Related Rocks for two pianos, two percussionists and electronics was commissioned by IRCAM and the Musica Festival, Strasbourg. It was realised at IRCAM with Serge Lemouton, musical assistant, and at the experimental studio of the Finnish Radio with Juhani Liimatainen, the composer's long-standing assistant. The world première took place at IRCAM on 24th June 1997. The work has also been included in the choreography for the Rosas company, Just Before, by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Magnus Lindberg freely admits that the gestation of Related Rocks was not easy. In recent years, he has written several pieces for large orchestras or ensembles, but no chamber music to speak of.
It is not only the line-up which has made necessary a certain re-orientation, but also the way the electronic component is included. Although Lindberg tends to compose on a computer and uses computer-assisted composition (CAC) software - particularly Patchwork and its derivatives - he has not used electronic sounds since Joy for large ensemble and electronics in 1989-90.
"When I write for a large orchestra, my starting point consists of very precise structures. But paradoxically, with electronics I work far more intuitively," says Lindberg. The final decisions are arrived at through trial and error. The piece was thought-out partly in Helsinki and partly at IRCAM. These twin geographical poles enabled him to enjoy the isolation and calm of his studio while remaining in contact with the latest developments in musical computing.
The task of designing the computer framework and tools was carried out at IRCAM, as were the procedures which called for specific computer tools. Along with Lemouton, Lindberg was notably initiated into the diphône technique, which had only recently been introduced by IRCAM's Analysis I Synthesis team. After design periods in Paris, Lindberg went on working with his material in Helsinki, either at home or at Finnish Radio's experimental studio (YLE).
"The diphône environment enables us to analyse sounds in a way that facilitates interesting, gradual transitions between sounds. We may start with a sample of a Chinese cymbal sound, for example, which imperceptibly transforms itself into an orchestral chord," Lindberg explains.
Despite the relatively complex procedures used to produce the piece, Lindberg was keen for the technical apparatus to remain simple during performance. He uses two samplers to trigger the sounds he has worked on in the studio, which are stored on the computer. In addition, the two pianists both have synthesizers. The instrumentalists set up continua, a concept which Lindberg studies in depth in this piece: what internal life can be distinguished in a sound or texture? How do we move from one situation to another in time?
Magnus Lindberg wrote this work with the Ictus piano-percussion quartet in mind, a group he met in Brussels at a concert devoted to his music in 1996.
© Risto Nieminen 1997 and 2000, translated by Nick Le Quesne