string trio

The idea for this piece came when I was in Germany (may-june, 2007). In the small town of Rheydt I visited a park with a memorial for the soldiers that died in the two world wars. There I became deeply affected reading the names of the gravestones, and seeing how young many of the men where when they went to war and died.

Just a week before I had reseen Steven Spielbergs movie Schindlers List, which for me is one of the most powerful and emotional movies ever made. I can't help crying when I watch that movie.

Another reason for my strong reaction to the memorial is that a year before I had a son, and I must say that having a child really makes you think about a lot of things in life. I love him so much, and want to protect him from any harm.

But however wonderful life is, human beings can also act in very destructive ways. And war is one of the worst things we have to deal with. In my mind war is never a good solution to anything, and even though some good things may eventually come from a war, it always brings human tragedy with it. And it seems like we will always have a war going on someplace in the world...

It is really hard to explain, but somehow while walking in the park, I began hearing this music in my whole body. I would almost say that I was "feeling a sound". I can't explain it with words. The sense of a small string ensemble, playing very soft, and sustaining notes for a long time - it all came to me. I also knew right away that it was a long piece without sections or changes to the music at all.

When I began writing it, I immediately began intellectualising my ideas, and began constructing the music in a way similar to what I normally do, but I pretty soon decided only to construct and compose as little as possible, and just go for the sound that I heard in my head. That was quite a challenge to me, and only after many attemps did I slowly figure out how to do it.

The first thing I worked out was the timing of the piece. Wanting everything to be as simple as possible I decided only to have three different durations: 40 seconds, 60 seconds and 80 seconds. These durations where then assigned to the three instruments according to a grid, made in such a way that the middle of each note is 40 seconds apart from the next note. For example, the first note in the violin begins at 0'10 and ends at 1'10, which means that the middle is at 0'40. The next note in the cello begins at 0'40 and ends at 2'00, which means that the middle is at 1'20 - 40 seconds from the note in the violin - and so on.

By doing that I get a regular flow to the whole piece, and at the same time I make sure that each note is connected to the next one, which means that silence is completely absent from this piece! The individual instruments have pauses, and sometimes for minutes, but put together the three instruments complement each other and combine without pauses, making the whole piece into one long "melodic line".

Sometimes the instruments meet at certain points. One instrument stops at the same time as another begins. I have made dotted vertical lines in the score at those particular points, because they are quite important. They are the only places that two things happen at the same time, and I think of them as special moments not unlike a tender kiss.

Then came the actual pitches. I decided only to use five different pitches: d, f sharp, g, a and c sharp. By using only five pitches, each of them becomes a sound in itself. The pitches are quite tonal, and I think of them as fragments of three chords: D (d, f sharp, a), G (g, d) and A (a, c sharp). The music flows in and out of those chords, but without ever getting close to tonality.

Finally I decided the octaves of the pitches. I fixed each pitch to only two different octaves in a way that resembles the harmonic spectrum with g, d and a functioning as roots, and f sharp and c sharp being harmonics.

The very last thing I did was to make some small variations in timbre. Each note is played in only one or two different ways, most of them as harmonics. I could have made a lot more sounds using sul ponticello, sul tasto and so on, but again I decided to stay as simple as possible.

Everything is composed using chance operations. What I did was to control just as much as I needed to get the music I was hearing in my head, and then let a dice decide the actual details of the composition. I like that approach very much. It gives the music an open and very much unpredictable atmospere - and even though everything is very simple, you never know when the next note is coming, or which note it is going to be.