• Britta Byström
  • Invisible Cities (2013)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Invisible Cities is an orchestral piece inspired by the Italian writer Italo Calvino's novel Le città invisible (1972). The novel consists of many short, poetical descriptions of wondrous cities. This is what the explorerer Marco Polo reports to Kublai Khan of what he has seen during his travels. Gradually, though, Kublai Khan begins to suspect that Marco Polo all the time describes one and the same city, but in many different ways: Marco Polo's own hometown Venice.
This was also my musical idea: to present the same motif in many different ways. The piece has eleven movements, just as the novel consists of eleven different kinds of cities. Before every new musical "city", there is a "walk" – a little piano line which takes the listener from one city to another. This piano line is a quotation from Witold Lutoslawski's Venetian Games. There are also other music connected to Venice hidden in my piece: the well-known Barcarolle by Offenbach and some fragments from Carnival in Venice. These references are the "invisible cities" of my piece, the material hidden under the music's surface. Marco Polo explains to Kublai Khan: "To distinguish the other cities' qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice."

(Britta Byström)

  • 1+2pic.3.2+Ebcl.34331timp.2percpfstr
  • 22 min

Programme Note

Invisible Cities is an orchestral piece inspired by the Italian writer Italo Calvino's novel 'Le città invisible' (1972). The novel consists of many short, poetical descriptions of wondrous cities. This is what the explorer Marco Polo reports to Kublai Khan of what he has seen during his travels. Gradually, though, Kublai Khan begins to suspect that Marco Polo all the time describes one and the same city, but in many different ways: Marco Polo's own hometown Venice.

This was also my musical idea: to present the same motif in many different ways. The piece has eleven movements, just as the novel consists of eleven different kinds of cities. Before every new musical "city", there is a "walk" – a little piano line which takes the listener from one city to another. This piano line is a quotation from Witold Lutoslawski's Venetian Games. There are also other music connected to Venice hidden in my piece: the well-known Barcarolle by Offenbach and some fragments from Carnival in Venice. These references are the "invisible cities" of my piece, the material hidden under the music's surface. Marco Polo explains to Kublai Khan: "To distinguish the other cities' qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice."

(c) Britta Byström


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