Commissioned by Ensemble InterContemporain with funds from the French Ministry of Culture

  • 1111/2110/2perc/kbd/str(
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Boyl is a Middle English spelling of the imperative boil, found in an alchymical writing by Aeyrenaeus Philalethes, London 1677.

Alchemy is known as the grandfather of modern chemistry, but the philosophical aspects of it was perhaps even more important. The chaotic massa confusa, excavated from the mountain, has to undergo a long process in which it is repeatedly dissolved (boiled) and coagulated, and from this the prima materia emanates, the raw material for making gold. Carl Gustav Jung was very occupied with the archetypal aspects of alchemy, and was struck by the similarities between opus magnum and the psychoanalytical process. In the latter, the massa confusa of the subconscious is the prime instrument for reaching mental completeness.

In my music, the massa confusa is number material emanating from a so-called "fractal" mathematical function. The function is relatively simple, but it generates fascinating and surprisingly "organical" patterns when repeated a large number of times. The main issue of "Boyl" is the interaction between the liquid, cold and yielding principle of mercury, and the solid, burning, and dominant principle of sulphur. In the piece, mercury is alone on the scene for a long time before sulphur enters. During the piece, the two principles interchange their qualities, and, finally, they melt together.

Boyl was commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

© Rolf Wallin


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