• Britta Byström
  • Notes from the City of the Sun (2017)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 2+pic.3.2+Ebcl.3/4330/3perc/hp/str
  • S
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Text: Bei Dao, translated into English by Bonnie S. McDougall.

Notes from the City of the Sun for soprano and orchestra is a musical setting of a poetic suite by the Chinese poet Bei Dao. The song cycle comprises 14 songs based on Bei Dao’s 14 short poems. Every poem has a title which summarizes its content in one word: Life, Love, Freedom, Child, Girl, Youth, Art, People, Labour, Fate, Faith, Peace, Motherland and finally Living. The titles too are set to music and each introduces a new world of sound. These “title doors” are performed solely by the singer and on one single note which ascends one semitone for each song. This way, it is the soloist who opens the door and leads us on into the composition. Already before I started composing Notes from the City of the Sun I imagined Malin Byström’s voice carrying the music and opening the doors, and I am very happy my vision could be realized!

Bei Dao, born in 1949, belongs to a group of so-called 'misty' Chinese poets characterized by their interest in the personal and intimate rather than the collective and political. Dao often borrows techniques from the world of film: The camera moving at different speeds, sudden cuts between pictures… Maybe it is this connection to motion pictures that makes it so obvious for me to transform his poems into music, which like the movies exist in time. The poems are very precise, as if they were cut out with a knife, but at the same time they open to different interpretations. Just this – the combination of precision and ambiguity – makes it so natural for me to set his poems to music. The last poem, Living, consists of only two words: ”A net”. They could work as a motto for my entire composition which I consider as a kind of finely meshed net: Threads branch out to different holes, spin in forever new directions but always stay connected to each other.

- Britta Byström.