Co-commissioned by accentus, SWR Südwestrundfunk for Donaueschinger Musiktage, November Music, and Palau de la Musica.

  • SATB chorus/perc/db
  • 20 min
    • 6th May 2023, Milton Court, Barbican, London, United Kingdom
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Programme Note

The word ‘reconnaissance’ contains two contradictory ideas: the English meaning of heroic militaryexploration of the unknown, immediately refuted by the French meaning which is the re-discovery of what we already knew, perhaps our own eerie mirror image. The high-definition pictures we now have of planet Mars’s arid landscapes, once covered with rivers and oceans that maybe were home to life, bring to mind the same contradictory impression, which must also have been the same kind of metaphysical contemplation the 15th century audience experienced when listening to the apocalyptic imagery of the Franco-Flemish School’s madrigals. This comparison is what triggered the idea of a ’science-fiction madrigal’, associating two genres that share a deep existential affinity. Indeed, choral music also articulates individual voices and collective fate, blurs the lines of who is saying ‘me’ and who is saying ‘we’. These categories are shattered in our age, when for the first time we are drawn to reflect, beyond our mapped identities, on what unites us as a species, possibly endowed with a shared future, or perhaps with no future at all. Through creative solutions that question musically what a chorus can be, Kaija Saariaho’s score treats humankind itself as a character, expressing itself both in unison and in fragmented voices, in opposing groups and in isolated individuals. Kaija's very own brand of futurism doesn’t resort to the expected electronics –despite them being one of her favorite instruments– but strip things down to the raw sound material of human voices and a double-bass and percussions, metal against skin. A ’starry night’ typical of her sound world, were it not lacerated by the violence that took us from the canyons to the stars. “Un popolo di poeti, di artisti, di eroi, di santi, di pensatori, di scienziati, di navigatori, di trasmigratori…” Thus crumble the dreams of grandeur by which we pompously define ourselves collectively.

Aleksi Barrière, 2021

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