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In Memoriam

Michel Waisvisz (1949–2008)

“musician, visionary and occasional gardener”

Michel Waisvisz died peacefully in his home on Wednesday June 18 after fighting the mean cells in his body for the last eight months.

He was born on the 8th of July 1949 and lead STEIM as Director for 27 years. He left us on a day when artists and friends from around the world gathered downstairs to perform for a full-house season-closing concert.

Michel was a musician, visionary and occasional gardener — touched by sound and forever happy to be surprised. He was the source of an enormous surge of energy that continues to flow through STEIM into the world.

We will miss his touch, crackle, inspiration and constant improvisation of the now.

You can leave condolences at

— STEIM (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

“a wonder and enthusiasm that was most infectious”

As with many others, I am deeply saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of Michel Waisvisz, particularly at such a young age.

Although our paths crossed only infrequently over the years, Michel exuded a warmth of friendship that was undiluted on every occasion, as well as a wonder and enthusiasm that was most infectious.

Although others may (and hopefully will) write more definitive tributes to his many accomplishments, what I admired most in his work was that rare gift of charisma and “stage presence” that he brought to his live interactive performances. Whether it was with the Hands or the other devices he helped develop, he always seemed to find their inherent theatricality — and “performed” with them, not just made them work technically. In a technological world where information has replaced gesture, and live performance often involves a lot of staring at a screen, Michel impressed audiences by his sheer physicality that linked music to gesture, and gesture to theatre. He, and a small number of other technologically based performers, will always represent the standard that I will judge others by, and I feel most fortunate to have known him and experienced at least a few of his live performances.

— Barry Truax (Vancouver, Canada)

“yes, amazing guy”

in the 80s CCMC (five of us at that time)
each had the beautiful little crackle boxes,
and sometimes we’d wander around the performance space
all playing these “portable synths” at the same time

he did some great things and made some fine sounds
in an unassuming kind of way
sad he had to leave so soon

— John Kamevaar (Toronto, Canada)

Simply Art

My experience at Steim has been inspiring. I have been there twice, for courses on Lisa Software, which was quite a bit of an excuse to be there and feel that environment and special place.

Before that I have always been looking at the website, in search of softwares, people and stuff from their resources links. I had the chance to personally know Frank Balde (Steim in-house programmer) and Robert Van Heumen who helped me a lot with Steim software, and then Michel Waisvisz, who came to perform with his “Hands”, to show the Lisa software in full action.

Before I met Michel, I had just googled his name and seen videos with him and about him and his work. Well, that day was just so nice to see a person, that did so much in his life about performing, to perform again for us newcomers. And when he finished, he just put his “Hands” off, and talked to us, simply and easy.

I guess that art is about this simplicity and sharing, at any level. In this sense, for me, Michel Waisvisz is a real artist, to remember.

— Tommaso Perego (Milano, Italy)

“warmth, generosity and inspiration”

A wonderful man and an inspiration — his energy and vision should have continued to brighten our world for many more years — his legacy lives in in all of us who were inspired by him. 

I notice, from reading the many tributes in the condolence register on STEIM’s website, how often words like “spark” and “current”, along with words like “warmth”, “generosity” and “inspiration” seem to keep on appearing — heartfelt words from many, many people all over the world, each making their own kind of art, in their own way; and for each of them Michel’s warmth, generosity and inspiration has helped them to achieve their aims, whatever they were.

One of his greatest characteristics was that he was not promoting any one particualr kind of music-making. He was open to all manner of artistic endeavour — one of the joys of a visit to STEIM has always been the eclectic mix of people both working there and visiting. For Michel, and the wonderful group of people he brought to STEIM, the point of it all was to help others do whatever they wanted to do.

I, like many others before and after me, came to STEIM because I needed to find a way of making music that really expressed my vision, a dream held for many years. Finally, in the 1990s, the technology was catching up with my dream. At STEIM, it was not so much the practical help (although there was plenty of that), but the simple belief that I could achieve what I wanted, the inspiration to press ahead until it happened and the spark of energy to help it happen. All that energy and belief stemmed from Michel — “warmth”, “generosity” and “inspiration” only begin to express it.

Michel’s current of inspiration touched many people. It is up to us to pass it on. That is his legacy.

— Lawrence Casserley (London UK)

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