Stone after stone - Gothenburg Symphony Orch. / Cond. Krzysztof Penderecki - Commissioned by ICMC in 2002


"Commentary with dark angels" (text, sound/computer) and "Stone after stone -- Composition No.5" (Orchestra) is, as the name indicates, the fifth in a series of compositions based on the poem "Alphabet" by Inger Christensen, a Danish poet. The poem is 1,306 lines long, with verses structured in accordance with a principle of "growth" related to what is known as the Fibonacci series, a numerical series that can be used to describe many phenomena in nature. In its original form, each number in the series is obtained by adding the two previous ones: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, etc., ad infinitum. The relationship between each two adjacent numbers is known as the "golden ratio", which has been found to describe, for example, the way a Nautilus snail grows and a sunflower blossom is shaped, among other things.

Christensen's poem is about the very subject of growth and the miraculous fact that anything at all can exist (a kind of creation myth: "apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist") as well as its complete opposite: the terrifying ability of humanity to invoke destruction and death.

Sometimes Inger Christensen uses 'the angels' as a metaphor for the patterns and structures we use in art and science to perceive the world around us via our senses. Her angels are also reminiscent of the angels in the work of Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke's angels represent an extreme principle but, as pointed out by the Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist, they have nothing at all to do with the angels in the heaven of Christianity.

One of the points of departure of the orchestral piece is a spectral analysis of a recording in which Inger Christensen reads her poem. (Magnus Eldenius, who directs research in this area at the School of Music and Music Education, Goteborg University, carried out the spectral analysis). Another important starting point for the structure of the music is the special Fibonacci algorithm Inger Christensen created as a basis for her poem.

In this case, the commentary precedes the work it discusses, and uses the temporal structure of the orchestral piece as a bearer of the various sounds and "instruments" created in the computer on the basis of Inger Christensen's own voice. One might say that she has had the opportunity, here, to comment on the sound structure of her own poetry in the context of music.

The idea underpinning the form of this musical diptych originated in a drawing by M. C. Escher, in which little pencilled reptiles suddenly step out of the picture and walk in a ring across the desk as three-dimensional creatures, and then go back into the drawing from the other side.

This "picture" gave rise to the idea of a two and three-dimensional version of the same musical material. But if it is the orchestral or computer piece that is two or three-dimensional is up to listener to decide.

J. Fredric Bergstrom, composer and teaching assistant at the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg provided invaluable assistance in the studio and with the sound processing work.

ICMC 2002



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