Thom Willems

Composer, N.N.N.N.

Dutch composer Thom Willems (b.1955, Arnhem) has collaborated with choreographer William Forsythe on over 60 ballet scores. He studied at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague: composition with Louis Andriessen and electronic music with Jan Boerman and Dick Raaijmakers. Willems started working with Forsythe when he became director of the ballet of the Frankfurt Opera in 1984. His scores are characterised by subtle soundscapes, insistent rhythms and urban sonorities, forming an intrinsic part of the architecture of the ballets.

In 1987 Willems achieved international success with In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for Paris Opéra Ballet with dancers including the rising star Sylvie Guillem. This classic ballet has travelled the world and is in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company. 66 companies in 25 countries have performed Forsythe/Willems ballets including The Mariinsky Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Paris Opera Ballet, Teatro alla Scala Milano, Royal Ballet Covent Garden, Wiener Staatsoper, Semper Oper Dresden and Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon, among many others.

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated forms the middle act of the full evening ballet Impressing the Czar (1988) and other collaborations with William Forsythe include The Second Detail (1991), Limb’s Theorem (1990), Herman Schmerman (1992), Of Any If And (1995), Pas./Parts (1999) and One flat thing, Reproduced (2000). Willems has composed ballet scores for other choreographers including Daniel Ezralow, Daniel Larrieu and Kristina de Chatel, as well as music for TV, film and art installations.

William Forsythe’s short film Solo, with Willems’ music, was presented at the 1997 Whitney Biennial. Music by Willems is used by fashion designers, including Issey Miyake and Gianni Versace and was performed at the opening of Tate Modern in London (2000). In 2007 Willems was involved with Tadao Ando’s research center for design, 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo, and in 2008 with Matthew Ritchie’s installation The Morning Line for Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.