self-aware (2011) for accordion and piano

self-aware (2011) Adobe_PDF_Icon_svg

accordion (male performer with a speaking part), piano (female performer with a speaking part)

Duration: 13′
Fp: Duo Oneplusone (Timo Kinnunen, accordion, and Anna Veismane, piano) īgas Latviešu biedrība, Rīga, Latvia, 4 October, 2011

This recording is from a performance by Antti Leinonen (accordion) and Elisa Järvi (piano) on 29 October 2012 at G18 during the Korvat auki 35 festival:

What if a piece of contemporary music would, perhaps like in science fiction, become self-aware and speak to us? (Of course in science fiction, merely for dramaturgical reasons or as an allegory of ourselves on this planet, it would start to expand and threathen our existence.)

Now there is one such a work, as my self-aware (2011) does in fact start to address the audience, perhaps a bit like the ape in Franz Kafka’s short story “A Report to an Academy” (as opposed to some sci-fi dystopia). This happens in the middle section of the work, after the enigmatic, mosaic-like first section, and before the extended coda focusing on difference tones, the reaction of our nervous system to certain high intervals that start to buzz in our ears as pitches that do not really exist (or do they?).

In the first section, lasting almost half of the work’s duration, I firstly tackled my own fear of writing for the piano. I have previously been working extensively on noise and microtones, and quite obviously that’s quite a challenge here. But if a composer thinks the sounding material is what he or she wants to say, then the composer is not an artist, and has nothing to say. So, I challenged myself to a little piano solo. The accordionist joins in properly only after a minute or so.

Key elements in the first section are: using different dynamics between the pianists hands both as timbre and as illusions of microtonality (the softer notes colour the louder ones), linking and contasting of material and the instruments (processual mosaic), making the listener subconsciously familiar with the “speaking music” of the second section (transcriptions of speech), and focusing on some of the sounds we normally might close our ears to as side-effects (like the pedalling on the piano or the noise of accordion’s buttons).

Then, in the second section the piece suddenly starts to speak:

Aren’t I here to be a mirror?
So you can see your world anew.

To make you listen what’s actually there.
Thus making you conscious of how you listen.
Or used to, before you met me.

I hope you notice something new.
Realize, that it wasn’t like you thought it was, or would be.

Are you then sure you don’t carry with you
any other such false assumptions
you’re not aware of?

A reading of the text was used as a basic material for the section, transcribed after audio analysis for the instruments and their players.

I composed self-aware during the rainy days of July/August 2011 in Berlin for Duo Oneplusone (Timo Kinnunen & Anna Veismane), while being kindly supported by the Arts Council of Finland.

© 2011 Jarkko Hartikainen

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