Recorded January 2011.
It can be difficult to realize an inner timbral conception into a finished work. What begins as an intense fire risks ending up as a dry exercise. Although the music initially starts out as a fiery improvisation the energy can be lost on its way to the finished work. Aspects such as notation and compositional techniques can stand in the way of the musical energy, and what seems fascinating on an intellectual plane ends up as an empty structure. In the piece Impulse I wanted to keep the original musical energy – from the conception of the idea through to the finished work.
I would gain this through analyzing my own musical subconscious before it came into contact with the waken intellectual awareness – of course influenced by ideas derived from psychoanalysis. Through free musical associations, fantasies and dreams I would reach the unconscious energetic part of musicality that was not as affected by the intellectual compositional techniques as the waking part. There was no idea too stupid or banal. Afterwards, these different layers of musical impulses could be processed and analyzed.
In order to make the path from idea to sounding results as direct as possible, the work was written for piano solo, and based on piano improvisations. The improvisations represented the free associations, fantasies and dreams, while a computer program recorded the improvisations, playing the part of the therapist. The improvisations were analyzed, processed and restructured. Here I had the chance to achieve a deeper understanding of my own musical self. Since I worked directly with piano recordings, I could go straight into the musical structure and move events around. This direct way of working meant that I avoided that intellectual layers in the compositional process removed the original energy.
The last thing that was added was the notation. Here I wrote through the score several times, and each time I added another layer of ideas. The energy was still not lost. As opposed to a synthesized process in which one builds a work from small atoms, I started out with an improvisational stream that was later peeled down to a piece of music. In this way, I kept the energy of the original moment.
During the composition process, so many layers of structural complexity were accumulated that it approached an unplayable level. But instead of rejecting the material in favour of a more feasible score, I decided to write the piece with a recording in mind. The piece was composed as a collection of small parts. The 298 parts were recorded separately and then assembled in the editing process. Thus, the high complexity was still feasible. Many composers such as Mozart, Ligeti and Nancarrow has, through music for self-playing instruments, studied various forms of utopian and unplayable music. But unlike these, my piece was recorded by a musician and not a mechanical device. In this way, a human touch was added to this utopian, unplayable music.
The original title was I Guess I’ll Have To Dream The Rest, taken from a jazz standard from the 40’s, but the work was later renamed Impulse. The title Impulse plays on the role of the moment in the subconscious currents that made up the material of the piece. These currents contained many strange parts, i.a. harmonious material from the TV series X-files snuck in several times. No musical impulses were too banal, and after they were recorded they were processed, analyzed and moved into the finished work.
Impulse was composed in 2000, revised in 2011 and recorded 20 – 21 January 2011 at the Henie-Onstad Art Centre.
Ellen Ugelvik: Piano
Cato Langnes: Recording, Mixing
Asbjørn Blokkum Flø: Recording, editing
Notto Thelle: Assistant engineer
Thanks to Lars Mørch Finborud, Henie-Onstad Art Centre and Notam.