Peter Schat is one of the most colourful and widely-known Dutch composers of the 20th century. He was born on June 5, 1935, in Utrecht, the son of a Protestant baker, and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a composer.
He studied piano at the Utrechts Conservatorium with Jaap Callenbach and theory and composition with Kees van Baaren at the Royel Conservatory of the Hague. After his graduation, Peter went on to study in London with Mátyás Seiber in 1959 and with Pierre Boulez in Basle in 1960–61.
Schat was a passionate Provo activist, writer and social critic whose political zeal can be heard in his music. He published numerous articles and books, among which De Toonklok [The Tone Clock, 1984] and De Wereld Chromatisch [The World Chromatic, 1988].
In 1961, while seeking new means of expression, Schat got involved with Mood Egineering Society (MES) by Willem de Ridder, a company which used multimedia projects to build bridges between art, music and theater.
In September 1967, he co-founded the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music (STEIM), a research laboratory and development center for live electro-instrumental music, in Amsterdam.
Peter Schat was a teacher in composition at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, from 1974 to 1982.
Schat debuted with ‘Passacaglia and Fugue’ for organ at the Gaudeamus Music Week 1954.
During the 1950s and ’60s, he was a child of his time. Musically, he engaged in the avant-garde developments of dodecaphony, spatial positioning of musicians, electronic music and serialism. In the early 1980 his growing discontent with serialism led him to develop a harmonic system – the Tone Clock – that focused on intervals.
From April 3 to 12 in 1989, there was a festival under the title: ‘Schat in Groningen’, with concerts and lectures about and with Peter Schat.
During his life, Peter Schat wrote more than 50 compositions.
In 1957, ‘Septet’ premiered and received the AVRO-Prize. For ‘Entelechie II‘ Schat received the 2nd Prize of the International Composers Competition in Italy in 1962. In 1973, his ‘To You’ was awarded with the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize. This piece was written on lyrics by Adrian Mitchell, in 1972, and reflects “the century dilemma: the choice between pleasure and criticism.” (Peter Schat)
The premiere of the comic opera ‘Aap verslaat de Knekelgeest (=Monkey subdues the white-bone demon)’ for soloists, ensemble, mimes and acrobats, was received with great success at the Holland Festival 1980. On the same day, the opera was awarded the 2nd prize of the Carl Maria von Weber Composition Competition in Dresden. Peter Schat also received the Fountain Tuinhout price for this opera in 1982.