The Age of Wire and String
Canadian premiere: Sept. 10, 2006 Victoria BC
North American premiere: Feb. 8, 2009
Danish premiere: June 16, 2009 (Athelas New Music Festival)
New York City premiere: June 11, 2009 (Scandinavia House)
Composer and avant-garde performance artist Rolf Wallin has established a reputation as one of the leading Scandinavian composers of his generation. Much of Wallin’s music combines an intuitive freedom with a rigorous mathematical approach, such as use of fractal algorithms to construct melody and harmony, resulting in a music that often hints at the influence of Ligeti, Xenakis and Berio. But far from being abstract, Wallin’s music often connects directly with the world around him, most notably in later works such as Act (2004), a celebration of the power of cooperation, Concerning King (2006), based on speech patterns from Martin Luther King, and Strange News (2007), which tells the story of the rehabilitation of child soldiers in Africa. The music of Rolf Wallin is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited.
The Age of Wire and String borrows its title, and also the titles of its movements, from the debut novel by the American author Ben Marcus. This wonderful and highly unusual book describes a world totally different from ours, a world that defies earthly laws of nature, but that still seems to have its own set of laws and logic, consistent, yet ungraspable. While reading the book, I found that this description fits equally well to the abstract world of music, especially modern art music, with its ability to transport our mind to places never visited before.
Appearances – “This planet has seen many lifeforms emerge and vanish on its surface. Each of them has had a lifespan, long or short. A species can be marginal or totally dominant and its extinction can be almost imperceptibly gradual or dramatically abrupt. Similarly, in human history, great and not so great ideas, good and evil, have appeared, disappeared, and reappeared in a bewildering, fascinating stream. One example is the highly refined and seemingly durable thoughts of art and philosophy, currently almost suffocating in the deluge of sewer water from the entertainment industry. The Earth is full of these patterns, like a midsummer’s sky: the clouds emerge literally from thin air, grow, reshape and vanish, the fate of each of them impossible to predict for the spectator.
This music behaves in very much the same manner. Yes, I say “it behaves”, because during the composition process, I have let the different musical entities in the piece evolve almost on their own instead of by a preconceived principle. They also have suggested to me how much and where in the timespan of the work they should appear and disappear, and their relationship with the other musical “inhabitants” of the piece. Some novelists describe how their characters start to live their own life during the writing of a book, and that’s exactly how I felt during the creation of this piece. It has grown in the tension between the many-faceted interaction of the wills and needs of the different musical entities, and my own urge as a composer to read a meaningful pattern in it.” – Rolf Wallin