Simon Steen-Andersen

SimonSimon Steen-Andersen

In spite of, and maybe even therefore
North American premiere: May 24, 2009
Chambered Music
Canadian premiere: Feb. 14, 2010
US premiere: June 6, 2011
Study for String Instrument No. 3 perf: June 4, 2011 Copenhagen w/Corey Rae, prepared guitar
Black Box Music (2012)
North American premiere: Feb. 28, 2013 New York City (Roulette)
Aventa w/ Håkon Stene, percussion solo

Denmark’s Simon Steen-Andersen (b. 1976) currently lives in Berlin, Germany and is lecturer of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Århus, Denmark. He has received numerous grants and awards, most recently the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm and is frequently performed and commissioned by such ensembles and organizations as ensemble recherche, Ensemble Modern, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Ultraschall and Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik. Steen-Andersen’s works include instrumental music, electronics, video and performance within a range of settings from symphony and chamber music. Recent work concentrates on integrating concrete elements in the music and emphasizing the physical and choreographic aspects of instrumental performance. His works often include amplified acoustic instruments in combination with sampler, video (playback, interactive and live-video), simple everyday objects and obsolete electronics or homemade constructions/extensions/preparations of the instruments.

Black Box Music (2012) is scored for percussion solo, amplified box, 15 instruments and video. In this piece, the revered Danish composer experiments with the stage as instrument and examines the philosophical realm of gestural communication. Black Box Music is a deconstruction of conducting and puppet-theater as well as an exploration and exploitation of the audio/visual relations inherent in conducting and staging. The “grand show” is in three movements, starting with ‘Ouverture’ and ‘Disambiguation’ and then finishing off with a festive, pompous, self-imploding ‘Finale’.

In spite of, and maybe even therefore mainly consists of two processes that are both being built and destroyed at the same time.

The first process is a quasi unison music played fortissimo by the unamplified instruments in the back: closed piano, double bassoon, double bass/cello and percussion. The very beginning of this sequence is repeated in a small loop, gradually getting longer and revealing more of the sequence. These sequences are interrupted by breaks or inserts of the “other music”, played by the amplified flute, clarinet and horn. In the beginning, these interruptions are short and occur seldom, but become more frequent and longer as the work proceeds. Just before the sequence is finally revealed in its whole, the intervals between the interruptions get shorter than the length of the sequence, and thus we never get to hear the complete sequence uninterrupted. Soon the interruptions take over and the sequence gets more and more fragmented and ends up being only short echoes of the beginning.

The second process is one of Beethoven’s Piano Bagatelles Opus 126 played ultra pianissimo by the amplified flute, clarinet and horn sitting at tables in the front. To begin with, they only play one chord at the time every now and then, but slowly the chords come closer. In the beginning one only realizes, that it is tonal music, and that the chords are getting closer and closer. At one point we realize that the chords will eventually get so close, that they will form a tonal music or chord progression. Each time a chord is played, a piece of one of the instruments is being dismantled, eventually making the chords harder and harder to play in tune. Exactly at the point where the chords finally come together, the instruments are completely taken apart, leaving only bits and pieces on the tables in front of the musicians. The musicians try very hard to play the Beethoven on the bits, but the original music almost disappears in the sound of picking up and putting down the pieces, and the noisy and out of tune alternative ways of playing the notes. After a while, the tones disappear, leaving only the sounds of the “choreography” needed to perform these notes. Out of this “musical ruin” the music attempts to build up new relations and new ways of creating continuity, but this attempted continuity is slowly being destroyed by freezes getting longer and longer.