What is the essence of this work'
Voices, and therefore words, plus a chamber ensemble.
To me as a composer, the human voice is one of the most interesting and challenging instruments to write for. Not necessarily in every one of its many manifestations, but there are always (still and again) voices that I want to hear in my music. The by now familiar one of Robert Wyatt. A voice that's been with me for over 25 years, yet never ceases to touch me. And a person absolutely gratifying to work with, because of his never-ending patience and enthusiasm, and his absolute dedication to give the music his all. As the counterpoint to Robert I chose Susi Hyldgaard, who I first worked with during the School of Understanding recording and live productions. She is not only an astounding singer and personality, but also a consummate musician in general, a rare combination. She brings an exceptional professionalism and musicality to everything she does, something that is pure pleasure to witness.
In my seemingly endless search for words to use, one author had been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I have loved and admired the work of Paul Auster for many years, often searching for ways of incorporating some of his words into a piece of music. However, enjoying his work did not mean that I found a text that would actually lend itself to be successfully set to music. At last, 'Hand To Mouth', a collection of miscellaneous writings by Auster appeared, which included his short play 'Hide and Seek'. Finally it seemed that there might be something suitable for my purposes, and I started seriously thinking if and how this could be set to music. And it did seem possible ' not only had the words all the qualities I usually look for in texts I utilise, such as a simple clarity and beauty of language (a kind of 'poetic' writing, without being poetry as such), but they also retained a certain ambiguity and timelessness, which is a very important factor for me when choosing texts. So I proceeded by taking only some passages (as I have almost always done in the past with other authors' work as well), whole in themselves, but not necessarily in their original sequence, thereby reshaping the material somewhat, perhaps creating possibilities for other interpretations. Once the texts were found and the segments chosen, it was relatively easy to translate them into music ' since they were in fact a conversation between two people, making the vocal duet the obvious choice, and inviting the pairing of a very particular 'cast' of interesting and contrasting personalities/voices.
What has vaguely been referred to as my 'Chamber Music and Songs Ensemble' is now expanded, basically adapted from the more or less standard contemporary chamber orchestra, consisting of woodwinds (here all played/over-dubbed by the unbelievable multi-Roger-Jannotta), the string quartet now enlarged (also old cohorts, the three 'string sisters'), some added brass, low and high (a reason to unpack the trumpet at least for a short while), and, an important and difficult role for the piano, this time not improvising (impeccably played by Per Salo, pianist with the Danish Radio Symphony, and a contemporary chamber music specialist). No rhythm section/drums (with one digitally created exception), but tuned percussion (vibraphone, marimba) affording not only a rhythmic but also a melodic and harmonic backbone.
Plus - an integral part of all my music for some time now - the guitar of Bjarne Roupé, the one element still retaining the largest amount of freedom of interpretation and creative improvisational input. And one additional, very particular instrumental colour, an accordion (beautifully played by Susi Hyldgaard).
So once again, the question ' what do you call this' What kind of music is it'
The usual questions, the usual problem in finding a suitable answer. Above all ' it's certainly not a play set to music. It's a musical interpretation of someone's words, truncated, moulded into something else, a personal re-working of the material (this time with Paul Auster's approval by the way, since a personal contact could exist in this case ' unlike with some of my past sources for words ' Beckett, Meister, Soupault, Ungaretti, etc.)
The whole formally assembled into what makes the most sense to me in this instance, the architecture of a suite, balancing sequences of songs/words/voices with instrumental passages, that have their own weight and drama as connecting pieces. In this particular environment, they allow time for reflection, though they could, and were also intended to be able to stand alone as short and concise instrumental pieces.
And what kind of music' In general, it should be obvious to anyone who has followed the evolution of my music (again avoiding the impossible categorisation, preferably to be thought of as a body of work by an individual that demonstrates an inherent strength and a recognisable and unmistakable character). Specifically, in a shorter-term view, coming directly from and a honing down of the previous recent work with texts and singers, such as The School of Understanding and Songs.
Theatrical multi-discipline productions are currently being prepared and conceived together with director Rolf Heim, involving a fusion of musical, dance and theatrical elements on several levels. On the other hand, the work is easily performable as a concert piece by existing ensembles with added singers/soloists.