The Parting With the Wild Geese was commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2021. It was a quite special task: the work was to be written in seven different versions, one for each professional wind orchestra in Sweden. These are of course united by the fact that none of them includes string instruments (except for a single double bass here and there), but apart from that they have surprisingly different settings.
A composition that shall appear in seven different instrumental costumes cannot rely too much on details, but must be recognisable from a distance – like a geese flock on the sky… I had recently read Nils Holgersson’s wonderful journey across Sweden by Selma Lagerlöf, and the wind music that was to travel across the country made me think of Lagerlöf’s geese flock. This wonderful adventure thus became the starting point of my composition. The form of the piece was immediately clear to me: a change between flight and rest, just like the changes in the geese flock’s journey.
A wild goose doesn’t chirp, it rather shrieks. In Lagerlöf’s world, they always shriek in chorus and they love to say things twice. This I found suiting for the wind instruments; I tried to create a kind of ”repetitive shrieking” in a foreign language. Here you can find some unusual instrumental techniques: the woodwinds use ”bisbigliando” – a way of producing the same tone with different fingering in order to create a certain ”false” sound; the brass players play a passage on their mouthpieces only; a trumpeter playes into the bell of the tuba while the tuba player fingers on the valves…
Wild geese are flying in V-formation – and advanced act of cooperation which enables every goose to take adventage of the flapping of the bird in front of it. The front goose is the hardest working, and therefore the birds let this position rotate among them. I consider the V-formation to be a beautiful image of the cooperation necessary also in orchestral playing. In my piece, different instruments or sections step forward as ”front geese” at different times, after which they step back again to create the background for a new leader.
The title of the piece is taken from the very last chapter in the book, which contains a very sad scene. After a year as a leprechaun, Nils regains his human proportions – with the consequence that he no longer understands the langauge of the birds, and the birds don’t understand him either. Nils takes a farewell without words from his beloved geese flock, a hasty farewell, since ”the sorrow of the birds never lasts long”. And true enough: The wild geese soon take off again, eagerly shrieking on their way to new adventures.