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Magnus Lindberg

Publisher: Chester Music

Engine (1996)
commissioned by the London Sinfonietta with funds of the Arts Council, Aldeburgh Festival and the South Bank Centre
Chester Music Ltd
Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Year Composed
16 Minutes
Programme Note
Magnus Lindberg Engine (1996)
The title of this piece is inspired by the computing language associated with using the Patchwork1 programme in accordance with constraint procedures: "engine" is a sort of generator of musical material, which operates according to the rules pre-established by the composer. The texture is composed by the machine, on which the composer imposes dozens of constraints2. The computer then produces suggestions, which the composer then treats like any other musical material. The rules are melodic and harmonic, and the resulting textures are closer to the brutal sonorities of Kraft (1983-1985) or UR (1986) than the harmonic surfaces of Corrente (1991-2), Aura (1993-94) or Arena (1995). Engine is also a farewell to the "stravinskyian" neo-classicism of Coyote Blues (1993).

Engine fits into the logic of Lindberg's production. At the beginning of the 80s the young composer was in search of timbres and was influenced by Pierre Schaeffer's classifications (Traité des objets musicaux); in other words he began to make "musique concrète" with instruments, as in Action-situation-signification (1982). Then, with his great work Kraft, Lindberg began to be interested in rhythm and attempted to organise its formal principles. With the orchestral trilogy Kinetics (1988-89), Marea (1989-90) and Joy (1989-90), a new type of harmonic thinking appears, influenced by the spectral analysis of sound. At the beginning of the 90s, with Corrente, Arena and Aura - a synthesis of the development of the 80s - the composer has recovered his skill in creating textures which "sound good", while including an idea of continuums. The instrumental gesture gives way to continual strata. But Engine proves the consequential nature of Lindberg's musical language; not only does it fit into the continuity of his last works, but it also refers us back, with this friction which breaks up the surface of sound, to the "brutiste" works like UR and Kraft.

Engine brings counterpoint back up to date in Lindberg's musical vocabulary, a counterpoint which allows the music to live in symbiosis with the rules and constraints imposed by the composer. The reason he uses constraint machines is that he wants to find solutions enabling him to avoid the mannerisms of his own style. For the composer, establishing constraints also means analysing and decomposing his style into rules, in order to master it better.

Risto Nieminen
English translation by Nick Le Quesne

1Patchwork is a computer-assisted composition programme, designed by Mikael Laurson and developed at IRCAM by IRCAM's Musical Representations team, under the leadership of Gérard Assayag.
2Similar procedures have already been employed at IRCAM by Camillo Rueda, who collaborated with the composer Antoine Bonnet using Situation software.

  • Ensemble
    London Sinfonietta / BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Oliver Knussen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
  • 08 MAR 2018
    Lappeenranta Hall, Lappeeranta, Finland
    Lappeenranta City Orchestra
  • 22 OCT 2017
    The Printworks, London, UK
    Southbank Sinfonia
    Jessica Cottis, conductor
  • 22 OCT 2017
    The Printworks, London, UK
    Southbank Sinfonia
    Jessica Cottis, conductor
  • 28 APR 2013
    Norman, OK
    University of Oklahoma
    Jonathan Shames, conductor
  • 15 FEB 2010
    New York, NY
    The Julliard School of Music
    Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor
  • 14 NOV 2009
    Rosenbergsalen, Sweden
    Musikhögskolan Malmö
    Håkan Hardenberger, conductor
  • 17 OCT 2009
    Schwetzingen, Germany
    Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland Pfalz
    Karl-Heinz Steffens, conductor
  • 01 OCT 2009
    Royal Festival Hall, London
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    Diego Masson, conductor
  • 01 JUN 2009
    Klangforum Wien
    Sylvain Cambreling, conductor
  • 29 AUG 2007
    Ilot Concert Chamber, Wellington, New Zealand
    Stroma New Music Ensemble
  • 08 AUG 2007
    Stavanger Cathedral, Stavanger, Norway
    Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
    Stefan Solyom, conductor
  • 13 DEC 2003
    Engine Country Premiere
    Berlin, Germany
    Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin
    Jonathan Stockhammer, conductor
  • 27 MAR 2003
    Sounds New 2003
    St Paul's Church, Canterbury
    Young musicians from Live Music Now
    Nicholas Cleobury, conductor
  • 10 SEP 2001
    Ultima Festival
    Ultima, Norway
    Oslo Sinfonietta
  • 14 FEB 2001
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic
    Christian Eggen, conductor

"If hailstones and whirlwinds created music, it would sound like this. But there are rich timbres and cogent harmonic progressions too, as well as unremitting virtuoso demands"
Richard Morrison, The Times,25/06/1996
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