• Magnus Lindberg
  • Engine (1996)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with funds of the Arts Council, Aldeburgh Festival and the South Bank Centre

  • 1(pic)111(cbn)2110percpfstr(1.1.1.1.1)
  • 16 min

Programme Note

The title of this piece is inspired by the computing language associated with using the Patchwork1 programme in accordance with constraint procedures: "engine" is a sort of generator of musical material, which operates according to the rules pre-established by the composer. The texture is composed by the machine, on which the composer imposes dozens of constraints2. The computer then produces suggestions, which the composer then treats like any other musical material. The rules are melodic and harmonic, and the resulting textures are closer to the brutal sonorities of Kraft (1983-1985) or UR (1986) than the harmonic surfaces of Corrente (1991-2), Aura (1993-94) or Arena (1995). Engine is also a farewell to the "stravinskyian" neo-classicism of Coyote Blues (1993).

Engine fits into the logic of Lindberg's production. At the beginning of the 80s the young composer was in search of timbres and was influenced by Pierre Schaeffer's classifications (Traité des objets musicaux); in other words he began to make "musique concrète" with instruments, as in Action-situation-signification (1982). Then, with his great work Kraft, Lindberg began to be interested in rhythm and attempted to organise its formal principles. With the orchestral trilogy Kinetics (1988-89), Marea (1989-90) and Joy (1989-90), a new type of harmonic thinking appears, influenced by the spectral analysis of sound. At the beginning of the 90s, with Corrente, Arena and Aura - a synthesis of the development of the 80s - the composer has recovered his skill in creating textures which "sound good", while including an idea of continuums. The instrumental gesture gives way to continual strata. But Engine proves the consequential nature of Lindberg's musical language; not only does it fit into the continuity of his last works, but it also refers us back, with this friction which breaks up the surface of sound, to the "brutiste" works like UR and Kraft.

Engine brings counterpoint back up to date in Lindberg's musical vocabulary, a counterpoint which allows the music to live in symbiosis with the rules and constraints imposed by the composer. The reason he uses constraint machines is that he wants to find solutions enabling him to avoid the mannerisms of his own style. For the composer, establishing constraints also means analysing and decomposing his style into rules, in order to master it better.


Risto Nieminen
English translation by Nick Le Quesne

1Patchwork is a computer-assisted composition programme, designed by Mikael Laurson and developed at IRCAM by IRCAM's Musical Representations team, under the leadership of Gérard Assayag.
2Similar procedures have already been employed at IRCAM by Camillo Rueda, who collaborated with the composer Antoine Bonnet using Situation software.

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