I'm currently composing a brass quintet. One of the first major compositions I did when I was studying music was also a brass quintet. When I now return to the ensemble form it feels like something of a new start; not only for the reconnection with this early piece but also because i think I have some fresh ideas - especially on form, and also because I'm trying out a new method when composing (perhaps I can go into more details about this in a future post).
I've looked into the brass quintet repertoire a bit and it doesn't seem to be that much original compositions around - on the other hand quite a lot more or less successful arrangements and transcriptions for the ensemble (a transcription of Bach's violin concertos were very inspirational for me last time). If you know any piece you think I should take a look at please leave a comment below!
I also have the ambition to revise the first brass quintet which I still think have some merits. So hopefully I can soon publish two new original brass quintets...
Recently I uploaded a new electroacoustic piece to my SoundCloud account. The track is called Rubiop and is a rhythm and sample based piece inspired by the pop art of the 1950s and -60s. It could be seen as a collage with references to pop culture realized in audio. The piece was premiered in Fylkingen, Stockholm Sweden on the 4th of April 2014. [soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147032467" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="600" iframe="true" /]
A double quartet may just be an ensemble of eight musicians (then perhaps more properly called an octet), or as in this case an ensemble consisting of the combination of two existing quartets - a vocal quartet (Vokalkvartetten Vox) and a saxophone quartet (Rollin' Phones). This may seem like an odd combination, it is not a double string quartet, but if you think of the names of the different saxophones - soprano, alto, tenor and baritone - it may make perfect sense. Anyway it is an interesting combination and an inspiring mission. The piece is commissioned by C-Y ContemporarY through Swedish Arts council.
Some month ago I visited a concert with the saxophone quartet, Rollin' Phones. After the concert we got together and discussed the project. This was a kind of starting point for me in my work. Equipped with inspiration from the concert and the meeting I started working on the assignment.
The initial instructions in the request were loosely to give the pieces some dramatic qualities and to compose in stylistic freedom. My idea is to make a section to section mix of dramatic elements and stylistically free music.
In the project besides the musicians in the two quartets there are also the fellow composers Ulrika Emanuelsson and Stefan Klaverdal, and the director and dramaturge Helena Röhr. We discussed having tolerance and respect as some kind of theme for all of our compositions. (Actually we talked about ‘respect’ but my suspicion is that we really meant ‘tolerance’.) This I have taken to heart. And I also found some inspiration from a sculpture Für Toleranz ("for tolerance") by Volkmar Kühn, located in Gera, Germany.
In late September I was one of those in the receiving end of a “cryptic email” from the ensemble thingNY calling on contributions to their event SPAM v. 3.0. The theme for the call was “assembly”, and the first association of this I made was to assemblage in art; which I think was the intended interpretation, if any.
Assemblage is an artistic process. In the visual arts, it consists of making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects. In literature, assemblage refers to a text "built primarily and explicitly from existing texts in order to solve a writing or communication problem in a new context".(As explained in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assemblage_(art))
An assembly language is a low-level programming language for a computer, microcontroller, or other programmable device, in which each statement corresponds to a single machine code instruction.Assembly languages is thus suited for talking to computers or other similar machines on their own terms, and not so much adjusted to be user-friendly for the human operating it.
In little less than two weeks the organ piece All People are Equal will have its premiere in Lund (Sweden). The piece is to be performed by Larsåke Sjöstedt. Adjacent to the the music there will be an exhibition compiled by Kerstin Svensson, teacher in Art history and artist. The music and the exhibition is a celebration of cultural openness and ethnic inclusion.
As I have previously written
here the theme of cultural openness and humanism were determined from the start, but as the piece was written in July / August 2011 it obviously was affected by the terrible events in Norway at that time. I firmly believe though that the topic is relevant enough anyway without being linked to specific historical events. The title 'All People are Equal' is inspired by Peter Spier's book People and from the phrase 'All animals are equal (but some animals are more equal than others)' from Animal Farm by George Orwell. The piece has nine sections with the following headings:
1. stand firm against racism and discrimination
2. all humans are sisters and brothers
3. minority rights, majority obligations
4. don't be scared of the unfamiliar
5. open your eyes against the world
6. much to feel sorry and angry for
7. love and integration
8. in your mind and actions...
9. we are all alike
Update: the concert was postponed due to circumstances I cannot go in to here. The piece was finally premiered on 25 october 2014.
This summer I wrote an organ piece to the swedish organist Larsåke Sjöstedt. My idea was right from the start to deal with the issue of ethnic and cultural openness. As I was working with the piece the topic of racism and ethnic discrimination (again) came into the spotlight in a major way with the terrible mass murder in Norway. That of course only strenghtened my initial purpose. Today Larsåke and I got time to go through the piece. It went very well. We found some nice registrations, and what I heard corresponded to my mental “sound-image” of the piece. To create an extra context for the piece in the purpose of giving the main context of ethnic and cultural openness an additional weight, the piece utilises six different sources from the music literature. My own view is that I use these sources in much the same way that for instance Picasso used references to famous paintings by e.g. Velázquez, Delacroix and Manet to create original pieces of art.
Picasso - "Luncheon on the Grass. After Manet", 1961.To emphasize the point of openness I have decided to give the piece a creative commons license and upload it to my account at IMSLP.
Today I went to Copenhagen for a rehearsal with Magnus Hjorth Trio, which is a young and brilliant jazz piano trio. The rehearsal was in preparation for a concert next week, with five new pieces premiered of which I have written one. The project presented in the concert is an interesting inter-genre cooperation, where five contemporary composers aims to use the jazz trio's rhythmic precision, frequent interaction and unerring ability to improvise, but also use their own art musical background to create something that goes beyond the trio's usual repertoire. My contribution to the project is called absorb, alter and dissolve. A piece where I explore three different approaches to this integration between art music and jazz. Simply put, the first section is about a possible mix between classical art music and mainstraim jazz; the second is about an acceptance of the jazz idioms but with minor tweaks; and the third is with a more radical disassemblage of the jazz style but with havens of more ordinary jazz sounds. These three approaches is not to be seen as only different solutions to the problem at hand though. My aim is also to somehow explore some more general cultural and sociological phenomenons. How can traditional cultures change over time? There are of course several possible answers to this question but what I'm dealing with in this piece is perhaps three major aspects of cultural change: a culture can change by lending from elsewhere and thus somehow absorbing traits from another culture, it can change by very gentle alteration and it can change by more radical dissolution of the structures defining a culture. The success of these changes of the jazz-tradition the trio stands for is perhaps questionable. My aim though, as you understand from the above, is not to make some kind of improvement but to explore the ideas set in a musical context. This, as I would call it, conceptual approach leads to the piece being some kind of sequence of musical ideas (or ideas set to musical context) - rather like a sound collage. The piece will be premiered by Magnus Hjorth Trio in Lund the 29th of September.
Last month a new piece for string quartet and percussion was premiered at a festival/workshop-week in Lithuania. The process behind the work was somewhat unusual for my part. I actually made the first sketches for the piece a few years back. When Bo Håkansson requested a piece for that very setting I took the opportinuty to finish the piece. The piece is called Green Future? And is, as you might guessed from the title, about our concerns for the future in light of global warming. Read more details and listen to Bo's and the quartet's excellent performance in my work list.
Today Sarah Nichols plays my piece Strings, Skins and Wood for harp and percussion on her final bachelor exam in Schonbergzaal, Koninklijk Conservatorium, Den Haag. The piece was previously premiered by Duo Harpverk. Sadly contemporary art music normally doesn't get many performances especially not by various performers, so it is very exciting and somewhat unusual experience that the piece gets played several times by different performers in the duration of a couple of months. I'm also excited about the positive response I've got on the piece.
If you visited this blog before you may have read about my ideas for a cello and marimba piece, here. Since then I have done several attempts, but I never have been totally pleased with the result. But now on my third version it actually seems that I've done something that I can put out without doubts. The piece will be dedicated to Y.T.Lee who as you can see commented here on the original post.
I 've got great response so far on the piece I'm doing for Ensemble for New Music (ENM) - TheMusArt, premiere in the beginning of next year. Yesterday we briefly tried out the beginning of the piece. "TheMusArt" stands for Theater, Music and Art, and the piece constitutes of 36 sections whereof less than half of them is short passages of actual notated music, the rest is written instructions. Apart from the immediate experience of unpredictability, I also think that the piece raises some interesting questions, mainly about the nature of different art forms. In our time the differences between the performing arts are blurred. Can you actually separate them? Is it a piece of music, because it involves musicians? Is it dance because it includes motion? Is it theater with actors with musical instruments? Maybe it is an inter-artistic collage!? Or could it all be summarized as live art?
It seems that quite a few of my latest projects have involved ideas about openness and tolerance; which always is an important and current topic. On sunday one of the most distinct examples of this idea have its premiere - Mental Journey, written for ContemporarY Ensemble. It features strong influences from different parts of contemporary (and past) cultures.
I have found some inspiration for the instrumentation of Old Snow from the distant 20th century; I have decided to use the same setup as Boulez in Le marteau sans maître. Some of you may not agree with me that Boulez famous work is an "old" masterpiece (some may not even consider it a masterpiece), but I tend to think of it as a prominent work from another era as I would with a piece by Beethoven, Mozart or Liszt. (It was actually composed 1953 to 1954, with first performance 1955 and a small revision when published 1957.) I think this combination of instruments (although not quite so novel today as it was then) is very attractive. So, my idea for the instrumentation is this:
|alto flute xylophone vibraphone percussion (frame drum, 2 high tom-toms, bongos (1 pair), maracas (1 pair), agago, large susp. cymbal) guitar alto (voice) viola|
Several years ago I got the idea to set to music some of the poems from Old Snow (New Directions, 1991) by Bei Dao. The poems from the collection are all written while located in Europe but in Chinese with English translation by Bonnie S. McDougall. Dao is an acclaimed poet and has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He has a simple and straight-forward language which I can relate to. Furthermore am I interested in the fact that poems are translated from a very fine looking Chinese script, which for me is totally obscure. I don´t really recall at the moment how far I got in realizing this idea. But I am pretty serious now in taking this up again.
The last couple of weeks I have begun to think about changing the order of 3PI. I originally thought it was logical and natural to arrange the four concertos chronologically. (If you have read my previous posts in the subject, you know that each of these four concertos for different saxophones and orchestra relates to different periods in the history of music.) I come up with this new order: 3 Part Interpretation – Applying the romantic (alto sax), 3 Part Idiosyncrasy – Peculiar classical (tenor sax), 3 part Immediacy – Apprehending the 20th century (bari sax), 3 Part Intervention – Interference with baroque (soprano sax). The titles of the concertos above and also the titles of the different movements are all inferred from the soprano sax concerto. So the setup is kind of like a riddle which gets its solution at the end when we reach that concerto. I also think it is interesting to jump back and forward in time and also regarding the different sizes of saxophones.
Today I reached the final bar of the tenor sax concerto, which means that I now only have to concentrate on editing and layout. It is especially the tenor and bari sax concertos I have to look over. So, to summarize: I decided to make four concertos for saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone) and chamber orchestra. The whole project I now call 3PI because all the concertos have similar names which all starts with 3 Part I... All four concertos were partly composed parallelly, especially in terms of idea, structure and instrumentation. The names for the different concertos I came up with were: 3 Part Intervention - Interference with baroque (soprano sax), 3 Part Idiosyncrasy - Peculiar classical (tenor sax), 3 Part Interpretation - Applying the romantic (alto sax), 3 part Immediacy - Apprehending the 20th century (bari sax). (The titles tells part of the story, and I will not go deeper into it at the moment. Also the titles of the different movements are important, but they are not completely set yet and I will get back to this.) The 20th of April 2010 the first concerto, i.e. the soprano sax concerto were premiered. Because of the parallelism between all the concertos they all had to be quite developed, for me to be able to finish the soprano sax concerto for the first performance. The alto sax concerto was also in principle completed at the time of the premiere, but the tenor and bari sax concertos were still somewhat sketchy. Last week I made progress on the bari sax concerto and this week as I mentioned the tenor got a similar treatment. Some work remains, but it is mostly editing.
In a week's time the first of totally four concertos for saxophone and chamber orchestra premieres. First up is the soprano saxophone, soloist - Johnny Hedlund. About one and a half year ago Johnny asked me to compose a piece for him. I came up with an idea relating the saxophone both to the oboe, and hence a baroque oboe concerto, and to modern sounds and even jazz. After finishing a first version I thought more about my fondness of the saxophones and the lack of repertoire for the instruments. I came up with the ambitious idea of a project including totally four concertos. In this project I have two main goals: 1. To relate the concertos to different periods in the history of music. The soprano sax concerto was already related to the baroque. I came up with the following distribution of the other three - tenor | classical period, alto | romantic period and bari | 20th century. 2. To apply the same formal scheme for all four concertos. Now the first of four is ready for public display! And the story about the other three continues...
I wanted to write a longer post about my trip to Tromsø and the premiere at the KontAk festival. But I haven´t managed to find the time. So now I just wanted to let you know that Tromsø is a wonderful city. Not quite so cold as you would have expected because of the Gulf Stream. And the premiere went really well I think. Nordic Fusion 6 did a great job performing the music and the ideas behind it. Read more about working with the ideas behind the piece: http://www.composerpeterbjuhr.com/projects/?tag=brisicoappe. Here you also can read that I had some struggle with the name. Eventually it turned out to be "BriSiCoApPe" referring in short to the five concepts of postmodern art that inspired the piece. The workdetails of the finished piece and link to the score at swedish music information center: http://www.composerpeterbjuhr.com/detail.php?id=39
In my more theoretical blog I have recently posted several posts about Rules, Chance and Choice (e.g. http://www.composerpeterbjuhr.com/blog/?p=82). Starting a new year the energy is high, and it is a good time to start take these ideas into practice. I have found that computer programming is an excellent way of dealing with rules in music - and even better when it comes to chance in music. It makes me being able to concentrate on the things that I find most rewarding in creating music - the choices (and also editing). In this way the computer-generated music works as an input or a starting point for the composition. I would be an interesting experiment to try to program a script that generates a finished (or almost finished) score. But in the long run I don´t think that is a fruitful method. What I use is programmed scripts that generates music XML-files which easily can be imported into a score-writing program, e.g. Sibelius or Finale. I will post some thoughts about the application of rules, chance and choice, and the music-generating scripts. And hopefully the quite abstract thoughts behind this can become clearer.
A bagatelle is a short piece of music, typically for the piano, and usually of a light, mellow character. The name bagatelle literally means a "trifle", as a reference to the innocent character of the piece. (wikipedia)In a new piece for piano solo 21 bagatelles I do a rather extreme interpretation of the above definition; each bagatalle is only a few bars long and lasting for only seconds. The bagatelles are paired in groups of three with a common theme of some sort. But they can be played seperately or in any order. Check it out.
Last sunday we premiered whatsoever, an open score for acoustic ensemble and computer ensemble. We were three laptop players and three instrumentalists (trumpet and two percussionists). The title refers both to the indeterminate outcome of the piece and the fact that the form can be looped continously. (There is also a reference to Miles Davis´ So What which I cant explain here.) Check it out, and if you have an ensemble with both acoustic instruments and computer players, try it out... whatsoever (pdf)
The piece I was writing about in the latest post is for trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, cello, piano and percussion. The next step is to form the concepts in the latest post into a musical exposition. My intent is to let each concept influence seperate movements: 1. Bricolage: the percussionist is using the other instruments. 2. Simplification: simplified and minimalistic. 3. Collage: short contrasting musical fragments. 4. Appropriation: appropriating older music. 5. Performance: performing words and pop. The reader who has read the latest post carefully can perhaps guess that I have assembled the three remaining descriptions into the fifth movement.
Remaining are then “use of words prominently as the central artistic element”, “depiction of consumer or popular culture” and “Performance art”.What do you think?
Yesterday I was reading a book about pop art and I wanted to find a few concepts describing this movement to form a basis for a new work. The search led me instead to following description of postmodern art (on the wikipedia page):
The traits associated with the use of the term postmodern in art include bricolage, use of words prominently as the central artistic element, collage, simplification, appropriation, depiction of consumer or popular culture and Performance art.Could this be a starting point? "Simplification" and "collage" are definitevly concepts I could use. But what about the rest?
Bricolage, pronounced /ˌbriːkoʊˈlɑːʒ/, /ˌbrɪkoʊˈlɑːʒ/ is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts and literature, to refer to:This I think can be useful too.
It is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler – the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are to hand (regardless of their original purpose)." Music Instrumental Bricolage in music would include the use of found objects as instruments:
- the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things which happen to be available;
- a work created by such a process.
Stylistic Bricolage is the inclusion of common musical devices with new uses. Shuker [1998 Popular Music: Key Concepts ] writes "Punk best emphasized such stylistic bricolage". Musical Bricolage flourishes in music of sub-cultures where:
- Irish Spoons
- Australian slap bass made from a tea chest
- comb and wax paper for humming through
- gumleaf humming
- Largophone (made from a stick and bottle tops)
- Trinidadian Steel drums (made from industrial storage drums)
- African drums and thumb pianos made from recycled pots and pans.
- American super instruments made from recorders and bicycle bells or metal rods and keys
Unlike other bricolage fields
- experimentation is part of daily life (pioneers, immigrants, artistic communities),
- access to resources is limited (such as in remote, discriminated or financially disconnected sub-cultures) which limits commercial influence (eg. acoustic performers, gypsies, ghetto music, hippie, folk or traditional musicians) and
- there is a political or social drive to seek individuality (eg. Rap music, peace-drives, drummers circles)
Like other bricolage fields, Bricolage music still values
- intimate knowledge of resources is not necessary (many Punk musicians are not classically trained. Classical training discourages creativity in preference for accuracy).
- careful observation and listening is not necessary, it is common in spontaneous music to welcome 'errors' and disharmony.
Visual Art In art, bricolage is a technique where works are constructed from various materials available or on hand, and is seen as a characteristic of postmodern works. These materials may be mass-produced or "junk". See also: Merz, polystylism, collage. Bricolage can also be applied to theatrical form of improvisation. More commonly known as Improv. The idea of using one's environment and materials which are at hand is the main goal in Improv. The environment is the stage and the materials are often pantomimed. The use of the stage and the imaginary materials are all made up on the spot so the materials which are at hand ar actually things that the players know from past experiences. (i.e. an improvisation of ordering fast food: One player would start with the common phrase "How May I help You").
- trusting one's ideas
- self-correcting structures (targeted audiences, even if limited)
Appropriation (art) To appropriate something involves taking possession of it. In the visual arts, the term appropriation often refers to the use of borrowed elements in the creation of new work. The borrowed elements may include images, forms or styles from art history or from popular culture, or materials and techniques from non-art contexts. Since the 1980s the term has also referred more specifically to quoting the work of another artist to create a new work. The new work does not actually alter the original per se; the new work uses the original to create a new work. In most cases the original remains accessible as the original, without change.This is perfect! Remaining are then "use of words prominently as the central artistic element", "depiction of consumer or popular culture" and "Performance art". Let´s see about that...
Yesterday I congratulated Messiaen on his 100th birthday. Today I have the great pleasure to congratulate another composer who are turning a century old and who are still alive and even still composing - Elliot Carter. Regretfully I have no score to honour him with as with Messiaen. But I have however three soundfiles which I can contribute to the anniversary with and which are based on recordings of his works. c100gb cmix cmixlounge
Today Messiaen would have been 100 years. Tonight I have performed on my laptop in a concert to Messiaens memory as a part of MDO, a swedish laptop orchestra. Originally the concert was thought to be with a Messiaen-quartet performing his famous work Quartet for the End of Times. I also wrote a new piece with a clear reference to Messiaens work, which were to have its first performance on the concert. Things turned out differently and the concert ended up featuring organ and laptop orchestra instead. Beyond the End of Times (score pdf)
On thursday the piece The Eight Elements for two percussionists will be premiered on C-Y´s concert Curious Drumming. I have already written about the fact that the score is unusually open and conceptual. Today I rehearsed the piece with the performers Johan Westerberg and Per Andreasson. I am very pleased with their interpretation of the score and I think that the piece will work very well on the concert. We also rehearsed and prepared a jam with percussion and computer (where I will play on my laptop) for the concert.
I have finished a first version of Our Solar System. I blame myself for exploring an area already being explored by Holst. But I think the basic idea is interesting: We start of with eleven of the twelve notes, B is excluded, and C is some kind of leading tone. Then in the next movement the C is excluded and Ab is instead the central tone. This structure is repeated, excluding the leading tones from the previous movements, ending up in the ninth movement with only three tones. This for me represents a travel from the warm sun out in the cold space, visiting all the planets. On the way towards the earth we are on somewhat safe ground, but when we go beyond earth the travel is more frightening. Especially the gigantic Jupiter is scary. But when we reach the tiny Pluto our strength is regained and we travel further out in space with a more positive attitude.
I´m writing a new piece about the planets. And, yes, of course it is inspired by Holst famous orchestral suite. I couldn´t resist the temptation to do a musical painting of our corner of the universe once more, and I think I have found an interesting new idea for the task. This time the earth is included; the working title is Our Solar System. It is scored for chamber ensemble - flute, bass clarinet, horn, percussion (including maracas, marimba, rototoms and bass drum), guitar, violin and cello. I did Mercury some month ago, today I did Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. So you could say I am about half way through. I´m letting the music be influenced by the planets size and their distance from the sun, but also by the mythology behind their names (as Holst clearly did). Which principles I use I am saving for a later post.
I´ve just bought Finale 2009. My first impression is good. I think it is easy to work with. One of my biggest curiosities at start was on the Aria player. My thoughts now is that it is good but not too good; you get a pretty good impression of what your composition can sound like, but you are not dazzled away of the greatness of the sounds. For me I think the biggest improvement compared to Finale 2007 will be in working with percussion instruments who depends more on the sound than on the pitch.
Here I publish information of the music I've written. I also blog about my projects and thoughts about music in general.
I am a contemporary classical composer and compose music for classical musicians, but as you can see from my worklist I've also done other things - including live electronics, electroacoustic music (eam) and music for other types of ensembles (e.g. a jazz trio).
My works have been performed globally, including Europe, Asia and North America.