(2014) 17' / for female voice, trombone, violoncello, piano, and percussion

Text: vocalise

written for the Eunoia Quintett and premiered by them on May 6th, 2014 in Gare du Nord, Basel, Switzerland. Commissioned with assistance from the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung.

Lena Kiepenheuer (substituting for Johanna Greulich), soprano
Stephen Menotti, trombone
Ellen Fallowfield, violoncello
Louisa Marxen, percussion
Clemens Hund-Göschel, piano

Eunoia Quintet Basel

Composer's note

The word eunoia refers to the goodwill or receptivity that a speaker cultivates between themselves and their audience. As this music is rather abstract, with little to hold onto other than sounds themselves, the way they are produced, and how they relate to each other, I offer here – to create some eunoia – a few insights into the work.

The five vowels of the title – e, u, o, i, a – correspond simply to one of the five musicians, each with a featured moment in the work. The music starts unobtrusively with a delicate piano solo, picking up momentum and intensity while progressing through passages featuring each of the other members of the quintet. The vibraphone entry is followed by the violoncello presenting a series of intriguingly unstable multi-phonics. The trombonist answers, accompanied by the percussionist with an electric guitar, adding a portion of chaos to the otherwise clear-cut form. Two amplified metal plates are rubbed and scratched throughout much of the piece, creating a backdrop of noises similar to the consonants „f“, „t“, „s“, or „ch“; the singer is missing these in her part, only producing vowel sounds. I chose not to set a text to music as sung words – whether poetry, prose, or nonsense – speak more directly to the listener than instrumental sounds and would set the singer apart from the group.

Eunoia does however finish with a focus on the vocalist. If the piano solo was something like an introverted ballade, the vibraphone’s a processional, the cello’s dirge and the trombone’s an improvisation, then this final passage could be described as a strange, ecstatic hymn, with subtle vowel transitions interspersed within the loud ensemble texture: from the dark „u“ through an open „a“ to a bright „i“.

Eunoia was commissioned by the Eunoia Quintet and is dedicated to them. - Mike Svoboda

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