After having finished Kinetics, a piece for large orchestra in January 1990, I felt as still continuing in the domain of writing for orchestra. In Kinetics I tried to enlarge my musical language by combining some of the new spectral ideas developed by many younger French composers (Grisey, Murail, Dalbavie) with the harmonic principles I had been using until then. One of the fundamental questions when writing music based on 12-tone harmony has been the organisation of chords containing more than 12 tones. The other problem arising with 12-tone harmonies is the concept of passing notes. Lacking the functionality of the tonal system it becomes akward to choose pitches not belonging to the structure. (I'm sure the popularity of timpanies largely replaced by non-pitched drums in contemporary music has partly been the economy of not spending pitches ...)
In Kinetics I approached these quite fundamental questions from a rather coloristic point of view. I created a harmony model based on a subdivision of pitches in primary and secondary notes. The principle is very simple i.e. any chord can be viewed from its structural qualities (interval content, symmetry etc.) but it might also be conceived from a more acoustical point of view. For instance a major trichord in its root position (C-E-G) belongs to the overtone serie of a C two octaves lower i.e. the 4th, 5th and 6th partials; the minor trichord (C-E flat-G) respectively maps into the partials of a F, 2 and a half octaves lower (6th, 7th and 9th partials). Thus any chord can be seen as being partials of a virtual fundamental.
In Kinetics I controlled the harmonic qualities by colouring a foreground musical event with softly orchestrated background chords. The dialectic aspects of these different views became my main interest in the harmonic layout of Marea. The counterpoint or even conflict between to different harmonic aspects led me to make the overall form of Marea variationlike. The piece is based on a sequence of 12-tone chords repeated as a chaconne. Every chord has its "alter ego", an overtone serie the fundamentals of which together form a bass line (passacaglia).
By articulating the cycle differently, with always different diagonal paths between the two layers I tried to give the music some direction despite of its vaguelike repetitive structure.
The title Marea, the italian word for tides I chose after having already composed the piece. The marvellous feeling of walking on the seabottom with all rock formations, algues etc. visible, covered by water some hours later but still present corresponded with my feeling of the piece. The monotone repetitiveness of tides created by the gravity of the moon, and the force of the sea pushing constantly the seashore felt as a nice metaphor for the piece.
With risque of being romantic I went to Normandie in February to finish the piece at the seaside. Cabourg, the town where Marcel Proust had been writing offered a unique athmosphere off-season empty of tourists. There I also experienced some of those terrible storms manifesting the frightening change of the climate of our planete.
This is of course not what I wanted to express in my music, composition is and remains abstract for me. Anyhow these were some of the thoughts and experiences I had during the winter I was working with Marea.
Magnus Lindberg Paris, March 1990