• Maja S. K. Ratkje
  • Gagaku variations (2001)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • acn.2vn.va.vc
  • 25 min

Programme Note

Gagaku Variations is based on Japanese gagaku music. It was written for Vertavo string quartet and Frode Haltli on accordion.

Gagaku Variations was formed after a month long travel to Japan in the autumn of 2000. Gagaku is the oldest executive artform existing today in Japan, with a tradition that goes more than 1000 years back in time. Today the term is used to describe all forms of music and dance performed by the Emperor’s ensemble. My interest for the gagaku music grew greater as I started to analyse and transcribe some of the authentic music. Time would show that I was building the fundament for my next piece for string quartet and accordion. Although it is based upon Japanese harmony and melodic frases, it was never my intention to write a piece in a Japanese style.

The Japanese term ‘wabi sabi’ could have been the subheading for Gagaku Variations, as a description of how I try to deal with the material. In the words of the author L Koren it means "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is a beauty of things unconventional." He continues: "Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace"

This piece was mentioned espceially when Ratkje, as the first composer ever, received the Arne Nordheim prize in 2001.