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Case Study: Dutch Music and Films

The world’s best DJ

Sharon den Adel and Armin van Buuren

Sharon den Adel and Armin van Buuren

Here we are in Amsterdam, and it’s Saturday night. Let’s go out! Where? What kind of music do we want to listen to? The Netherlands is a rich modern country, so we can find all types of music. Some of it, you have to search for. However, if we want to listen to trance music, we don’t have to search far. Trance is the staple of clubs and festivals throughout the Netherlands. The world’s best DJ is Armin van Buuren and trance music is his passion.

Armin’s most-viewed song on YouTube, over 150 million, is In and Out of Love, featuring Sharon den Adel (right), a Dutch singer. Trance is pre-recorded electronic music, so there’s no band with people playing instruments. Instead, there’s a DJ playing the tracks or beats, as they’re called.

Armin in concert

Armin in concert

The songs are noted for a very fast tempo, always over a hundred and sometimes up to a hundred and fifty beats per minute. In and Out of Love, like most trance songs, has a strong short melody repeated endlessly. That plus the incessant, pulsing drum give the music its dreamy, trance-like sound. Sharon’s vocals, layered and heavily filtered with echo and reverb effects, add a variable human sound to the mathematically perfect electronic sound.

A State of Trance

A State of Trance

During the video, the screen is dominated by highly stylized, monochromatic sets and costumes that are all foreground with no background. The humans, swaying and weaving, appear detached, trance-like, out of any recognizable context. Most of the color in the video comes from their flesh tones. The video is cut to the beat, though not all of them!

The composer is the young man in the video listening to Sharon. Armin van Buuren was born in Leiden, the Netherlands, on Christmas Day in 1976. According to Armada, the successful record label and events management company that he founded in 2003, Armin “has been named number one in the prestigious DJ MAG Top 100 poll four times in a row, in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 …. In 2011, he came in second.”

DJ Mag Top 100

Armin in concert at Portugal's Tomorrowland

Armin in concert at Portugal’s Tomorrowland

2002  Tiësto  Sasha  John Digweed
2003  Tiësto  Paul Van Dyk  Armin Van Buuren
2004  Tiësto  Paul Van Dyk  Armin Van Buuren
2005  Paul Van Dyk  Tiësto  Armin Van Buuren
2006  Paul Van Dyk  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto
2007  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto  John Digweed
2008  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto  Paul Van Dyk
2009  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto  David Guetta
2010  Armin Van Buuren  David Guetta  Tiësto
2011  David Guetta  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto
2012  Armin Van Buuren  Tiësto  Avicii
2013  Hardwell  Armin Van Buuren  Avicii
2014  Hardwell  Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike  Armin Van Buuren

While the four albums and his popular weekly radio show A State of Trance are one thing, live concerts are where Armin seems to have the most fun. As you can see from his recent show in Johannesburg and from his nine-hour set in front of 80,000 people in Melbourne, Australia, on New Year’s Eve, 2010, Armin has an engaging personality. I’ve heard him live a couple of times, and he never stops smiling. It’s an entrancing way to spend a Saturday evening in Amsterdam.

Best Dutch Films

DVD cover

DVD cover

Films from only 24 countries have won an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Only half of those countries have won such an Oscar more than once.

  • Italy – 14
  • France – 12
  • Spain, Japan – 4
  • Sweden, Denmark, Soviet Union, and the Netherlands – 3
  • Germany, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and Austria – 2

Three Dutch movies have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

  • 1986     The Assault (De aanslag) – trailer
  • 1995     Antonia’s Line (Antonia)
  • 1997     Character (Karakter) – trailercomplete film (English subtitles)
German version

German version

Antonia’s Line

The Dutch produce two or three dozen feature films per year that are listed in the INDB. Seven times, Dutch films have been nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Three have won, including Antonia’s Line in 1996, written and directed by Marleen Gorris and starring Willeke van Ammelrooy. See the trailer on YouTube and the poster for the German version on left. The complete film is also available on YouTube, but in Dutch only.

Often described as a “feminist fairy tale”, Antonia’s Line tells of a strong-minded, nonconforming Dutch woman and her daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter. All the men in the film are either evil or in various ways mentally, emotionally, and physically deficient.

Movie critics everywhere gave Antonia’s Line very rough treatment for its lack of realism and objectivity. Ms. Gorris, to them, had some feminist messages to send and she seems to have sent them too bluntly for these critics. Personally, I found the movie beautiful and entertaining and the performance by Ms. van Ammelrooy compelling. The view of Dutch life and character was illuminating, even though the film is set in the one tiny part of southeastern Netherlands that has some hills; the rest of the country is flat and largely below sea level.