Louis Andriessen was born on June 6, 1939, into a Roman Catholic family in Utrecht, the Netherlands. His father, Hendrik Franciscus Andriessen, was a composer and organist who became the director of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. His mother, Johanna Justina Anschütz, was a pianist. Louis was the youngest of six children, all of whom were musical. (Two brothers also became composers.)
From 1956-1962 he studied composition, music theory and piano at the conservatory, then traveled to both Milan and Berlin for advanced studies with Luciano Berio. While studying in The Hague he met the guitarist Jeanette Yanikian who became his partner. They married in 1996, and she died in 2008. Mr. Andriessen is survived by his second wife, the violinist Monica Germino, whom he married in 2012 and for whom he wrote several works.
Beginning in 1966, Mr. Andriessen and a group of fellow Dutch musicians pushed for Amsterdam’s storied Concertgebouw Orchestra to engage more vigorously with contemporary music. In 1969, they led what became known as the Nutcracker Action, when activists sabotaged a Concertgebouw performance with frog-shaped metal clickers.
That year he collaborated on an opera, “Reconstructie” (“Reconstruction”), which decries American imperialism as it pulls together various styles, including pop, jazz, Mozart pastiche and a speaking chorus. A weeklong run of sold-out performances of the work forced the Dutch culture minister to defend the spending of taxpayer money to finance what was called anti-American agitprop.
From 1972 to 1976 Mr. Andriessen composed “De Staat,” a work that would come to define his combination of intellectual rigor and brash sonic exuberance. In “De Tijd,” he played with the listener’s perception of time by manipulating repetition and silence. The frantic, clanging “De Snelheid” (“Velocity”), composed in the early 1980s, investigated the perception of speed and its relationship to harmony.