hasebos & albert van veenendaal

all compositions by albert van veenendaal, except track 12 by charles mingus
© buma

design: lysander le coultre (strangelove creatives)
photography: monique besten
evil rabbit records is a member of


  • jason bivins, july-september 2012, cadence vol. 38, no 3

    prepared piano may be an acquired taste, but it's one i savor. on (1), van veenendaal is operating in a slightly different territory than, say, denman maroney or alexey lapin, since he's not at all afraid of electronic processing and overdubs. this gives his playing a more aqueous quality, and a wider range of sound. he uses it quite sparingly though, and is mostly confident in his pretty jaw-dropping technique to sustain this excellent set. (and for all the moments of dazzle and complex- ity, he's also unafraid to follow an ostinato or a simple rhythmic pattern to see where it'll take him.) sometimes (as on “tear dance”) he heads into bleep-bloop terri- tory a bit too unwaveringly, and the burbling intervals crowd things up just a bit too much. but elsewhere he can sustain a ballad (“frog song”) or use his prodigious technique to hold in balance multiple lines, textures, and directions (“mechanic mushroom”). he can also get downright sassy and funky in places (sounding on the title track almost like a prepared electric bass) and whips up some blues feeling on the clacking, spidery “histoire,” which sounds kind of like a tom waits back- ing track. this guy is a serious talent, and can make his instrument sound like everything from steel drums to spindly wire to deep flatulence in the abyss. oh, and to get a good sense of his technique and approach, you could do worse than to proceed directly to the wonder- fully abstracted mingus tune.

  • tom sekowski, 11 october 2011, flashes of timeless joy

    there is something unmistakably mechanical in the way albert van veenendaal plays the piano. on “minimal damage”, his instrument is heavily prepared. in choosing this route, he placed what i can gather are rocks, wooden blocks, sheets of plastic, toys [who knows what else?] on the strings of the piano to give it a distinct voice. at times, the pianist massages the strings to give off a subdued, hollow sound, while elsewhere; the strings are manipulated in such a way that they sound cold and disconnected. in fact, some of the pieces have the piano sound mechanical. it’s as if a robot was playing the strings by a pre-arranged set of notes. all spacing seems perfect. on the title track, the strings take on a percussive oeuvre. with each pluck, the intensity becomes greater and more pronounced. then, on “transition”, veenendaal’s plucking of the strings remind one of a different string instrument – more resembling the guitar than the piano. surprising and innovative, “minimal damage” stands out as a rare occasion to hear the piano arranged with a lot of thought and care.

  • ken waxman, 18 april 2011,

    more than four centuries after the invention of the piano-forte, new possibilities for its role as a solo instrument continue to exist. this trio of discs demonstrates that with a caveat: as the 21st century deepens, it’s evident that the most popular innovation involves preparing the strings and treating the box so that the piano becomes as much a percussion instrument as a stringed one. certainly that’s how amsterdam-based albert van veenendaal operates on the 16 improvisations that make up minimal damage. someone interested in the epic and cinematic qualities of improvisation – note the track titles – he has worked with writers, painters, actors and dancers as well as fellow musicians such as pianist fabrizio puglisi, bassist meinrad kneer and percussionist yonga sun. parisian benoît delbecq on the other hand, who plays a 92-key bosendorfer on circles and calligrams, moves between the instrument’s conventional timbres and the polyrhythms available from preparing the instrument. conversant with modern notated as well as improvisational strategies, he has frequently recorded with the likes of drummer steve argüelles and bassist hubert dupont plus a duo piano disc with andy milne. least-known of the three keyboardists is seoul-based park chan soo, who by necessity and as the result of running his own house concerts, has since 2002 has created a unique take on conventional and prepared piano, distinctively demonstrated on infinite finitude. over the years park, who is also music director for the kim young-hee mut dance company, has played with international improvisers such as saxophonist alfred 23 harth and pianist/violinist helmut bieler-wendt.

    most wedded to the possibilities of the prepared piano, van veenendaal presents a hodge-podge of intonation and resonations that could as easily arise from the thumbtack-altered hammers of a honky-tonk piano or from a souped-up clavichord abrasively rasping and reverberating in a fashion scarcely imagined in earlier centuries. high-frequency coloration mixed with chordal percussiveness on “mechanic mushroom” for instance has resonations that recall a harpsichord’s plucking feathers. “the spy and the vampire” on the other hand develops with funk-like rhythms that are further bifurcated among right-handed stride echoes, near bottleneck guitar-like slides and what could be an alarm clock ringing in the background.

    elsewhere effects on pieces such as “sea monkeys” encompass vamps that suggest there are two pianists in the studio: one playing a clavichord whose interchangeable runs create an underlying beat; and the other plucking string timbres at a tempo that moves from presto to staccatissimo that could come from a kalimba. then there’s “slow boat”, which despite being taken adagio, opens up the keyboard expression with positioned plucks and stretched vibrations that rapidly succeed one another, culminating in centred note cascades.

    other scenes set in this aural cinemascope collection encompass staccato, fortissimo and dramatic overtones; hurdy-gurdy-like multiphonics; buzzes and stops possibly produced by knives or bars dragged along the strings; and almost never-ending syncopated and agitato tones that play up the wooden quality of the capotes, soundboard, back frame and action. appended at least subliminally to these tropes are the sonically brutal mechanized concepts of the futurists.

    moving even further into the future with contemporary techniques is delbecq’s cd, crafted following a month-long residency at civitella ranieri centre near perugia. one instance is a remix by sound artist nicolas becker of “mille nandie”, and earlier composition by the pianist. another is “a lack of dreams” where delbecq mixes staccato secondary line and skipping andante changes. “biobeat” mixes an angular monk-like rhythm on top plus wood-clanking internal string strums with sharp peal point that becomes infectious at the turnaround.

    the larger-than-usual keyboard exposes additional between-the-key timbres as well as intonation from beneath the fallback. together they multiply his ability to blend advanced jazz piano strategies with those inherited from the so-called classical avant-garde plus west african inflected grooves and polyphony. like van veenendaal at points, the contrasting dynamics of cascading chords and woody strokes on “ando” make it appear as if two pianos are in play. in contrast delbecq’s tremolo treatment of “fireflies” references a europeanized version of the blues that moves without every touching soul or swing. instead the narrative mixes clipped legato measures and heavily syncopated passing chords and note clusters.

    even more removed from western influences, except by osmosis, is park, whose dramatic improvisations use protracted pauses and unconventional strategies to display his ideas. by the same token, alternating kinetic and staccato runs, tremolo pacing or nearly inaudible key palming follow earlier antecedents from both eastern and western musics.

    for example “take #4” works its way from repetitive low-frequency bass notes to a variant of triple reverb so that the bottom board and capotes ring with heavy-handed pressure. as this orchestral-styled coloration intensifies, park exposes cecil taylor-like note cascades, adding pedal-point pressure and intense staccato timbres. by the finale when these gouts of sound diminish to isolated clanging notes, a sonic afterimage of swelling piano tones remains.

    other tracks such as “take #8” and “take #5” present other challenges. on the latter for example, before the reductionist performance disappears, largo attributes have been exposed. following a single foot stomp, ringing piano chords vibrate for several seconds before being choked off, while a recital-like overlay advances one or two notes at a time with pregnant pauses left for suitable ringing resonations. the former tune is played out like a ball of wool, as solitary fortissimo timbres are worried for many seconds until kinetic jumps introduce a variant consisting of high-frequency chording from one hand and key clipping from the other. nearly two minutes of silence presages a coda of constantly plucked key tremolos.

    without taking refuge in low-key impressionism or gratuitous beat-milking, each of these pianists has evolved an individual take on unaccompanied piano playing. each one is also worth investigating.

  • Ken Vos, march 2011,

    Evil Rabbit Records, run by pianist Van Veenendaal and bassist Meinrad Kneer, is one of the most prominent record labels in the Netherlands. First there is the beautiful design with black gatefold covers with circular cut-outs and an insert with colour photo and information. Besides their own projects, Evil Rabbit Records releases more and more recordings of other artists. Minimal Damage is a collection of short pieces for prepared piano, a grand piano where all kinds of materials are positioned on or between the strings. It must be interesting to see Van Veenendaal in action.

    Van Veenendaal applies multiple techniques to his 'prepared piano, like muting, bowing or scratching the strings, or directly hitting them. Not only the sound options are expanded, also the attack changes. Sometimes the sound of the piano reminds a marimba, other times as a gamelan instrument. In this way the pianist magnifies the percussive nature of the instrument, while at the same time he can exploit the possibilities of the soundboard. The short pieces range from tight rhythmic pieces to impressionistic soundscapes where sound shifts dominate. There is also a classical standard on the album, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat by Charles Mingus, treated surprisingly fresh. Apart from Van Veenendaal's tasteful use of effects, the album convinces by the clear structure of the pieces.

  • februari 2011, slusnaobmana

    na svom najnovijem izdanju, a g.van veenendaal sjeti me se barem jednom godišnje, napravio je kompaktan post-elektronski solo-rad koji na ova naša područja prenosi svoj ’emo’ ponajbolje u stanjima nakon kojih kažem – budimo, bratijo, raspoloženiji!!! moramo biti. narkoleptična, polupijana izmaglica prepariranog klavira iz koje se čak i tema “goodbye pork pie hat” gospodina mingusa, od kojeg je g. nick cave podosta poteza i gesti eksploatirao, nadaje tek u obrisima. a glazba nije ni istočna ni zapadna (opet upadam u ‘privativume’, odrječne iskaze poput kakvog pisca bez tri čiste!), to je minsko polje arpeggia. sve do jedne, skladba mapira emocionalna stanja na izdisaju, poput tapete za bančenje sa starim prijateljima, ispred vinske trpeze, u noći definicija odavno izrečenih, treba ih još samo utabati, iskazati, slušati i doslušati. cijeli album podsjeća na podloge, beatove, za recitaciju nekog pjesnika, na pamet pada naracija dr. mariasa iz tudosok. i to je to, potpourriji za verbalne maliganske improvizacije. g. van veenendaal, šaljite još!

  • sven claeys, januari 2011,

    dutch pianist albert van veenendaal has crossed many waters during his musical career. driven by his musical curiosity, he played in jazz combos, literary and musical ensembles and he composed for groups who like to be influenced by jazz, folk or avant-garde. 'minimal damage' is a solo work that is fully dedicated to the prepared piano. by a clever positioning of various gadgets between the strings of his piano van veenendaal creates a surprising sound pallet that allows him to explore unknown musical paths.

    the first half of the sixteen tracks on this album have a strong rhythmical character. ingenious piano rhythms are meticulously constructed while van veenendaal at the same time is paying much attention to the melody. sometimes it even sounds as if a percussionist is helping him out. the opening track "the spy and the vampire" immediately hits the bull's eye and is expemplary for this album. percussive sounding piano attacks in combination with more common piano sounds create a rhythmic pattern. the atmosphere is quiet but somewhat strange. after half a minute van veenendaal adds inventive, fluent colours to the rhythm that suggest to be generated by a synthesizer or a vibraphone rather than by a piano. a bizarre break interrupts the whole. rasping strings and the sound of a fan that is pressed against the strings create a fascinating sound. then the rhythm of the first part is resumed and clear piano keys provide a full sound and beautiful finale. with its frenetic, cool, almost mechanical rhythm "pirouetteke" resembles electronic music. the title track of this cd with his vague funk hints seems to emerge as the most accessible track on the album, were it not that the pace is gradually inflated and that the initially relaxed atmosphere turns into a nervous tension. the second half of the album is mainly improvised. this translates into slower songs with space for contemplation and introspection. the focus is more on sound and the exploration thereof instead of rhythm. two tracks are pure sound research with in the leading role near-silence, isolated raspy string sounds and desolate attacks. also present is an original interpretation of the mingus classic "goodbye pork pie hat 'in which the sensual, almost melancholic theme emerges in a stream of gamelan like piano sounds. listening to the full length of a solo piano recording requires a certain endurance of the listener. with 'minimal damage' however, albert van veenendaal succeeded in creating a work that sounds adventurous and daring, yet -through its high degree of variation- is captivating until the end. moreover, this work sounds surprisingly accessible. van veenendaal even recorded, mixed and mastered the cd all by himself: hats off to such a feat!

  • stuart broomer, december 2010,

    albert van veenendaal plays prepared piano, an idea that in itself gives away little of his approach to the instrument. in practice, he likes melodies tethered to ostinatos and strongly defined rhythmic patterns, and he prepares the piano to emphasize both its percussive and string-like character, developing a host of timbres that will range from mbiri and various marimbas to water and string drums. his preference for scalar patterns and single-note lines emphasizes relationships to eastern and african traditions, sometimes setting up polyrhythmic dialogues between his two hands. veenendaal describes the pieces here as “miniatures” and most are short: one, “old frogs,” is less than a minute and only two – the opening “spy and the vampire” and the title track – are over five minutes. but veenendaal doesn’t need much time to develop remarkable complexity: “pirouetteke” is under two minutes and sounds like brilliant hand-drumming on chromatic drums or electronic sound sources. given his general dedication to the keyboard, veenendaal‘s occasional forays to the strings are especially noteworthy, as in the piece called “whales” which mixes string stroking and keyboard thumps in an evocation of animal voices. the only piece credited to another composer is mingus’s “goodbye pork pie hat,” which here sounds oddly like john cage’s early sonatas for prepared piano. it has the tone of reserved lament with which it’s associated, but there’s also a quality that’s both playful and exotic, the engaging sense of a pan-cultural playground that links it to the other music here.

  • felix, 26 november 2010, freistil

    together with meinrad kneer, albert van veenendaal runs the label evil rabbit records. with quite some zest he designs sound-buildings of substantial proportions on his prepared piano. resourceful, and within this ingenuity being at any time tasteful, stylish and stable - the result is a surprisingly compact and experimental album. altogether veenendaal builds 16, through the bank, firm structures, which at the same time do not renounce playful and fragile elements; one is an integral part of the other, both belong together. and exceptionally, groove itself has its official residence in the piano. at first glance, a spatially restricted game-field, that nevertheless proves to be suitable for all kinds of adventurous expeditions. on one hand, with such a title, minimal damage could be expected, on the other hand, a piano album which can fall back on so many imaginatively varied percussive elements, probably not.

  • tim sprangers, 25 november 2010, volkskrant

    the exciting impro-label evil rabbit records exists three years now. release number 13, minimal damage, is a fascinating solo album by co-founder albert van veenendaal. this tribute to the prepared piano, in which objects are placed or attached to strings, breathes adventure. spherical and spatially, but mainly skilled van veenendaal demonstrates the magnitude of the piano.

  • vittorio albani, 18 november 2010, allaboutjazz italy

    take a good researcher who in the past has been noticed for interesting sound experiments very close to the universes of cage and who loves refined minimalism.

    dip him in the great sea of contemporary music, perhaps in a country like holland that knows about it quite a bit (even though the concerts of this kind of music are attended by a small audience). give him a prepared piano to have fun with and ask him to think and perform a kind of small minimalist-sound-festival as an alternative to the sacred names (glass, reich and so on).

    as a result, quite interesting for the "raw" use and the dry chosen sounds, you get albert van veenendaal, a creative fifty-five year old from amsterdam. you might remember him as the leader of a very special group: pavlov, dealing a few years ago with an as unlikely as unorthodox and funny tribute to frank sinatra.

    his music is somehow cinematic, rich in percussive modes and lively colors, maybe the same ones that many years ago hit steve reich in search of philosophical sources of gamelan music. van veenendaal is able to undermine the obvious thanks to a project that seems to be made for electronic keyboards and instead… there are no electronics at all. devil of a dutchman. but it's really all there is to it and it lacks, perhaps, that extra step that would have moved everything on to the next level.

  • beppe colli, 16 november 2010,

    an assured, multi-style approach; highly developed instrumental skills; great variety of line-ups; and an exuberant productivity are some of the features of the music by pianist and composer albert van veenendaal.

    which, in a way, is something to be expected, given the fact that van veenendaal is a dutch fifty-something.??among the titles in his discography that i liked the most (only talking about the tiny slice of van veenendaal's releases that i happened to listen to, obviously, as it's to be expected when one's output is so large) two that i frequently return to were recorded by various line-ups: released a few years ago, one - quite bizarre - goes under the name president of the globe; while the other - a very fine album titled midday moon, released last year - features a quartet.??then there are the titles released on evil rabbit records, the label van veenendaal established in 2006 together with double bass player meinrad kneer to offer a better documentation of his work. here i have to say that, though i like quite a few of the albums he has released on that label featuring his own work, no title has struck me as being really excellent, the opposite being true of minimal damage.??one trait that i think is really special in van veenendaal's work is his regular use of the prepared piano; an instrument that, as per this album's subtitle - miniatures for prepared piano - is the only character here.??many styles, of course, some of them being now just a memory: listen to the version of the mingus-penned goodbye pork pie hat, which at first i recognized only because its title appears on the cd. there's also a long history to the act of preparing the piano, as demonstrated by the only track recorded way back in 2007: featuring a dark, menacing theme, dark days & the moon is immediately recognizable as a prepared piano, buzzes and all.??all the other tracks featured on this album make use, in different ways, of overdubbing, and a "modern"-sounding mix rich with echo and reverb. hence, timbre and notes which equally contribute to the final result.??here i think van veenendaal has looked in the general direction of minimalism; better said (a few minimalist traits appearing here and there anyway), he has looked in the general direction of those "oriental" strains of music that were such important an influence for the first practitioners of minimalism. hence, we can hear metals, marimbas, and assorted percussion (but it's always a piano we listen to), playing melodies that can often sound "ethnic". sporting a great control in both the playing and composing dept., the work easily avoids the danger of sounding "watered-down". this is an album of substance which also sounds surprisingly accessible (i think!).??first track the spy & the vampire (the only long track here, together with the title-track), has a "literal" development: left-hand ostinato, right-hand chords, a melodic, "film noir" theme, a new "picture for marimba" appearing at 1' 40", a "horror" splice (with sampled voices?) from 2' 40" to 3' 40", variations, theme.??percussive, lively, tear dance is a good example of the "layered" approach often featured on the album. frog dance sports a carillon and an arpeggiated melody. mechanic mushroom sounds quite "ethnic-minimalist", percussive, with a fine, simple melodic theme. pirouetteke almost sounds as if programmed on a sequencer, with circular arpeggios, nested odd-meters, and nice volume dynamics (also a pinch of ragtime?). marimba and percussion are back for daily values, while sea monkeys features wood and metal percussion, with heavily reverberated single strokes.??minimal damage could maybe be files under "acoustic funk", with distant echoes of herbie hancock's head hunters, a "pigmy dance" for percussion and flutes. the slow, melodic, old frogs and histoire pneumatique both feature the "marimba". whales features "whale sounds" and a lot of work on the piano strings. transition (in its own way, quite jazzy), zen gardening, and slow boat are the fine close for a work of perfect length: 41' 19".

  • françois couture, 15 october 2010, monsieur délire

    i first heard dutch pianist albert van veenendaal through his records for evil rabbit (beautiful productions). i like his playing, his drive, his unusual swing.

    minimal damage is a solo album of prepared piano music. in the course of 16 short pieces, albert unfolds a fine palette of sonics, melodic approaches and rhythm experimental. a busy record. this is not his most moving work, and it occasionally falls prey to the “catalogue of ideas”, but it works out.

  • marc van de walle, oktober 2010, jazzmozaik

    the work of the dutch master pianist van veenendaal has never disappointed us. and it definitely doesn't here.

    this is a fascinating monologue.through the prepared piano, astonishing sounds and sound combinations are generated and merged. lyrical themes, african or almost balinese sounding, mesmerizing rhythms and repetitive mechanistic sound fragments are spun out brilliantly and in a well-balanced way. minimalistic, fragmented but extremely powerful kaleidoscopic motives are shaped perfectly in his fifteen compositions (some of them produced, others freely improvised). van veenendaal explores his inner world through his instrument and he gives the listener an insight in the spectacle of the creative process. he is one of few pianists who are able to reach an almost perfect osmosis between musicality and rhythmicality, or to put it differently: the distinction becomes almost irrelevant. the sound palette is simply amazing - even the windings of the strings are being used. as a listener you can hear how small oil slicks blend into a multicoloured sonorous palette, floating on the waters of unceasing inspiration. van veenendaal reveals his soul in this surprising, captivating music that shines like a diamond. the listener can enjoy the numerous light reflections on the surface. pure musicality, richness of sound, a total experience, all musical aspects lined up and welded together. you can hear that the musician controls his instrument at all times and still dares to let go completely. this creates a deeply lived ánd sparcely heard dynamic. phenomenal. by the way: this is not the first time van veenendaal makes us reach for superlatives - and we never regretted it.

  • herman te loo, 11 october 2010,

    in the forties of the last century, the american composer john cage invented the “prepared piano”. by placing various objects between strings (nuts and bolts, pieces of tape, erasers, etc.), he altered the sound of the piano.

    it is remarkable how in jazz and improvised music, with its emphasis on timbre, nothing much happened with this approach. some pianists reach inside their instrument from time to time but there are very few who really use preparations. the dutch pianist albert van veenendaal does: often and with enthusiasm! with ‘minimal damage’ he has created a cd filled with prepared piano sounds. for more than forty minutes, he takes us along into a miraculous world of sounds where the untrained ear might even suspect a use of electronics. the title piece for example, with its rock-like approach and synthesizer-like beats, certainly gives rise to this assumption. van veenendaal's percussive style of playing is perfectly suited for the prepared piano, which is in fact a sort of “one-person percussion ensemble”. playful pieces like 'tear dance' or 'histoire pneumatique' are extremely rhythmical, and invite you to a peculiar dance. maybe one day someone should write a choreography for it. but the cd also contains open, more sound-oriented pieces like the peaceful 'sea monkeys' or 'whales', with sounds indeed resembling whales crying. and on top of it all, van veenendaal has a good ear for curious and catchy melodies. some of the themes keep echoing in your head for quite a while. it makes 'minimal damage' a varied, surprising album that puts the prepared piano on the map for once and for all. in the netherlands and well beyond.

  • michele coralli, october 2010,

    minimalist miniatures for prepared piano, in the tradition of fruitful experimentation, which usually correlates with composers as john cage.

    the dutchman albert van veenendaal who does not add much in terms of timbre research, puts however very effectively into good use what has already been researched in the past. he brings the prepared piano to such a refined level, that he creates at times the illusion of almost synthetic, distant sounds.

    usually the pianist opts for very dry involved solutions - working on single strings or on the hammers while the opening of the pedal with objects covering entire areas of the tailpiece - chains or similar - is not much used. instead, he frequently works with muted and metallic timbres, which are absolutely functional for the rapid and repetitive pounding rhythmic figures that characterize most of the pieces.

    percussive modes seem to transform and become artificial almost as a synclavier, also thanks to a wide range of colours, produced (hard to imagine) by a single keyboard.

    obviously, the evocation goes towards the gamelan, but here, more than ever, we find a mixture between techno and fusion, which gives sense to the prepared (or shall we name it ‘camouflaged’) piano, in an actually non-existing electronic context.