Commissioned by Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Songs of the Ice is an orchestral work about ice. In the Arctic region, the ice breathes with the seasons, swelling in winter and shrinking in summer. Its age-old movement sings a song of its own: slowly surging, unrelenting and covering all beneath it. It tinkles and rumbles, squeaks and laments as our ever-warmer climate breaks Nature’s time-honoured laws, forcing the ice to give way.
The work begins with the rumbling sound of ice: the orchestra attacks with waves each stronger than the last that finally break and shatter into clear crystals. Reverberating through the empty space are wailing wind solos, the soul of the ice – a big man’s lament that is gradually compressed by his anguish into warning cries from the piccolos. At last the strings bring consolation: over the landscape their warmth spreads a thick blanket that flows more and more relentlessly towards a new cycle in which everything begins again, but never the same as before.
When I composed the piece, I was expecting our second child, due to be born in the heart of winter when the bitter cold strengthens the ice, making it powerful and solid again, and I was physically reminded of the weeks and months after the birth of our first-born. Songs of the Ice also describes the emptiness and reclosing process that begins in a woman’s body when she parts company with the life inside her in giving birth. The work was commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and it constitutes a pair with Midnight Sun Variations (2019). The two works can, however, be performed separately. Songs of the Ice is dedicated to the Okjökull glacier, declared dead in 2014 and Iceland’s first victim of climate change.