Ere Lievonen

Program notes to compositions by Ere Lievonen

Pieni kappale jousikvartetille [Little piece for string quartet] (op. 4, 1993, rev. 2002)
Fp: Uusinta String Quartet, Helsinki, 9.12.2002
Duration: 2′

Program note:
This is a very small piece for string quartet. It spins out of its three very first notes.

Paprikarasia (op. 9, 2000)
For cello and harpsichord
Also versions for viola/viola da gamba and harpsichord
Fp: Juho Laitinen, cello; Ere Lievonen, harpsichord; Helsinki, 14.5.2012
Duration: 7′

Program note:
Paprikarasia (composed in 2000) is a study in polyrhythms, where a melodic cello part is juxtaposed with a mainly rhythmic and percussive harpsichord part. It is also my first work to incorporate elements from Carnatic (South Indian) music theory, and as such it started a new period in my compositional output. The piece is written using solely a microtonal scale of seven pitches, which approximately correspond to the pitches in the Carnatic raga Rasikapriya. This raga almost lent its name to the piece as well – but finally the title was ‘corrupted’ to something that sounds more like Finnish...

Altair 4 (op. 11, 2001)
For flute, clarinet, viola, double bass and percussion
Fp (first version): Egbert Jan Louwerse, flute; Terri Hron, bass recorder; Merlijn Twaalfhoven, viola; Dion Nijland, double bass; Nicolas Field, percussion; cond. Ere Lievonen; Amsterdam, 15.6.2001
Fp (revised version): Kristjana Helgadóttir, flute; Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson, clarinet; Guðrún Hrund Harðardóttir, viola; Borgar Magnason, double bass; Kjartan Guðnason, percussion; cond. Ere Lievonen; Ung Nordisk Musik Festival, Reykjavík/Kópavogur, 4.9.2002
Duration: 13′

Program note:
Kriti is a musical form used in Carnatic (South Indian classical) music. Altair 4 is a kriti from another planet.

Omaggio a JJ (op. 12, 2003)
For oboe and violin
Written for Esther Kurtz
Fp: Esther Kurtz, oboe; Inge Jongerman, violin; Utrecht, 23.6.2003
Duration: 3′

Program note:
Omaggio a JJ is a little duet for oboe and violin, and was composed as an homage to the South Indian singer and composer Jahnavi Jayaprakash (1950-2002). She was a great artist and a good friend, who taught me a lot about South Indian Carnatic music. Omaggio a JJ starts with a microtonally colored theme, which is subsequently varied using some techniques that are typically also used in Carnatic music.

Omaggio a JJ on pieni duetto oboelle ja viululle, ja on sävelletty eteläintialaisen laulajan ja säveltäjän Jahnavi Jayaprakashin (1950-2002) muistolle. Jahnavi oli suuri taiteilija ja hyvä ystävä, jolta opin paljon eteläintialaisesta karnaattisesta musiikista. Omaggio a JJ esittelee mikrotonaalisesti värittyneen teeman, jota sen jälkeen varioidaan samanlaisin keinoin kuin mitä karnaattisessa musiikissakin tyypillisesti käytetään.

Maa-lika (op. 13, 2004)
For alto saxophone, accordion and double bass
Written and dedicated to the POING ensemble
Fp: POING, Nordic Music Days, Copenhagen, 22.11.2004
Duration: 13′

Program note:
Maa-lika (’Earth-dirt’) was composed in 2004 for the Norwegian ensemble POING, who premiered it in November the same year in Copenhagen. Maa-lika is one of Lievonen’s recent compositions where influences of Carnatic (classical South Indian) music can be heard. This is especially true with this work, which attempts to integrate formal structures of Carnatic music into the European tradition of chamber music. Connoisseurs of Carnatic music may recognise the form of a ragatalamalika in this piece.

Maa-lika on sävelletty v. 2004 norjalaiselle POING-yhtyeelle, joka kantaesitti sen saman vuoden marraskuussa Kööpenhaminassa. Maa-lika on yksi Lievosen viimeaikaisista sävellyksistä, joissa on kuultavissa vaikutteita karnaattisesta (klassisesta eteläintialaisesta) musiikista. Näin varsinkin tässä teoksessa, jossa on koetettu yhdistää karnaattisen musiikin muotoajattelu eurooppalaiseen kamarimusiikkiperinteeseen. Karnaattista musiikkia tuntevat voinevat tunnistaa kappaleesta ns. ragatalamalikan rakenteen.

5 by 4 (op. 14, 2004)
For 3 recorders and harpsichord, in extended meantone tuning (17 tones/octave)
Fp: Terri Hron, Erik Bosgraaf, María Martínez Ayerza, recorders; Ere Lievonen, harpsichord; Amsterdam, 18.6.2004
Duration: 8′

Program note:
The title ’5 by 4’ is symbolic on several levels:
1. A composition in 5 sections, played by 4 players.
2. Written in a time cycle of 20 beats (5 x 4 = 20).
3. Rhythmical phrases and structures are largely based on the numbers 5 and 4.
4. The most important interval in the piece is the just major third, the harmonic ratio of which is 5:4.
5. As a symbol for microtones: on a two-dimensional interval chart of perfect fifths and major thirds, a segment of 5 by 4 notes is the smallest one that can produce microtonal relationships.
The piece is based on meantone tuning, an historical tuning system from the Baroque era. In this tuning system, all major thirds are tuned perfectly pure, which has the consequence that the sharps and flats can not be enharmonically equivalent. (For example, a C sharp will be 1/5 of a tone lower than a D flat.) In this piece, an extended meantone tuning is used: all the 5 sharps are tuned on one keyboard of the harpsichord, and the 5 flats on the other. Together with the usual seven naturals, this makes a total of 17 different pitches per octave, and thus produces several microtonal intervals.

Pygmies in Space (op. 15, 2005)
For sopranino (or alto) recorder, guitar and live electronics
Written for Erik Bosgraaf and Izhar Elias
Fp: Erik Bosgraaf, sopranino recorder; Izhar Elias, guitar; Amsterdam, 3.6.2005
Duration: 6′

Program note:
Pygmies in Space was written in January 2005 for the Dutch recorder–guitar duo Bosgraaf & Elias. They specifically asked me for a piece with live electronics. I thought that quite many other pieces that use electronics are long, serious, and complicated, so I wanted to write something lighter and funnier. Eventually the piece just turned out to sound like ’pygmies in space’ in my imagination... hence the title.

Toccata in C (op. 17, 2006)
For organ
Fp: Susanne Kujala, organ of the Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 20.2.2007
Duration: 10′

Program note:
Toccata in C is written in May 2006, but actually it is based largely on ideas going back more than a decade. These ideas had just patiently been waiting for the moment when I would have the time and motivation to realize them and put them on paper. This is partly the reason for the work’s neo-Baroque style, which is rather different from many of my other recent compositions. Toccata in C is a homage to the great North German organ tradition of the High Baroque, and the piece is based on the typical form of an organ praeludium or toccata (prelude–fugue–interlude–fugue–postlude) of that time. Despite its more modern musical language, the notation of the piece has intentionally been kept such that it gives its performer a similar freedom of interpretation – but also the same obligations – as, for example, the organ works of Dieterich Buxtehude and his contemporaries.

Toccata in C on kirjoitettu toukokuussa 2006, mutta itse asiassa se pohjautuu paljolti ideoihin, jotka ovat peräisin jo yli kymmenen vuoden takaa. Nämä ideat ovat vain kärsivällisesti odottaneet sitä hetkeä, jolloin minulla olisi aikaa ja intoa toteuttaa ne ja saattaa ne paperille. Osittain tästä johtuu teoksen uusbarokkinen tyyli, joka poikkeaa monista muista viimeaikaisista sävellyksistäni. Sisällöltään Toccata in C on kunnianosoitus täysbarokin ajan pohjoissaksalaiselle urkuperinteelle, ja teos rakentuu tuolle ajalle tyypillisen urkupreludin tai -toccatan muodolle (preludi–fuuga–interludi–fuuga–postludi). Modernimmasta sävelkielestään huolimatta myös teoksen nuottikuva on pyritty pitämään sellaisena, että se suo esittäjälleen vastaavanlaiset tulkinnan vapaudet – ja velvoitteet – kuin esimerkiksi Dieterich Buxtehuden ja muiden hänen aikalaistensa teokset.

Marcia macabra (op. 19, 2006–07)
For accordion
Commissioned by Niko Kumpuvaara
Fp: Niko Kumpuvaara, Amsterdam, 22.4.2007
Duration: 8′

Program note:
Marcia macabra was composed in 2006–07, commissioned by the Finnish accordionist Niko Kumpuvaara. It is partly inspired by the paintings depicting scenes from hell by Hieronymus Bosch.

Marcia macabra on sävelletty 2006–07 Niko Kumpuvaaran tilauksesta. Se on saanut innoituksensa osaksi Hieronymus Boschin helvettiaiheisista maalauksista.

Tip: Are you looking for Dutch accordion music for the Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition? This piece qualifies as a Dutch piece in the competition – as I have lived in the Netherlands for long enough – and it has been performed there with success by several accordionists already (and twice in the final round!).

Buckland Dirt (op. 21, 2008–09)
For accordion and piano
Commissioned by Niko Kumpuvaara
Fp: Niko Kumpuvaara, accordion; Kiril Kozlovsky, piano; Oulu Music Festival, Oulu, Finland, 11.3.2009
Duration: 19′

Program note:
This ’duo concertante’ for accordion and piano was commissioned by the Finnish accordionist Niko Kumpuvaara, and composed during the winter 2008–09. As in several other compositions of mine, many elements from classical South Indian (Carnatic) music are employed in this work. In particular, Buckland Dirt follows the form of a typical Carnatic tālamālika, in which different talas (meters) follow each other. In case if this information doesn’t prickle the listener’s imagination enough, you could also, for example, imagine a transcontinental road trip somewhere on the Western hemisphere... Which one would be your preferred ride: a Harley-Davidson or a Rolls-Royce? The accordion or the grand piano?

Tämä konsertoiva duo harmonikalle ja pianolle on sävelletty Niko Kumpuvaaran tilauksesta talvella 2008–09. Kuten monessa muussakin sävellyksessäni, tässäkin teoksessa on käytetty hyväksi klassisen eteläintialaisen eli karnaattisen musiikin sävellystekniikoita. Tarkemmin sanoen, Buckland Dirt seuraa tyypillistä karnaattisen tālamālikan muotorakennetta, jossa erilaiset taalat (hieman yksinkertaistaen: tahtilajit) seuraavat toisiaan. Jos tämä tieto ei vielä tarpeeksi ruoki kuulijan mielikuvitusta, niin voithan vaikkapa kuvitella olevasi matkalla mantereen halki jossain läntisellä pallonpuoliskolla... Kumpi menopeli olisi silloin mieleesi, Harley-Davidson vai Rolls-Royce? Siis harmonikka vai flyygeli?

Gradus Jacobii (op. 22, 2009)
For renaissance recorder (alto or soprano)
Written for Erik Bosgraaf
Fp: Erik Bosgraaf, Tilburg, 1.12.2009
Duration: 5′

Program note:
In 1625 Jacob van Eyck became carillonneur of the Utrecht Dom church, and later also of other churches in Utrecht. To play the bells high up in the tower, he had to climb a lot of stairs every day. Let us follow his footsteps...

In 1625 werd Jacob van Eyck beiaardier van de Domkerk in Utrecht, en later ook van andere kerken in Utrecht. Om de klokken hoogop in de toren te bespelen, moest hij elke dag vele trappen beklimmen. Laten we ons zijn voetsporen volgen...

Myths Revisited (op. 24, 2010)
For voice, recorders, flutes, trumpet and piano
Written for ensemble Hexnut
1. Airplane on a Conveyor Belt
2. Paper Fold
3. You Can’t Polish Poop
4. Chinese Water Torture
5. Salsa Escape
6. End with a Bang
Fp: Hexnut, Muziek Biënnale Niederrhein, Nijmegen, 15.10.2010
Duration: 18′

Program note:
Myths Revisited is inspired by the TV show Mythbusters, a funny science show about modern myths and beliefs. In the show, they don’t just tell the myths; they put them to the test. Myths Revisited, written for the ensemble Hexnut, is a set of six short pieces, which attempts to revisit some of the myths originally tested in the Mythbusters show. This time, however, they will be tested using only musical means!

Paesaggio con consonanze stravaganti (op. 25, 2012)
For harpsichord in meantone tuning
Fp: Ere Lievonen, Tampere Biennale, Tampere, 21.4.2012
Duration: 7′

Program note:
The meantone temperament was the standard tuning system for keyboard instruments for two centuries, from the 16th to the 18th century. This time span covers in fact the vast majority of the ”golden age” of the harpsichord. In meantone temperament (unlike in the modern equal temperament), the major thirds are tuned completely pure. This gives all consonant harmonies a beautifully resonant and strong quality. The inevitable consequence is, however, is that not all intervals on a meantone-tuned keyboard can be in tune; some of them remain entirely out of tune in the context of traditional harmony. This limits the number of usable tonalities, but on the other hand, creates a wide range of less familiar intervals – some more, some less in tune. The musical aesthetics of the Baroque times did not permit the use of the ”odd” intervals, but for the modern-day composer, all these possibilities are open – possibilities, which had been all but forgotten during the hegemony of the equal temperament. Paesaggio con consonanze stravaganti (”Landscape with strange consonances”) explores the grey zone inbetween the familiar consonances and dissonances. The title is also an homage to the Neapolitan keyboard school of the early 17th century, the members of which (such as Ascanio Mayone, Giovanni de Macque and Giovanni Maria Trabaci) wrote experimental music of their time, often using the phrase ”Consonanze stravaganti” as a title.

Keskisävelviritys oli yleisin kosketinsoittimissa käytetty viritysjärjestelmä liki kahden vuosisadan ajan, 1500-luvulta aina 1700-luvulle asti. Keskisävelvirityksessä (toisin kuin esimerkiksi modernissa tasavireisyydessä) kaikki suuret terssit on viritetty täysin puhtaiksi, mikä saa kolmisointupohjaiset harmoniat soimaan hyvin kauniisti ja vahvasti. Tästä seuraa kuitenkin se, että keskisävelviritteisellä koskettimistolla kaikki intervallit eivät voi olla yhtälailla vireessä; muutamat jäävät niin epäpuhtaiksi ettei niitä voi perinteisessä mielessä käyttää lainkaan. Tämä rajoittaa käytettävissä olevia sävellajeja, mutta toisaalta tarjoaa laajan kirjon erilaisia sekä enemmän että vähemmän puhtaita intervalleja. Monia näistä ei barokin ajan vallitseva musiikkiestetiikka vielä osannut käyttää edes hyväkseen, mutta nykyajan säveltäjälle kaikki nämä mahdollisuudet ovat avoinna – mahdollisuudet, jotka tasavireisyyden valtakautena olivat jo ehtineet täysin painua unohduksiin. Paesaggio con consonanze stravaganti (”Maisema outojen konsonanssien kera”) liikkuu tuttujen konsonanssien ja dissonanssien väliin jäävässä harmaassa maastossa. Teoksen otsikko on samalla kunnianosoitus 1600-luvun alun napolilaiselle cembalokoulukunnalle, jonka jäsenet (kuten Ascanio Mayone, Giovanni de Macque ja Giovanni Maria Trabaci) sävelsivät aikansa kokeellista musiikkia, ja käyttivät teostensa otsikkona nimeä ”Consonanze stravaganti”.

Variations fantasmagoriques (op. 26, 2022)
For organ
Commissioned by Kulturplattform St. Martin, Kassel
Fp: Pier Damiano Peretti, Festival Brandneu, Bischofskirche St. Martin, Kassel, 20.8.2022
Duration: 19′

Program note:
Variations fantasmagoriques was written especially for the new Rieger organ in the St. Martin church in Kassel, Germany. Prior to writing the work, the St. Martin church generously let me explore and try out their fantastic new organs during several days. The composition was directly inspired by the instruments and the infinite variety of sound colours available from them, including some that are quite unusual, surreal or downright spooky – therefore, ’phantasmagoric’. Failing to find a better title, I’ve named the piece ’variations’ – although in fact, the work might be closer to the opposite of a traditional set of variations. No clear theme is heard in the beginning, and the episodes that follow could be better described as various attempts towards finding a theme, trying to get closer to an elusive theme.

Variations fantasmagoriques wurde für die neue Rieger-Orgel in der St. Martinskirche in Kassel geschrieben. Vor dem Komponieren hat die St. Martinskirche mir generös erlaubt, die wunderbare neue Orgeln in der Kirche während mehrerer Tage auszuprobieren und kennenzulernen. Die Komposition ist größtenteils durch die Instrumente selbst und durch ihre zahllos viele Klangmöglichkeiten inspiriert worden. Einige dieser Klänge sind auch ganz ungewöhnlich, surreal oder geisterhaft – daher ’phantasmagorisch’. Aus Mangel an einem besseren Titel habe ich das Werk ’Variationen’ genannt. Aber in der Tat ist das Werk beinahe das Gegenteil eines klassischen Variationszyklus, denn am Anfang des Stückes wird kein Thema vorgestellt, und die darauffolgenden Episoden stellen vielmehr verschiedene Versuche dar, näher zu einem Thema zu kommen, ein verlorenes Thema zu finden.