Luc Houtkamp

Luc Houtkamp's own site is available at

Photograph copyright Bert Nienhuis.

Born 1953, Den Haag, The Netherlands; composer, alto and tenor saxophones computers, electronics.

Luc Houtkamp (1953) is a composer/saxophonist who bridges the gap between the worlds of jazz-derived free improvisation and computer-based composition and performance. He has been working equally in electronics and on the saxophone for decades, and his development as a player has been accompanied by an interest in electronic textures.

As a virtuoso saxophonist he has worked extensively in improvised music since 1972, collaborating with numerous musicians and groups all over the world. Since the mid-eighties he has also been designing his own interactive music software, resulting in pieces performed by himself and in collaborations with such musicians and ensembles as George Lewis, Wiek Hijmans, Lê Quan Ninh, Peter van Bergen, the X-OR duo, LOOS Ensemble and recently his own POW Ensemble.

By establishing his own computer group POW Ensemble in 2001, Houtkamp has created a new platform for exploring and expanding the musical potentials of the computer. The POW ensemble creates chamber music for the 21st century, using computers as musical instruments: the musicians make use of improvisation, live processing, electronics as well as acoustic instruments such as oud and saxophones. This way, the POW Ensemble represents a new, unique force in electronic music. Houtkamp has developed several very successful programmes and tours with the POW Ensemble, such as a programme around the blues (The Thirteen Bar Blues), the oud (Electric Maqamat), with acoustic improvisors (Teaming Up!) and with a tapdancer (Tap Hop).

Houtkamp has received a four-year grant (2005-2008) from the Dutch ministry of Education and Culture to develop and research electronic music with the POW Ensemble. On 7th January 2005 he was awarded the VPRO/Boy Edgar award, the most prestigious jazz prize in The Netherlands.

Houtkamp has given masterclasses, lectures and was composer in residence at several universities.

Houtkamp has worked in a wide variety of musical situations: as a solo performer (since 1982), as a composer, and with groups including:

He has also appeared in various projects and performances with, among others, Günter Christmann, Jon Rose, George Lewis, Richard Teitelbaum, Jacques Palinckx, Ned RothenbergFred van Hove, Herb Robertson, Thomas Lehn, Vladimir Tarasov, Peter van Bergen, Nicolas Collins, Elton Dean, Ken Vandermark, Misha Mengelberg, Maarten Altena, Roger Turner, Wiek Hijmans, Nick Didkovsky, John Russell, Gerry Hemingway, Kent Kessler, Michael Zerang. He has worked in projects with dancers such as Pauline de Groot and Cheryll Banks, and recently with tap dancer Marije Nie. He has travelled widely to perform his music.

Festival appearances have included: Nickelsdorfer Konfrontationen, Austria; Northsea Jazz Festival, Den Haag; Company Week, London, U.K.(1988); October Meeting, Amsterdam; Du Maurier Jazz Festival, Vancouver, Canada; Bartok Festival, Szombathely, Hungary; Free Music, Antwerp, Belgium.

Luc Houtkamp's compositions include:

The Art of Erasure 1984 - 85 for saxophone solo
Odd and Even 1986 - 87 by Luc Houtkamp and Tony van Campen; for tenor saxophone and tape
The Songlines 1988 - 90 for saxophone solo
Skelet 01 - 04 1988 - 90 for saxophone and live electronics
Dulcinea,Dulcinea 1989 - 90 by Luc Houtkamp, Gilius van Bergeijk and Adri Boon; music- theatre
The Rule of Thumb 1991 for instruments and interactive computer
Vogeltrek 1993 for instruments and interactive computer
Sprites 1993 for instruments and interactive computer
Jiggs & Reels 1993 for MIDI trumpet and interactive computer, for James Fulkerson
Rebounds nr 1 1995 for instruments and interactive computer

Luc Houtkamp has arrived at an approach to the saxophone that uses the special techniques adopted by many contemporary saxophonists, such as slaptongue, shakes, multiphonics, and circulair breathing. He feels that one aspect that particularly typifies his playing is a strong understanding of form and structure that give the impression that his music is a completely composed one. In his electronic work, the use of self developed interactive computer programmes play an important role.

Classes, lectures & residence projects have included:

Houtkamp has given lectures at, among others: Royal Conservatory The Hague (Netherlands), Krakow Conservatory (Poland), Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik, Stuttgart (Germany), Universities of Michigan, New York, San José, Berkeley, Mills College Oakland (U.S.A.), University of Guanajuato (Mexico).

Houtkamp has run two different record labels: his LP imprint, Ooyevaer Disk, and his present CD label X-OR, e-mail: He has served as new music adviser to his hometown's new music concert venue, the Den Haag Korzo theatre.

Both as a performer and as an organiser, Luc Houtkamp is interested in improvised music as one method for the production of music rather than as a stylistic form. That is, the music itself is more important to him than the method, that could be composed, improvised or somewere in between. "I think that the most important developement in new music in the past 20 years has been the move of many composers and musicians to performance of their own music again, writing their own pieces for themselves, or at least musicians they know very well, or just improvising, or using improvisation as one of the tools. This is like it always was in the history of western music (except for a brief period between (1860 - 1960) and I think it is good that we are going back to this principle."

Further information

Morgan, Jon (1999), An interview with Luc Houtkamp. The full text of this interview can be read on this site.

A fireside chat with Luc Houtkamp:

For more information on the POW Ensemble, see


A full, detailed Luc Houtkamp discography is available on this site.
1979, Gilius Haagse Hofje, Live, Ooyevaer Disk OLP 3328.
1981, Hommage, Ooyevaer Disk OS 3427. Andre Goudbeek, Michel Mast, John Ruocco, Luc Houtkamp.
1981, Duo Improvisations, Ooyevaer Disk OLP 3429. Luc Houtkamp, Gilius van Bergeijk.
1982, Klimaat, Ooyevaer Disk OLP 3035. Maartje ten Hoorn, Luc Houtkamp, Jan den Boer.
1984, Fringe benefits, Entropy Stereo ESR006. Jon Rose and the Relative Band; one track on compilation CD.
1984, Forward of short leg, Dossier Records 7529. Jon Rose and the Relative Band.
1985, The Art of Erasure, Ooyevaer Disk OLP 3732. Luc Houtkamp.
1987, Violin music for Restaurants, ReR BJRCD. With Jon Rose.
1991, The Songlines, X-OR CD 01. Luc Houtkamp.
1992, Binaurality, FMP CD49.
1992/1998, The duo recordings, The Field Recordings 7, FR7.
1993, The Rule of Thumb, X-OR CD 03.
1994, Metslawier, X-OR CD 05.
1994, Live in Geneve & Luzern, The Field Recordings 1, FR 1.
1996, Instant discoveries nr. 3, The Field Recordings 3, FR 3. Trio with Misha Mengelberg and Gert-Jan Prins.
1996, X-OR on tour!, The Field Recordings 4, FR 4.
1997, Live in Canada '97, The Field Recordings 6, FR 6. Trio with Fred Van Hove and Gert-Jan Prins.
1997, Luc Houtkamp in Chicago, Entropy Stereo 007. Trio with Kent Kessler and Michael Zerang.
1998/2000, International live electronic music incorporated, The Field Recordings, FR 10.
1999, Stelen, Random Acoustics RA026. FOURinONE.
2000, Live at Free Music XXVII Antwerp, 2000, The Field Recordings 11, FR 11. f.i. quartet.
2001, Exercise in swing, X-OR CD 011. 'Digital pulse conglomerations'.
2001, 2001..., November Music NM 005. One group track on compilation CD.
2001-2003, The thirteen bar blues, X-OR CD017. Houtkamp's pow3.
2002-2003, Beyond the edge, EWM 51712. O.BA.O/Luc Houtkamp.
2002-2003, Burnt sienna, Nuscope Recordings 1015. Houtkamp/Fuhler/Blume.
2003, #40 Vienna & #41 Bernbeuren, 2003, X-OR FR13. FOURinONE.
2004-2006, Birdsong from inside the egg, X-OR CD019. POW Ensemble.
2005, November Music 2004, November Music NM 008. One POW Ensemble/FOURinONE track on compilation CD.
2007-2008, Homage to hazard live, Amsterdam 2008, X-OR FR14. POW Ensemble.
2010, Continuum, X-OR CD 020. Luc Houtkamp/POW Ensemble.
2014, Encounters, Leo Records LR 716. Luc Houtkamp/Simon Nabatov/Martin Blume.

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