Program Notes for Neptune's Field CD

Islands Symfoniorkester under ledning av Martyn Brabbins repeterar Neptuni Åkrar i Reykjaviks magnifika konserthus Harpan, 2011
The Iceland Symphony Orchestra, conductor Martyn Brabbins rehearsing Neptune's Fields in the stunning concert hall Harpa, Reykjavik 2011

"Neptune's field is our name for a place 1/8 of a mile from Torp, on the seashore, one gunshot wide, a few gunshots long."
- From Linnaeus's Öland Journey 1741.

Arpeggiation on harmonics are organized in big waves and create an amazing acoustic phenomena. They are transparent, they have rhythmic energy and are remarkable to hear. And for the eye: choreography. Time after time we see the dance like bowing movements as they spread from the cello section to the violins.

Neptune's Field is an expression of my artistic statement: "Rhythm and Sound". Commissioned by Konserthuset in Stockholm. Premiered by Kungl. Filharmonikerna led by Tomas Netopil 2006. Awarded the big Christ Johnson prize 2007.

The New Juilliard Ensemble ledd av Joel Sachs framför One Child i MoMAs skulpturträdgård, 2014
The New Juilliard Ensemble led by cond. Joel Sachs performes One Child at MoMA, 2014

"One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."
- Malala Yousafzai UN speach, June 2013

One Child was commissioned by the Swedish Radio P2 and premiered by Cikada conducted by Christian Eggen during the Sound of Stockholm festival 2013. The original title was One Child, One Teacher, One Book and One Pen.

Lightness and Quickness are at the top of Italo Calvino’s interesting list of values in his ”Six Memos for the Next Millenium” that he wrote for lectures at Harvard 1985. The list continues with Exactitude, Visibility and Multiplicity. I like his list.

The Fifth String for solo violin is the last one in a family of works that I call Rhythm and Sound. These works are all built on arpeggiation on harmonics and in this solo piece the length of the arpeggiation, the number of pitches in every stroke of the bow, is one of the rhythmic and technical things that I focused on.

The Fifth String was composed in collaboration with the young amazing violinist Karin Hellqvist who premiered the piece at the Ultima Festival in Oslo, Norway, 2011.

The Fifth Hand is a duo version of the violin solo The Fifth String. I ran into difficulties as I started to work on a version for guitar and violin. The Fifth String is such a complete piece. What can I add? To my big surprise the guitar took the piece in a new direction that I could not foresee. Even though the violin part is almost identical the expression of this work is totally different.

The Fifth Hand was commissioned by the Swedish Arts Council for Duo KeMi, Daniel Migdal and Jacob Kellermann, who premiered the piece in Den Haag 2014.

There is a strange stillness in the picture of Marie Colvin from the Tahrir square in Cairo. Lots of people, hardly anyone is moving. The picture by Ivor Prickett was published in the newspapers the day after her death in a grenade attack in Homs, Syria. I cut out the picture and put it on the fridge. Next to that picture is a picture that my son Zak did in high school, a photoshop task which he solved in a clever way. It's a picture of a construction worker who built the Empire State Building. The man sits in the open air on an iron beam and bolts in a bolt. Zak has manipulated the photo and replaced the head with his own. With his serious expression it looks so funny - and very dangerous. It can be dangerous to grow up. Below Zak's is a pictures of studio work by the American artist Eva Hesse which I like a lot. Politics, family and art. Three pictures on my fridge.

Bilder was commissioned by the Swedish Arts Council. The Chamber Ensemble Sonanza conducted by Jan Risberg premiered Bilder 2012.

For a long time I have avoided multiphonics. I have not needed theses sometimes loud and expressive sounds. But this piece is based on multiphonics. Together with the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet we have searched for the kind of multiphonics that I want for this piece. Subtle ones. To be able to sustain them we stated with two tenors and two altos but now we have two tenors, one baryton and one alto. The two tenor saxophones make up the horizontal line of the piece. The baryton and the alto are adding other shades and details to that sounding picture.

This piece was commissioned by the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet with funding from the Swedish Arts Council and was premiered during the Dark Music Days festival in Reykjavik 2014.


Bryta snitt MoMA
Miranda Cuckson, Christopher Gross and Philip Fisher, during the US premiere at MoMA, New York, 2006

Bryta snitt. Tiden fryser was composed to be premiered in the St. Nicolaus ruin in Visby, a medieval Swedish town on an island in the Baltic Sea. Visby is classified as "World Heritage". An impressive defense wall is surrounding the town and there are many ruins from old churches and monasteries.

“Cut sections” refers to one of the ways an architect describes a building by drawing a section that cuts the building where it's the most interesting. The cut section line is not necessarily straight. This is something you'll only expect to find in drawings. But when visiting the ruins of Visby you can experience cut sections in real. It's very beautiful.

So you will hear cut sections in the music, a sharp move from the cello to the violin as they play arpeggiation on harmonics. These broken chords have an amazing sound quality. All the rhythms come from the different ways you can work the bow to play the arpeggiation.

The pointillistic figures in the piano derive from a quotation from a piece by Bo Nilsson, the Swedish composer that became famous during the pioneer times of the Darmstadt summer course in the fifties.

The piece is dedicated to Staffan Scheja, one of Sweden's most prominent pianists. I was extremely happy when Staffan asked me to write a piece to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gotland Chamber Music Festival.

Henrik Strindberg

En bild av skrivbordet under arbetet med O Freunde, let others speak
A photo of the desk during the work with O Freunde, Let Others Speak

The title is the motto that Kent Nagano gave for this commission, obviously an allusion on the Beethoven 9th Symphony. It can also be read as a message that describes what's going on now, as we learn the names of squares in cities where people gather to express themselves, the Tahrir, the Taksim and the Maidan squares. I visited one of them while composing this piece. The music begins with the trembling intonation of a sound and ends with a signal, a perfect fifth, pointing towards the stunning opening of the Beethoven 9th.

HS 2013