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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Floof (Songs of a Homeostatic Homer) (1982)
Text Writer
Stanislav Lem, trans. Michael Kandel
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
10 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Floof (Songs of a Homeostatic Homer) (1982)
Once, when I was reading The Cyberiad by the Polish sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem, and in particular the story of the attempt by a man called Trurl to invent a poetry machine, I was reminded of the Toimii Ensemble. (the Toimii Ensemble is a group set up by Magnus Lindberg, Anssi Karttunen and myself to from a laboratory for musical ideas - the wilder the better.) I decided to combine a coloratura soprano with five instrumentalists (clarinet/contrabass clarinet, cello, piano, synthesiser and Percussion), all amplifies in order to create a timbre that relates to pop music, while the composition techniques and the syntax of the musical language belong very clearly to the mainstream post-serial avant-garde. (Which, incidentally, happens to be my aesthetical and ideological home still.)

The Homeostatic Homer is learning to be a poet, onomatopoeia become poetry. At the same time, the musical language evolves from primitive gestures towards more complex expression. The ultimate product of the electro-troubadour, a love poem within the realm of tensor algebra, is set to dodecaphonic rap music.

Floof is dedicated to the members of the Toimii Ensemble: to the restless souls with whom I share some of my strangest musical experiences.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sample Pages

  • Ensemble
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Avanti! Cahmber Orchestra
    Tuija Hakkila, piano / Mikael Helasvuo, flute / Anssi Karttunen, cello / Anu Komsi, soprano / Kari Krikku, clarinet / Pekka Savijoki, alto saxophone / Jukka Tiensuu, harpsichord / Jorma Valjakka, oboe
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Ensemble
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Avanti! Chamber Orchestra
    Pekka Savijoki, alto saxophone / Jorma Valjakka, oboe / Mikael Helasvuo, alto flute / Tuija Hakkila, piano / Anssi Karttunen, cello / Anu Komsi, soprano
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen ended a Green Umbrella Program Tuesday with a performance of "Floof," a small Modernist work he wrote 20 years ago for soprano and five instruments. It is a humorous score. The singer represets a sputtering computer trying to learn language and create poetry.
Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times,10/04/2009
A histrionic cantata for solo soprano and amplified quintet, Floof was given a hysterical, energetic performance by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and soloist Anu Komsi, conducted by the composer. The piece sets a text by Stanislaw Lem that imagines a cybernetic world in which poetry is composed by machines, and the words lurch from semantic confusion to outright nonsense. Komsi captured the sense of a machine gradually losing control, and Salonen's music mixed machine-like passages with wild, improvisatory abandon.
Tom Service, The Guardian,03/06/2003
Salonen’s output is not large, but most of his pieces reveal a fertile mind. They are neither uncompromising nor compromising in a post-modern way; post-serial might be a better description, for there remains a striking, avant-garde adventurousness about the best of them. Floof, which draws from the Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad, is a humorous work that inhabits a strange sound-world – its five instrumentalists and coloratura soprano are amplified to give an almost “pop” flavour. The young Finnish singer Anu Komsi was an outstanding soloist, whose feat was not only to produce the guttural noises and piercing, stratospheric notes, but to deliver the text flawlessly from memory.
John Allison, The Times,01/11/1995
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