Commissioned by Ensemble InterContemporain and Fondation Totale pour la musique

  • 2(pic)1.2(Ebcl)+bcl.1(cbn)/2111/2perc/pf(cel).kbd/str(
  • 30 min

Programme Note

Joy is scored for large ensemble of 23 players including live electronics. The piece is despite of its autonomous character part of a triptych for orchestra in which I have tried to extend my musical language in several directions. The first piece of this serie was Kinetics for large symphony orchestra (1988-89) - a piece where I for the first time included some spectral aspects of harmony. The main principle of the piece was a differentation of harmonies in foregrounds and backgrounds - with a clear hierarchy between the different layers. Marea (1989-90) for Mozart-size orchestra continued in the same footsteps but instead of a clear distinction of different harmonic aspects I was interested in the collision between spectral and serial based harmonies.
In Joy the different harmonical aspects are combined with even a third layer which is the timbral aspect of harmony. In addition to the acoustic instruments the orchestra includes an AKAI S1000 sampler and the YAMAHA SY77 synthesizer. All the sounds of the sampler have as origin the same sound source, the demolition of a grand piano. Sounds were recorded destroyng an old grand piano - low bass strings tuned down one or even two octaves, percussive sounds when cutting or tearing strings etc. All these sounds were transfered to the VAX computer at IRCAM where they were then transformed and treatened. Many of the originally inharmonic sounds (non-pitch sounds) were forced to some pitch by means of filtering. Non-continuous sounds were made continuous or irregular sounds were forced to become regular. The fascination with all these treatments lays evidently in the capasity of forcing a different nature or behavior onto a sound or to enhance some hidden aspects of a complex sound. In the same time the super-realistic concrete aspects of the sound become less dominating giving more possibilities to combine them with acoustical instruments.
The formal principle of the piece is based on combinations of different harmonic material. Spectral harmonies are overlapping each other, set theory based symmetrical chords are combined with other chords into chains of harmonic progression. Spectral and symmetrical chords are superpositioned (background-foreground or polyharmony) allowing to work with continuous or abrupt changes of harmonies . This method of counterpoint is particularly rich in its allowing of working with diagonal connections of different layers. I see an analogy to the functional harmony of tonal music where a chord gets different tensions according to the previous or following chord.

I want to acknowledge my gratitude to Arnaud Pétit and Juhani Liimatainen who worked together with me at IRCAM realizing the electronic part of the piece.

© Magnus Lindberg