PULSAR: Interview with three composition students

2018-02-23
Once again Edition·S has been working together with three composition students from the Royal Danish Conservatory, assisting them with the process of preparing parts for their orchestral pieces. The three works will be premiered 8 March by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra during the PULSAR festival. Edition·S asked Esben Nordborg Møller, Arvid Hansell and Finnur Karlsson a few questions about their works.


Arvid Hansell

How has it been working with the orchestral format?
It has been a different experience from anything I have done before. In every aspect, it has been the largest, most stressful and time-consuming piece I have written so far, but it has also been the most fun, and my vision for this piece has been greater than any of my previous works.

As a composition student, you can usually find four musicians willing to play your music if you write a string quartet or something like that. You don't get the chance to have a work performed by a symphony orchestra every day, so you really start considering what you will do with that opportunity. I guess I have always had an idea in the back of my mind about what an orchestra piece should be like, and I have tried to boil it down and filter away anything unnecessary to bring out that original idea. 

What lies behind the title of your work?
The title of my piece is 'Berättelse', a Swedish word that can best be translated as ‘Tale’. With that title, I basically try to describe what the piece is: It is a musical tale. Earlier the works were just called Symphony or Sonate, and now I sometimes feel like there has been inflation in titles. That is why I try to keep it as simple and precise as possible. 

How would you describe your work?
I wanted the piece to have a sense of freedom, and stylistically the four movements are all very different from each other, but still something ties them together, creating a coherent tale. The first movement has a rather theoretical approach. It is built from an E-major scale going up and down. The idea of basing a whole orchestra piece on something so simple scared me at first, but the idea stuck, so I had to carry it out. Different elements carry the work from one movement to the next like a baton in a relay race until in the end it returns to E-major. It is like a classic fairy-tale where you venture out into the unknown, and return back home.

Finnur Karlsson

How has it been working with the orchestral format?
I have always been drawn to writing for large ensembles, and working with a full orchestra is something I deeply enjoy. Having the opportunity to work with such a wide palette of colours is a complete luxury for a composer. 

What lies behind the title of your work?
A prominent feature of the piece is a quotation to the John Dowland song 'Time stands still'. The title is the first part of the lyrics of the quoted part: ‘till heavens changed have their course and time hath lost his name’. 

How would you describe your work?
The piece is essentially a constantly rising glissando, which gradually becomes faster and louder as the piece progresses. This glissando is regularly broken up by aforementioned quotation, which gets corrupted and distorted with each repetition. I got the inspiration for the piece from the Shephard tone, which is an auditory illusion where the feeling of an endless glissando is created by stacking upward-glissing sine waves in octaves, essentially creating the aural equivalent of a barber’s pole.

 © konsfoto

Esben Nordborg Møller

How has it been working with the orchestral format?
It has been exciting and a great challenge to try and make music with this giant organism that the orchestra represents. A musical idea should preferably stand out pretty clearly, and with the extremely many variations available, the orchestra challenges your ability as a composer to express yourself clearly. At the same time, the sound and the timbral ideal of the orchestra is in itself an institution containing some strong associations that you have to take into consideration. 

What lies behind the title of your work?
The title 'Brud' has several translations: break, fracture, rupture and bride to name a few. It is thought to be ambiguous and open to interpretation. I perceive it as a piece where I go in and cause a lot of fractures on my own material, and then I try to put it all back together with bandages. Also - the piece is dedicated to my wife.

How would you describe your work?
I will describe it as a collage made of large and small fragments, which when put together creates a common history.

 

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