Robin de Raaff was born on December 5, 1968 in Breda, the Netherlands. He was raised in a very musical family where classical music and popular music were part of his daily life. As a child he received weekly piano lessons from his father and practised daily. De Raaff discovered his own musical world through playing the bass guitar, which he taught himself to play. As a teenager, under the explosive influence of fretless bass guitar legend Jaco Pastorius, De Raaff switched to fretless bass guitar, introducing him to a new world of complex instrumental music, and ultimately Jazz.
But even more passionately, already as a young teenager, composing his own music was his most important musical expression. Starting with pop songs, with ever increasing instrumental parts, larger symphonic proportions were soon imposed which inevitably lead him towards the great classical composers. Inspired by this newly discovered music De Raaff developed a musical style for symphony orchestra installing the necessity to compose in full score. After enrolling as a composition student at the Sweelinck Conservatory of Amsterdam, playing the bass guitar moved to the background, but his very broad musical interest would greatly influence his view on style in contemporary Classical music.
De Raaff first studied composition with Geert van Keulen and later with Theo Loevendie, with whom he graduated cum laude in 1997. In 1999 De Raaff had the special privilege of being invited to work as George Benjamin’s only composition student at the Royal College of Music in London, where he also studied with Julian Anderson.
In 2001 Robin de Raaff was invited to join the Composition Faculty at the Classical Music Academy of the Conservatory of Rotterdam where he teaches composition, and orchestration until 2013. De Raaff is part of a versatile composition team that in the recent years includes the composition department of the Jazz Music Academy where composer Paul van Brugge is the central figure. Putting together these seemingly independent and remote fields of composition make up for a very open and dynamic academic structure where the exchange of artistic ideas on every level is the prime goal for students and teachers.
Some personal views on teaching composition and orchestration by Robin de Raaff
-- Musical composition can only thrive from devotion to and passion for music.
-- Find the core talent of the composition student, that specific and unique quality that is naturally there, and expand his/her musical realm.
-- Enable the student to find their own true voice and composition techniques to develop this voice into a complete and interesting musical language.
-- Written music only starts to behave like real music if the grasp on the overall structure is evidently controlled by the composer.
-- Knowledge of the great literature of western classical music, from as broad a perspective as possible, and an interest in and respect for all other musical traditions in the world.
-- A higher level of understanding of classical music starts with voracious score reading. However, even more is to be learned from great interpretations, live performances, and listening to how musicians, music and sound behave in an actual acoustical space with an actual audience.
-- Orchestration can only develop in an interesting way if the instrumentational choices are imbedded in the compositional choices.
For more information about the studies of composition at Codarts please visit the website of the Classical Music Academy of the Conservatory of Rotterdam.