winnowing (2010) for piano and electronics
Winnowing — separating the grain from the chaff, letting the wind blow the lighter parts away; or the sound made as the air ﬂows through the tail feathers of certain big species of bird during mating. I was constantly traveling at the time of composing winnowing and started little by little to think about the movement of birds: the migrating flocks of birds of the autumn and spring amongst the old maple trees of the central park in Stuttgart, wild geese and a single lonely swan that decided to spend its winter in Stuttgart taking off and landing on the subtly fluctuating surface of the pond: stirring, quivering, and slowly decreasing vibrations of water. Simultaneously I found myself becoming more and more interested in the most subtle timbres of the piano. I wanted to surround the audience with this gentle sound — to be immersed into the subtle timbre changes of this fragile sound world.
...sicut aurora procedit: as the dawn breaks (2015) for violin and electronics with optional choreography for aerialist
rosin dust 1 — aurora procedit — rosin dust 2 — glow — rosin dust 3
...sicut aurora procedit for solo violin (2014) proceeded from the twilight of the dawn to the sun rising above the horizon. The version at hand, for violin and electronics, travels this journey backwards, as if in a memory. O frondens virga, an antiphon by the Middle Ages abbess, philosopher, and composer Hildegard von Bingen, is intertwined with the violin part in the beginning of the work. This antiphon, sung by soprano Tuuli Lindeberg, is placed in a distant cathedral-like space and is a reflection of the brightness of the day. The words of the antiphon are bathing in bright hope. The first rays of light of the rising sun hit the outer layers of the atmosphere, thus making them glow. Through making the sound particles spin the movement glow radiates in translucent harmonies. The memory of the twilight of the dawn ends the work in the atmosphere of the blue hour. The dawn is rising, but the sun is still waiting beneath the horizon. This work is dedicated to my daughter Aune, who went through severe medical trauma at the time I composed this piece.
Antiphon by Hildegard von Bingen:
O frondens virga,
in tua nobilitate stans,
sicut aurora procedit.
O blossoming branch,
you stand upright in your nobility,
as breaks the dawn on high.
(translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell)
for female voice, ensemble, and electronics
Lyrics by Henriikka Tavi
The Orlando-fragments’ lyrics and music were created almost in parallel, where they both had a chance to mold the other. Henriikka Tavi wrote four poems for this piece inspired by the themes of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, where the main character, Orlando, lives about 300 years without aging and changes gender in the mid-point of the novel. Woolf’s Orlando sees the world not only in the changing perspective of the different times but also through the eyes of two genders, which creates a complex web of different possible interpretations in Woolf’s masterpiece.
Tavi’s poem “A Dream” is passionate yet simultaneously introverted. The singer is accompanied solely by her own voice — as if Orlando were living in his own world inside his head. In this section of Woolf’s novel, after an unsuccessful love affair, Orlando decides to stay in his manor for decades, being reluctant and almost afraid of stepping out. In both “Exercises” another person enters the stage and Orlando ponders whether to take the crucial next steps to start engaging again with life: “only you: are trying: to catch it: it is called being alive: will you.”
When I discussed movement and speed with Tavi, we both thought of a possibility where the text and music would conflict — a slow stationary text would have incredible feel of movement in the music whereas a text with a lot of notion of speed would be frozen into immobility. From these thoughts came “Oak Tree” and “headin(g).” Oak Tree is a kind of diary which Orlando carries in his/her pocket throughout Woolf’s novel. Tavi’s “Oak Tree” circles around themes of living through 300 years, but always ending up in the point of departure: “I am born in the future […] when the history has ended […] Nothing is not only possible. Everything is real.” “Headin(g)” transforms the fast-paced poem into frozen, slowly changing surfaces of timbre. Here Orlando is waiting for someone to come, and she has growing anxiety with her “pulse beating in km/h in the speed of light in sound.”
Freedom from Fear (2017) for oboe, electronics, and lights
Freedom from Fear reflects the thoughts of Aung San Suu Kyi (b. 1945), Burmese politician and freedom fighter. She spent 15 years in house arrest under the Burmese military dictatorship until she was released in 2010. During and after the house arrest Kyi gained international acclaim and received many honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
After listening and watching interviews by Kyi, I became fascinated with her thoughts on how “in any country, if the majority is determined to follow a certain path, they will be able to do it, sooner or later” — a thought that in retrospective casts a malicious shadow over how Kyi used her position of power in 2018. “Freedom from Fear,” one of the most famous Kyi quotes, as well as other direct quotes taken from her interviews, is transcribed for oboe and woven into the oboe textures in this piece. These delicate keyclicks and airy sounds share the stage with powerful and noisy multiphonics and glissandi that represent the strength and power of the thought over brutal violence. Two loudspeaker arrays — the small homemade ones onstage and the large ones placed around the audience — create two different spaces. The intimate onstage space is illuminated by lights that are built into these small speakers. Following the loudness of the keyclicks and airy sounds of the oboe, each of the speakers flickers at its own pace. The lights changing from white to blue and then towards orange and red portray the political climate change from serenity into a state of uncertainty. The electronics culminate through the peaceful demonstrations of 2016-17 in the United States into the chaos of the Burmese Saffron Revolution of 2007.
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