• Eivind Buene
  • Garland (for Matthew Locke) (2007)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 1(pic).1(ca).1(bcl)1/1110/2perc.pf/str (
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Garland (for Matthew Locke) – a listener's guide

After a period of time where I have dealt with rather fast, noisy and gesturally complex music I have taken this commission for BCMG as an opportunity to probe into another aspect of music's psyche. For the last year or two my pieces have been searching for a more quiet voice, reducing the amount of velocity and dynamic energy pursuing another kind of energy in the restrained, the quiet and even the introvert. This is probably not a permanent turn for me, but it has been an important period that in many ways has gravitated around this commission from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. I'm not sure, but maybe the experience with BCMG in 2004, the first time they played my music, also induced a wish to cater to the delicacy and suttleness these musicians offer.

And then the question: Why Matthew Locke? First of all, this beeing my first commission for a british ensemble, I wanted to somehow make a connection to the history of british music. And when I started thinking about this piece two years ago, the music of Matthew Locke was constantly comming to my mind. I had just discovered his consort music, and was quite taken by it. So it felt as a natural consequence to let his music influence my writing. Or to put it differently: Locke represented an offer I couldn't refuse. To me, this music, representing the culmination of the tradition of consort music has a certain kind of duality: On the one hand it is the melancholy of the feeling of closure, very present in the slow introductions. On the other hand it is the will to expression, it is as if the music itself is aware that it represents an ending of something, while at the same time folding outward with unperturbed energy and vitality. Listening to these slow introductions is like hearing the music presenting a moment of rememberance, a minute's silence for something in the past, before plunging into the extacies of the present.

Garland is based on the three slow introductions in Matthew Lockes Consort of Four Parts. The 6 suites were obviously performed in pairs, since number 1 (D minor), 3 (F major) and 5 (G minor) opens with a slow introductory section, only about one minute in length. These constitute the basic material for all the structures in Garland. Sometimes warped far beyond the point of recognition, but even in the extremely altered sections some residue remains – be it in the rythmic phrasing, the melodic contour or the harmonic content. At other points, where Locke's music converge in several of these parameters, it is more recognizeable. The only place where you can hear the unaltered Locke is in the strings towards the very end of the piece. At this point, however, the dynamics are altered by very heavy mutes on the instruments, to such a degree that the Locke-quote is barely audible.

As in the three-sectioned structure of the Consort of Four Parts, Garland can be subdivided into three movements (which are performed without interruption). Technically, the Locke-material has ben treated in a number of ways. For those with scholarly interest, I can describe some of the procedures. In the following I will refer to the three different Locke-introductions as Dm, F and Gm, respectively.

The first procedure, which you can hear in the opening, is a superpositioning of the three, where the material is folded into one single line which is then redistributed among strings and bowed percussion. The rythms are altered by means of slowing down F and Gm with triadic subdivisons to make it fit with Dm. (Dm is 18 bars in the original, while F and Gm is 15) At the same time the material is pitched up by two octaves, and finally the texture is radically changed with strings using a variety of tehcniques including percussive techniques like bouncing bow and different trills and tremoli. This section serves as a pendant to the slow introduction: it lasts about one minute, and sets the stage for the mode of the piece.

Adjacent to the cadencing of the opening, the muted brass enters with an only slightly camouflaged version of the Gm structure. It is followed by winds in the same stucture, who on the other hand warps all their notes by means of multiphonics, leading to single notes giving way to an often dissonant chord in each wind instrument. The strings return quickly, this time followed by piano doubling and underscoring the treble-structure. (In paranthesis I might mention that I initially intended to use chamber organ, and not piano. The chamber organ, an instrument Locke would have included in his continuo-section, would probably bring me a bit too close to Lockes soundworld, so I chose to discard the idea. Instead, I let piano and percussion act in the treble end of the soundspectrum, making what I like to think of as 'inverted continuo': Insted of constituting an accompanying function, it becomes ornamental. And as one thing led to the other, the piano, which I originally inteded to leave out, took on quite an important role in the piece.) The strings follow a similar procedure as in the opening. However this time the Dm is sped up a little by subdividing in quintuplets, this time to make it fit with the F and Gm in original tempi. The strings concludes this first section with a liquified rendering of the Gm: the instruments slide from one note to the other, creating a gently flowing mass of string sound instead of Locke's welldefined polyphonic structure. Simultaneously, winds and piano continue their previous actions, and percussion for the first time moves to unpitched instruments.

This moves us attacca into the next section, where the idea of lines is multiplied as the instruments pair up in a gradually denser polyphonic web of leaping and twisting melodies. Eventually one can hear four lines, each with one string and one wind instruments playing in semitone-clusters. They follow the individual lines of Dm, but octaves are displaced and rythms magnified, and materials from the other parts are interspersed in rapid gracenotes. So the music offers a completely different take on polyphonic structure, growing into a dense situation verging on chaos. This web is eventually unraveled by piano and percussion, who act as cathalysts for a gathering of forces, where the whole ensemble comes together in a unified rythmical sequence. This unification is disrupted by the extreme jumps and octave displacements int he homophonic sequence, and not least the indication in the score that it is to be played 'Unfocused, imperfect, like playing prima vista'. This encompasses the whole ensemble except for one: the piano is the only instrument resisting this mass motion and suddenly breaking away into a solo cadenza. This cadenza is broken off by yet another turn in the process of reading Locke. Here I read replace Lockes succession of pitches with a succession of small gestural events colliding with each other. These events may be rapid iterations, scraping and bouncing sounds in the strings juxtaposed with an agglomeration of harmonies, multiphonics and microtonal rising and falling scales in the winds. In this section percussion and piano punctuating the rest of the ensemble playing a distorted version of Dm, after a little while accmpanyed by bassclarinet and bassoon.

When this energy is absorbed in a wave-like motion of slow harmonies, it announces the start of the third section. Out of this harmonic field grows a little violin solo playing the opening bars of the F major suite. This falling sequence of 8 notes is gradually spreading in the ensemble, evolving into a canonic structure, first in the strings and then gaining momentum as the winds enter with gradually faster renderings of the sequence. This process culminates with the whole ensemble engulfed in falling and rising Garland of notes ending in a massive, dark-hued chord. This chord gives way to the final section, a new sequnce of slowly evolving harmonies, an abstracted reading of harmonies from Locke layered on top of eachother and interspersed with the ultimate reductions of melodic content where the sense of pitch has been replaced by sounds of air and grainy percussion like sandpaperblocks and rainstick. Underneath this slow-moving process you can barely hear the heavily muted strings ending the piece with the first proper quote, the memory of Lockes D-minor introduction from Consort of Four Parts.

Eivind Buene Birmingham 01.11.07


Score preview