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Poul Ruders

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Gong (1992)
Wilhelm Hansen
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
17 Minutes

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Programme Note
Poul Ruders Gong (1992)
The word "gong" is saturated with associations: the splendour of the Orient, mysticism, drama, loud metallic clangour, violent impact, etc.

The present piece draws upon all those connotations, but it is primarily a symphonic drama about the life and behaviour of the sun, our closest star and prime source of life on Earth.
Describing the sun in music is not a new idea, of course; during a visit to Greece, Carl Nielsen was inspired by the orbit of the sun and its very un-Danish ferocity and thus wrote the "Helios Overture".

Gong is a "Helios Overture" too, of sorts, albeit more abstract. Recent astronomical research shows, that the surface of the sun reverberates like a gong, in four different, simultaneous tempi (not directly depicted in the score, though); the sun looks like a gong, - the O in the written work looks like the sun; there is even a solar research group called GONG (Global Oscillation Network Group).

Formally the composition follows the life and fate of the sun, from the initial explotional birth through the hyper-activity as energy source as we know it today to the final, predicted flaring up and collapse into a so-called "white dwarf".

But - being a musical composition, not an astrophysical thesis - Gong is brought to its compositional conclusion by a "real concert-ending", a chord taken from the middle of the piece and sustained over several bars, from virtual nothingness to full force.

-Poul Ruders

April 1992 saw the death of Olivier Messiaen. GONG is dedicated to the memory of that great composer, the last of the real "stars" of 20th century composers

  • Ensemble
    Danish National Symphony Orchestra
    Leif Segerstam
  • Ensemble
    Odense Symphony Orchestra
    Michael Sch√łnwandt
  • 25 JUN 2016
    Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
    Markus Stenz, conductor

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