The history of the Association begins in the lounge of the American Hotel in Amsterdam on 5 February 1911, where Jan van Gilse and seven other Dutch artists met to confer about a yet to be established association of Dutch composers. They strived to make Dutch music more widely known, set criteria for the professional competence of composers, protect their work and create a social safety net.
The Genootschap van Nederlandse Componisten (Association of Dutch Composers, GeNeCo) was established with 30 members in 1911 and developed into an association with almost 300 members by 1936. Shortly after the establishment of the GeNeCo, the association founded the Bureau of Musical Copyright (Bureau voor Muziekauterusrecht, BUMA), together with the Vereniging voor Muziekhandelaren en -Uitgevers (Association of Music Traders and Publishers). This bureau would occupy itself with the financial interests of Dutch composers and the collection of copyright, which was had at last been clearly defined by the Dutch government in 1912.
GeNeCo 25 years
Around the time of the silver anniversary of the Association in 1936, Stichting Nederlandse Muziekbelangen (Foundation for Dutch Musical Interests, NMB) was established on the initiative of GeNeCo president Jan van Gilse. The Maneto concerts, organised by the NMB, were an important pre-war initiative. These Manifestaties van Nederlandse Toonkunst (Manifestations of Dutch Music) were funded by BUMA, among others, from the money they collected, which could not be paid out to the copyright owners, because they were not registered with a copyright bureau or composers’ union. This money could only be used for general cultural purposes.
From 1937, four concerts took place per year, in which approximately 40 compositions by 30 composers (26 of which from the 20th century) were performed. These concerts attracted a large audience and were well received by the press. Maneto also organised studieconcerten (study concerts), in which a number of works by young composers are gone through thoroughly during orchestra rehearsals culminating in a concert for the general public. The first studieconcert took place in June 1940. The occupation put an end to further activities.
The association was inoperative during the war years, above-ground in any case. Shortly after the liberation on 23 May 1945, the board convened once again. Unfortunately, without GeNeCo’s founder and president Jan van Gilse, who passed away on 8 September 1944 at 63 years of age. For the benefit of members of GeNeCo, the Stichting Nederlandse Muziekbelangen (Foundation for Dutch Musical Interests) settled in a library shortly after the war in 1946, which also served as the documentation centre for Dutch music, abbreviated as Donemus. GeNeCo joined the Federatie van Kunstenaarsverenigingen (Dutch Federation of Artists Associations) in 1951, which was established shortly after the war. It was well aware that artists could achieve more in an organised context than an individual.
Fortieth and fiftieth anniversary
In 1951, the fortieth anniversary was celebrated through three concerts. The fiftieth anniversary in 1961 did not go unnoticed either. It was officially celebrated during the Dutch Music Days (Nederlandse Muziekdagen), which took place in Maastricht on the initiative of theStichting Nederlandse Muziekbelangen (Foundation for Dutch Musical Interests). The Nederlandse Muziekdagen (Dutch Music Days) can be seen as a continuation of the pre-war Maneto concerts. In addition, a concert took place in the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra performed a gala concert conducted by Bernard Haitink during the Holland Festival, which was exclusively made up of works by Dutch composers.
The turbulent 1960s
Although a lot was done to improve the position of Dutch composers over the years, there was increasing dissatisfaction among young composers, in particular, in the 1960s. They felt that the programming policy at the large musical institutions was inadequate. GeNeCo took action in order to improve the positions of Dutch composers and the board of GeNeCo not only came under pressure to exert more influence on the programming policy of orchestras, but also to improve the remuneration of compositions and the grant policy for creating new works.
The drafting of a table of fees (honorariumtabel) that could be used by commissioning parties, and which would lead to the improvement of the financial status of composers, was a step in the right direction. There was also discussion about setting up a Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst (Creative Music Fund), following the example of the Fonds voor de Letteren (Dutch Foundation for Literature). However, it would not be until 1981 that this Fund became a reality.
Dissatisfaction about the programming policy continued to simmer. In the autumn of 1969, a concert by the Brabants Orkest (Brabant Orchestra) was disrupted by music students from Tilburg. GeNeCo supported this protest: they deemed the Brabants Orkest situation to be symptomatic of the lack of attention paid to contemporary music in Dutch concert halls. When the start of a concert by the Concertgebouw Orchestra was disrupted by rattles and whistles several weeks later, GeNeCo distanced itself from this protest. The protesters, also called the Notenkrakers (Nutcrackers), demanded a public debate with all the parties concerned and saw subsequent protests as a necessary means to modernise the music scene. GeNeCo did not support these protests.
Establishment of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst (Creative Music Fund)
The fact that the Dutch music scene needed modernisation was, however, obvious to all parties concerned. The board of GeNeCo underwent rejuvenation and the social functioning of music in general, and composers in particular, received considerable attention. Following the turbulent 1960s, GeNeCo made its voice heard in a wide range of areas. Successful initiatives took place, for example, in the field of the orchestral system, and the ultimate establishment of the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst (Creative Music Fund) in 1981 benefited the social and financial position of composers. There was, therefore, every reason to celebrate the 75th anniversary of GeNeCo in 1986. On 17 October 1986, the anniversary concert was held in the Grote of St. Bavokerk in Haarlem, which was conducted by Riccardo Chailly.
However, two issues affected the association for many years: the desire to able to promote the interests of the composers, also in a promotional sense, and a conflict about the functioning of Donemus. In addition, there was an area of tension between composers from outside the Randstad conurbation and those in west of the country.
GeNeCo also devoted itself to obtaining better remuneration for composers over the years, as a result of which, however, some composers felt less important than others. The latter group included, in particular, those composers receiving long-term remuneration from the Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst (Creative Music Fund).
The association ultimately stumbled, in particular, over the aforementioned long-term remuneration (the intention of which was to give composers the space to compose in complete freedom, but which resulted in less composers spending more funding). It proposed a more production-focused approach. A number of composers did not agree with this and split off into a new association: Componisten ’96 (Composers ‘96).
GeNeCo 100 years
The centenary of GeNeCo was cause for a big party in 2011. Dutch music and Dutch composers were put in the spotlight. There were concerts and events throughout the entire country where Dutch music could be heard. The highlights were the gala in the Main Hall of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw attended by Her Majesty the Queen on 3 September, a wide-ranging chamber music festival, Composition Salons for young composers and an exhibition about the 100-year-old GeNeCo. In addition to a specially designed centenary stamp that was issued by TNT Post, the centenary book ‘100 jaar Genootschap Nederlandse Componisten’ (‘100 years of the Association of Dutch Composers’), published by the Dutch publisher Walburg Pers, saw the light.
However, the splitting-off of Componisten ’96 continued to eat away at the subsequent board members through the years. Various approaches were, therefore, undertaken from 2006 and several collaborative projects were set up. In 2009, the Union of Composers (Unie van Componisten) was established as consultation partner with the various governments and service organisation in the Netherlands on behalf of GeNeCo, Componisten ‘96 and the Association of Improvising Musicians (Bond van Improviserende Musici, BIM).
Finally, GeNeCo merged with Componisten ‘96 on 8 July 2014 and the Nieuw Genootschap van Nederlandse Componisten (New Association of Dutch Composers, Nieuw Geneco) was created. The common interests, such as maintaining financial support and the joint promotion of Dutch music, are now much more substantial than the differences of opinion in the 1990s.
Read more? We would recommend the following literature to you:
- H. van Dijk. M. Flothuis, 75 jaar Geneco: de geschiedenis van het Genootschap van Nederlandse Componisten (75 years Geneco: the history of the Association of Dutch Composers), 1988.
- Alders, 100 Jaar Genootschap Nederlandse Componisten (100 years of the Association of Dutch Composers), Walburg Pers, 2011. – available via Nieuw Geneco
- Leo Samama, Nederlandse muziek in de 20ste eeuw (Dutch music in the 20th century), Amsterdam University Press, 2006.
- Robert Adlington, Composing Dissent, Oxford University Press, 2013.