Steinar Yggeseth is a Norwegian composer. He is coming to Bodø with the piece Time Epoche, performed by Esbjerg Ensemble. It’s Norwegian premiere!
Yggeseth works mainly within the field of sonic relations. His music has a basis in the different sound qualities, and often takes place somewhere between sound and tone. In his later compositions, he uses specific sounds sound models as a basis of his music.
Through his work he often uses improvisational elements through parts of the composition in some way, either as a part of the compositional process, or incorporated as a part of the performed works. His music ranges from the bigger ensembles to the more intimate spheres, chamber music as well as electronic music and interdisciplinary projects.
Recently he finished his master of composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music, with Henrik Hellstenius and Asbjørn Schaathun as his main tutors. He has worked with several Nordic musicians, ensembles and orchestras, and has participated in festivals and competitions in Norway and abroad.
You seem to have a very strong connection with sound models in your musical thinking. Can you say something about this?
I sometimes think of music as shaped sound and composing as modeling sound. The composition becomes a model of the imagination, like the written score, is a model of the musical work. I have always been attracted to how things sound, discovering musical qualities in the strangest sounds, no matter what the source is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical object, it can even be the surroundings, acoustic spaces, something I find in nature. I am very attentive to what I hear, and I like searching for sounds. I try to have the same attitude when I compose. I try to transform some of the things I discover into my music. It can be as translation or through structural analysis, but not necessarily. Very often this is more abstractly, through an intuitive and imaginative game, where I make the sounds play together. One can find very beautiful things through micro listening, sometimes turning an object makes it change character. In the same way, one can “turn” a sound.
Many of your pieces have improvisational elements. How do you feel about giving away some of the control to the musicians?
I am still ambivalent when it comes to opening up my scores. I’ve always had a strong need for control, giving it away is a challenge, even if it can be a very good experience. As I see it, there are two strategies for working with improvisation in composed music – and by improvisation, I mean to allow including the musician in the performance. One is to have a division between controlled and free parts in the score, with more or fewer constraints. This approach gives work more elasticity in its final state. Of course, this is very dependent on the musician’s style and repertoire, and it can be unpredictable. The second is to work together with the musician with improvisation during the compositional processes, to use this as a method to create new material, and then to compose with this. The process itself is quite organic actually. Sometimes, when you work with the right musician, this can be both an effective way of getting to know the musician and the material you work with. It is very inspiring for the creative process, and also, it is very fruitful when it comes to the composer-musician relation. This also leads us to a very interesting thing, questioning the author of the music – who is the composer? – which is a different but very related topic.
Is music, often wordless, freer than other art forms? Any thoughts on this?
There’s a lot to say about this. Music is related to language, but it differs too. It is language but not words, well it can have words, but that is rather one parameter in the language of music. It might be considered banal to claim that the music has no boundaries since it has no words. But it is also hard to get around it. I haven’t figured out this question. What means something for one person, can be perceived very differently by others. One cannot pinpoint or say what music is really about. However, music can communicate a very strong precision. What forms our understanding of music is very often constraints based on the structures in our personal, social and cultural background. In that sense, it is as unfree as anything else that we know.
On all occasions where music is presented, there will always be something that frames it. The music itself reveals very little, if anything, about what it is, other than by what it is. Perhaps the free nature of music demands a certain frame of understanding, something referential. This is why the music is always at risk of being entrapped by its framing. The ideal way to describe music would be on its premise, strictly musical, even without words, but that is also very difficult.
Yet music is free in a very physical way. Among art forms that don’t have its base in the physical object, it is unique in its very transitoriness. Music is something that you cannot touch. It’s ephemeral by nature, at the same moment it is being played or listened to, it is already gone. What remains is merely an imprint in our minds, which is very beautiful.
Time Epoche (2016) is inspired of how the time transforms our perception of the elements and how our listening switches between separate components and the entirety. In this piece several independent creatures appear, from the softest, almost inaudible, to the more intensive sounds, different harmonies and noises, passages and tiny time structures, striving towards the surface that manifests their existence – their reality. Creating subsequent layers are juxtaposed, in front of and shadowing each other, and as one observe and colour the other, they start interacting with the temporal gravity, thus creating the whole body of what we hear, interconnected through an infinite reciprocal web of time and being.