Photography: ESPACIO ESCULTÓRICO DE LA UNAM- Mónica Aburto.
Thommy Wahlström´s piece for harp and EA (electro-acoustic sounds) was conceived as pillars towards the world, and pillars towards the emptiness or void (intet in Swedish).
He explained his piece 2011 INVENTION FOR HARP AND EA # 3 as the space between and around the pillars that represent art. He imagined this music as an invisible bird, or rather, a gentle wind, passing through and watching the space between the pillars and the view out from it: a game of never seen images of the horizon that can also have been seen unseen.
The parts played by the harp are mainly the pillars towards the world and the electronic sounds represent the pillars towards the void. They are displayed with moving balance points between them throughout the whole piece. There are sections with qualities of small sounds of wind and more intense electronic parts. An important parameter is the shifting grade of beauty in which the ea parts communicate with the beauty of the harp sound.
Rehearsal letters A and L represent the opening and the end of the piece.
Thommy refers to his piece as a combination of slow, serene harp parts, and intense and difficult electronic parts. The computer part is not micro-synchronized with the harp. Their function combines creates solo and background. He created a MAX-patch to trigger the computer with a footswitch. The sound files are long and appear in the score as whole notes.
As in all music where acoustic instruments share the space with electronics, the stage set up is extremely important for the final result at the concert.
Therefore, Thommy chose to place four speakers in a square in the room and one close to the harp, playing a similar role as such of an imaginary chamber music player. That single speaker will send the solo electronic parts. The other four speakers in the room are in charge of the background sound and small sounds that will create space for his piece.
Besides following formal musical composition studies, Thommy is also an active musician playing saxophone in Swedish folk music, and he is strongly interested in all sorts of improvisations and different kinds of musical genres.
His compositions and improvisations are specifically focused on the interplay between these genres at a structural level, always juggling with melodic and harmonic shifts.
He was born in the Swedish countryside and is now living and studying in Stockholm.
I include part of my suggestions for him in our email exchange crossing the Atlantic.
Here are my suggestions and questions regarding your wonderful INVENTION.
Please let me know what you think!
1- Question: Did you write the text at the beginning of the score? If not, I would like to know the name of the writer, in order to mention it in the blog.
2-Measure 24, I suggest to double the left hand B in order to have a more effective pedal glissando.
3- Measure 38, the A flat in left hand should be played with enharmonic G sharp, since the right hand has an A natural and the only way to make those two sounds simultaneously is by using the G sharp.
4- Measure 39, I also suggest to use enharmonic and change the E flat and use instead a D sharp in the right hand, since the left foot is already in the D pedal. That passage has a lot of pedals. I hope we can synchronize this together while you play the ea part. There are quite a lot of pedal changes in several spots and I might need time, especially when there is a row of pedal changes all with the same foot!
5- I think it would be good for you to have a copy of my harp part with the pedal charts, pedal changes, fingerings and suggestions about which hand should play which notes. Also, it´s complicated to read with so many tied notes. Maybe it would be easier just with the tie and no repeated notes. I suggest you use that copy once we have rehearsed together, then you can make your final edition. Vad tror du?
6- Letter E- those chords will have to be played where they are written, not an octave lower. There is no B low in the harp and besides, the two last strings in the harp have no discs moved by the mechanism that produces the half tones, so it is not possible to modulate as you want from measure 46 until 49.
7-Measure 57, I suggest the last note one octave lower in left hand, since the next measure starts with that same note in the right hand and it sounds short when the finger prepares to play it.
8- Glissandi in measure 60 and similar, written with a circle sign, should be normal soft glissandi, since the hands are busy with played notes. The D written in the left hand, third beat inside the triplet, should be played with the right hand. I suggest free soft glissandi going up and down without interfering with the other indicated notes.
9- Measure 65, the first note in the left hand should be played with the right one.
10- Measure 69, the C, second beat written in the right hand, should be played with the left one.
11- I suggest to double (going down) C sharp and G sharp half notes (left hand) in measure 80 and its repetition in measure 97. It goes better with the forte dynamic you chose and builds a nice texture for the mf and then I would muffle right before the piano dynamic.
Have a nice day, and please let me know what you think!
More about Thommy´s work: http://www.cranecrossing.se/
One of the five new pieces I will premiere in Stockholm in May was written by Joel Engström, born in 1987.
LUNA STICIA is one of the two pieces for two harps that I will play with Stina Hellberg, harpist majoring in jazz, now in her final months for a Master degree at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, where we all met. Stina wanted a piece for her duo and that is how this project started before I met Joel at the workshop for composers.
Joel grew up in the small town of Torsby, in the province of Värmland in Sweden. Music was practiced daily in his family and Joel started playing the piano, the cornet and the electric bass. In his teens his attention turned to composing and after studies at Gotlands Tonsättarskola he applied for the composition program at the Royal College of Music (KMH) in Stockholm where he is currently in his second year.
With a rich experience from playing in brass bands and wind bands, Joel has written many pieces for different wind and brass-orchestras.
I was happily surprised to see how well he understood the task and difficulties of writing for harp, finger positions, resonance, possibilities and colors. His use of the two harps is intelligent and well thought regarding how one harp can help the other to modulate and vice versa. He presents a smart use of the combination of the two harps and it will be a joy to rehearse the piece with Stina and knit the resonances with which the piece is built.
Here are Joel´s own comments about LUNA STICIA:
“I have been trying to focus on different contrasts with rhythm, register and dynamics. Meanwhile there is a harmonic linear process which creates a contrapuntal interaction with the previously mentioned factors.
I started from the idea of a non-metric, vibrating embryo in the middle register. Benefitting from the fact that I had two harps, I was able to write tremolos and bisbigliando figures that would sound even and dense thanks to an overlapping structure. The vibrating embryo seeks it way through a harmonic field and encounters its counterpart: solid and static “pillar-notes” in eight octaves. Each time these “pillar-notes” occur, they force the embryo to expand, and little by little breaks it up to fit into a more metric pulse. It also inflicts what harmonic path the embryo will take.
I do not really like to make analogies (they often tend to become rationalizations and make the listening very limited) but I suppose you could see the “pillar-notes” as a form of narrator or oracle, being very straightforward, strong and pure. The embryo could represent something complex and ambiguous, a nervous state of being, forced to make decisions, perhaps against its will.
But these pictures are not to be taken too literally. Something really important for me is the harmony and the harmonic development, an aspect that I think is easily underestimated in new music today. Here, the important thing was not necessarily to get from a specific point A to point B, but to really focus on the vertical sounds and the horizontal lines, thus creating and sculpting the energy-flow that resides within harmony.
The embryo finally becomes highly energetic and rhythmically regular until its own independence has been wiped out and all that is left is a stale, cold pulse of small chords. The “pillar-notes” then break out into a two-part contrapuntal melody (still in eight octaves). Is this a celebration? Triumph? Epilogue? Preaching?
Generally I really wanted to take care of the resonance of the harp and with a duet I tried to make them cooperate as much as possible. To make it sound as one major instrument (or a whole chorus setting) masterfully plucked by a ten-armed octopus!”
Joel has also written for different chamber-ensembles and has collaborated with dancers. He is currently studying composition with Per Lindgren and Christoffer Elgh, and previously also studied with Henrik Strindberg, Per Mårtensson and Mats Larsson Gothe.
LUNA in Spanish means moon,
although the title of Joel´s piece
does not have a specific meaning
and is mostly a game with letters.
(Timeless instants between water and ice)
Mira-Linda wrote her piece entitled FROST, after a poem by Robert Frost.
FIRE AND ICE
Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
She is a very creative talent, here searching for inspiration in another artist’s work. I am very happy to collaborate with her and fortify this union between Mexico and Sweden.
Like always, I feel lucky to be able to participate in the process of a composer’s writing, and honored to premiere the piece, especially in this project at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
From the very beginning I felt welcome and respected.Bureaucracy in my own country makes me feel unwelcome many times,. but that’s a different story that has to do with the title of this blog.
Robert Frost is an American poet Mira-Linda chose a poem by. Besides writing his own poems, he devoted many years to teaching his writer students to focus on the human voice while writing. This has a lot to do with music making,, since we use phrases and breathing to produce it. And there is the very important element of rhythm that music and speech share, of course.
There are so many connections between minds, just like the roots deep in the earth that provide nourishment to ferns and other plants. (Which Oliver Sacks explains in “Oaxaca Journal”, a very interesting book about his journey to this Mexican state, where he shares his passion for ferns, but that is also a different story. I mention it only because it has nourished me the last few days while sitting at orchestra rehearsals (when the harp is not needed). But also because it’s another example of how a brilliant mind, like his, is nourished by the love for another discipline).
I feel an invisible connection with the mind of the composers whom I work with, a root that we share.
In this particular case, I am impressed by the beauty and space of Mira-Linda’s piece. As she explained in our correspondence, while working together on her music, her piece is related to the search for beauty while human eyes are watching ice, and to the frost that triggered her flying notes. The flow and the essence of her music remind me of the instants (or centuries) when a drop of water converts into ice, or when a soul watches how it melts. It has to do with the thoughts, the music and timings that connect us.
I have changed the clef in most of the right hand part and put temporary 8va alta indications on high notes in the left hand. I’ve kept the melodic line on a separate staff, as a clarification of the musical structure, but also put it in the left hand to facilitate the practical aspect of reading the music. I am working on a way to notate the length of grace notes in a more precise way, until then I’m sending you a midi file so that you can hear the approximate durations I had in mind.
Please tell me if you are happy with the notation. It’s very easy for me to change it as long as I know what your preferences are.
The idea of this composition, currently entitled Frost, started to take form when reading the poem Fire and Ice by Robert Frost.
I hope you will enjoy playing it!
“I was born in Stockholm in 1980. The desire to study music brought me to Piteå, Northern Sweden where I spent five years playing the piano and other instruments that I assumed would enrich a general music appreciation”. (Mira-Linda Hakkanson)