Solstices is a 70-minute from Georg Friedrich Haas, which takes place entirely in darkness. For 10 musicians, including a completely re-tuned grand piano, Solstices opens with a passage of taut, energetic and precise music.From here the piece turns to a process of deep-listening by the musicians who, led by a totally re-tuned grand piano, play and tune a series of overtone chords.Soon Haas introduces a variety of musical ‘games’ and elements that play upon the surface of this slowly moving texture.Building to an intense climax, the final chord is held by the musicians for more than four minutes.Haas writes:
very gradually the light comes back
the brighter the light, the softer the music
decrescendo al niente
We’re in Reykjavík today, and ready to make our Icelandic debut at Dark Music Days with music in our ‘Approaching Dutilleux’ project, built around his chamber masterwork Les Citations. This concert features a new addition to the repertoire from Icelandic composer Bára Gísladóttir. Bára is en route to Iceland to work with us today, but Aaron Holloway-Nahum caught up with her earlier to ask her about her new work Seven heavens (of different heights (and depths)), and her work in general.
Aaron Holloway-Nahum: You’ve written us a new pieced called Seven heavens (of different heights (and depths)). Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it?
Bára Gísladóttir: The piece deals with seven layers of different dimensions, both time-wise and texture-wise – that is – both vertical and horizontal (and everything between those).
AHN: In addition to composing, you play the double bass. This new piece includes double bass. Do you ever perform in your own compositions?
BG: Yes, I do! I mainly perform my music solo, but have also performed some of my compositions with different ensembles.
AHN: We’ve been enjoying listening to your new album, Mass for Some in which you play double bass and sing. Can you tell us a bit about your work as a performer, and how it influences your compositions?
BG: I think I am a much more diverse performer than composer, and enjoy performing various types of new and old music. Performing my own music vs. others’ is something I experience as two very different things, mostly because I feel more freedom and a stronger link towards my own stuff. It is simply more personal.
I think the most characteristic influence when it comes to my compositional approach as a performer is that I’m constantly occupied with the performer while composing – somehow automatically leading to effects of motion and breath. I guess one could say that I compose “through” the performer most of the time. However, the same applies to my compositions as performing, writing for others vs. myself is something quite different – primarily I try to be more clear when it comes to writing for others, I take more time to considerate every little detail. When I compose for myself, I don’t spend too much time on expressing details, i.e. via notation, since I already know what I want. Hence, I’m not sure if the music I write for myself is on a sufficient format for others to perform.
AHN: We first came into contact at Nordic Music Days in 2017, where we played Suzuki Baleno, a work with a strong autobiographical inspiration. Do many of your works take events and/or memories as starting points?
BG: Actually, I think Suzuki Baleno is my only piece that is built on a truly autobiographical experience. Mostly, I build my pieces on ideas about space, mass and layers. I always try to find every possible aspect of an idea/word/event and try to place all of those aspects into an overall unity, that becomes a musical piece.
AHN: Now that you’ve finished this piece for us, what’s next?
BG: I’m working on a piece for solo saxophone, string quintet and three percussionists, commissioned by my friend Anja Nedremo, a Norwegian superhuman and outstanding saxophonist. The piece is called Yung Leo, and is built on young love, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, young Leonardo DiCaprio, lions, the zodiac sign Leo, thugs, Yung Lean, milestones and more.
AHN: We certainly look forward to hearing that, and to seeing you in Iceland!
BG: Thanks so much for the questions, can’t wait to work with you very soon!