Green/Escape (2019)

Green/Escape began at first as a reworking of an earlier orchestral piece, Green, composed three years ago. It was one of the first times that I was revisiting an earlier style—it was still bound to an early 20th-century, post-romantic aesthetic, with lush orchestration and harmonies throughout, many passages being reminiscent of Alban Berg’s Lulu. The narrative flow progressed smoothly, and one could even analyse an underlying sonata form.

What began as a simple revision of an older piece soon turned into a questioning of its style itself, and more importantly, the aesthetic mindset behind it when looked at from the present day. Is a smooth, orderly narrative flow relevant in a time, where current events could give rise to at least two conflicting narratives, such that it is impossible to discern the truth? Is a rich, nostalgic sound with beautiful chords merely escapism to a past decade, where a nostalgic neo-romantic style was in vogue—in which we considered our societal-economic workings eternal, whereas now its untenability is becoming quickly apparent?

Because of this, Green turned into Green/Escape, a deconstruction of my earlier way of composing. The piece is divided into two sections. The first half is the “escape” from the sound-world of Green (thus the title). Small pieces of Green are heard jumbled together against the backdrop of permutated chords and string trills. Over time, the fragments become longer and more coherent, but they are no longer lush—they grow more and more distorted and the sound becomes dampened. At the same time, traces of a new indistinct sound-world slowly begin to creep in.

The escape itself is heralded by octave trumpets, followed immediately by a massive tutti chord. The second half is the search of the new aesthetic. Taking place after the escape, this part is more uncertain. The music samples, one at a time several different styles: spectral bell-chords and tones stretched out to the point of discomfort; musique concrète extended techniques, tone clusters and breath sounds; pointillistic, serial flurries on the piano and percussion; and a brief return to the old style. Each flows into another in a stream of consciousness. On the other, quotes from pieces by past composers (Bela Bartók, Gérard Grisey, and Beethoven) emerge. This is itself another school of musical aesthetic (polystylism) but also a reminder of the composer still in dialogue with the music of the past. In the end, the new sound-world is not yet found―the search has to continue after it.