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Fred Van Hove studied theory, harmony, and piano at the Music Academy in Belgium and began playing professionally in 1964. He experimented with various jazz and dance music idioms before adopting free improvisation as his principal mode of expression. Van Hove began playing with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann in 1966. Their collaboration took different forms, eventually settling into a trio format with drummer Han Bennink, which lasted approximately five years. The solo format would become important to Van Hove; he played his first solo concert in 1970. In the early '70s, Van Hove helped found Werkgroep Improviserende Musici (WIM), a musicians' collective dedicated to furthering the interests of improvisers in his home country. Since 1976, Van Hove has played solo accompaniment for silent movies, specializing in films by such groundbreaking directors as Murnau, Griffith, Lang, and Dreyer. In 1978, Van Hove formed Musica Libera Antverpiae (MLA), a group of variable configuration. MLA became one of the pianist's primary performing units. Members of the group and its offshoots have included trumpeter Marc Charig, trombonists Paul Rutherford and Radu Malfatti, violinist Philipp Wachsmann, and percussionist Günther "Baby" Sommer, among others. He has played in duo with a great many famous players, including soprano saxophonists Steve Lacy and Lol Coxhill, and trombonists Albert Mangelsdorff and Vinko Globokar. Van Hove has been active in Berlin, where he's taught and performed with local musicians; and Japan, where he's toured often since the mid-'80s. He's also performed in a group called the Belgische Pianokwartet (four pianists at two grands), and in a trio with trombonist Johannes Bauer and singer Annick Nozati. Van Hove has also collaborated with poets and painters and held seminars and workshops on improvisation. Van Hove was given the title Cultural Ambassador of Flanders in 1996 by the Belgian government. In 2000, Van Hove embarked on a new project, the Pistri Ensemble, with Wachsmann on violins and electronics, Gunther Christmann on cello and trombone, Joëlle Léandre on double bass, and Van Hove on piano and accordion.