• 28 min

Programme Note

The orchestral work Ignite is dark in mood. Here the composer has spoken of his predilection for spiral form. The form circles around a central point that is embodied in the work’s opening eruptions. In the course of the work we confront these materials time and again as if from the point of view of a continually expanding orbit; the direction of the spiral movement can also be reversed. This idea is found in the Violin Concerto as well.

In Ignite a huge spiral winds from the outer edge (movements I–II) to the middle (III) and then out again (IV). As the composer has explained, the further ‘in’ we travel, the more peaceful the music becomes. Sometimes the music dies away into gas-like, ominous interludes. The spiral can also be heard in the whirling imagery: spinning rolls, rings of repeated figures, whirlpool sounds, twisting scales, rising and falling figures and the dizzying sounds of the harp, marimba, bells and gongs.

The spiral has fascinated mankind, from ancient religions to modern science. It is a natural phenomenon that is found everywhere: in mussel shells, fingerprints, whirlwinds, DNA, the structure of galaxies and so on. It symbolizes the cosmic power that links everything together, the riddle of the origin of life and of existence. No wonder that it is also an image for dizziness, hypnosis and fainting. And of eternity, death and hell. And of growth, creation and renunciation. Likewise, the many references to other styles and aesthetics in Ignite express a unifying character that is associated with the spiral.

Ignite begins as if it had already been in existence: a vortex hurls us straight into the middle of frenetic motion. We gain an impression of vast space, hearing sucking swallowing sounds, numbing mechanical noises, bacchanal rhythms and floating ripples. In the second movement we hear images of falling, smouldering fire sounds, an oriental cor anglais, Latin-style galactic dances, chords louder than a human being can produce and other film noir-style science-fiction impressionism – a sort of Blade Runner pastorale.

The third movement plummets towards a complete halt. Suddenly we hear just the bass clarinet, tuba, timpani, harp and double bass. This moment of darkness is a sounding grave, a tombeau. The emptiness distantly recalls the song Sorrow, come! by John Dowland (1563–1626). We cannot see the centre of the melancholy, in the same way that we cannot actually see a black hole, just observe its influence on its surroundings.

The noise of the finale cuts off suddenly; the broadening spiral does not end, but is thrown out into the realm of inaudibility.

According to the composer, the work’s name refers to the constant collision of ideas that ‘ignites’ new energy; on the way we pass the same points various times, but at different angles of incidence. The spiral is the energy’s focus, collector and liberator, always regarded as a healing power.

Susanna Välimäki (Translation Andrew Barnett)