Music

All works are available both as CD quality .flac and 192 Kbps .mp3 files

Elsewhere (2016)  51:20  (.mp3)

Elsewhere is inspired by an illustration in Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.

Solaris (2016)  34:18  (.mp3)

Solaris is inspired by Stanislaw Lem's novel of 1961 and the film adaptation of Andrei Tarkovsky. The novel depicts the planet Solaris' living, ever-changing ocean, and the scientists in the space station orbiting the planet. After many fruitless contact attempts, the station receives "guests" - artificial humans emanating from the scientists' most deeply hidden memories and fantasies. I do not follow the script in my piece, but I use some basic elements from it as starting points to create an independent musical creation. Solaris was realised at Elektronmusikstudion EMS and Visby International Centre for Composers.

John's Cage (S) (2015)  6:30  (.mp3)

John's Cage (M) (2015)  12:53  (.mp3)

John's Cage (L) (2015)  25:36  (.mp3)

I often use different kinds of randomised processes in my music, but in John's Cage chance, in the form of several thousand dice throws, played a crucial role in the formal design at many levels. But total randomness is too restrictive and arguably not that artistically fruitful, so I have sometimes taken the liberty to reorder the results. For chance is seemingly paradoxical - with a sequence of six dice throws, an outcome of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 is equally likely as 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5, even though the first sequence looks more orderly ...

Vinterglädje/Winter Glee (2014)  9:01  (.mp3)

For the listener, who listens in the snow

"And though one says that one is part of everything,
There is a confict, there is a resistance involved;
And being part is an exertion that declines:
One feels the life of that which gives life as it is."
– from The course of a particular by Wallace Stevens


The piece was commissioned by RANK/SEAMS for KOMPFEST 2015 and was created at Elektronmusikstudion EMS, Media Artes in Växjö, and Visby International Centre for Composers.

Avgudaskymning II/Götzen-Dämmerung II (2013)  6:00  (.mp3)

This piece, a revision and extension of Götzen-Dämmerung, was created for Dubbelradio 2013, where its four channels were broadcast over two FM frequencies simultaneously. As the title suggests, the work is about doing away with outdated conceptions ... but which ones?

Paranormal Archaeology (2013)  41:00  (.mp3)

This work was composed for the Sleeping Bag Concert 2013. It is meant to be played at a low volume.

Perversitäten (2012)  5:48  (.mp3)

für computergenerierte Klänge

Öarna/The Islands (2012)  15:58

Öarna VI/The Islands VI (2012)  2:14  (.mp3)

Öarna V/The Islands V (2011)  4:28  (.mp3)

Öarna IV/The Islands IV (2011)  2:14  (.mp3)

Öarna III/The Islands III (2008)  2:14  (.mp3)

Öarna II/The Islands II (2009)  2:14  (.mp3)

Öarna I/The Islands I (2008)  2:14  (.mp3)

The Islands is a suite of six pieces built on the same time structure – a kind of character variations where I try to accomplish as large differences in spatial, timbral and expressive features as possible. The six parts can be performed either separately or following each other in different combinations.

Aubade (2009)  60:00  (.mp3)

Hommage à Messiaen. Composed for the Sleeping Bag Concert 2009.

Avgudaskymning/Götzen-Dämmerung (2008)  2:59  (.mp3)

A work composed for the sound installation Utsnitt at Fylkingen's 75 year celebration in 2008.

Meditation över Fumeux fume/Meditation on Fumeux fume (2008)  42:00  (.mp3)

This work is based on Solage's rondeau Fumeux fume (ca. 1390) and was composed for the Sleeping Bag Concert 2008. The piece is meant to be played at a low volume.

Dead but dreaming I (2007)  17:31  (.mp3)

Dead but dreaming II (2007)  17:31  (.mp3)

Dead but dreaming I & II are based on sound fragments from the Alban Berg opera Wozzeck. The fragments were organised with a simple - almost naïve - serial technique.

The pieces were composed for Fylkingen's Sleeping Bag Concert 2007 and are meant to be played at a low volume.

Lidandets lustgård/Le Jardin des supplices (2006)  24:48  (.mp3)

The title comes from Octave Mirbeau’s (1848-1917) erotic classic Le Jardin des supplices, though the piece has no real connection with the novel, besides sharing the form of a wander. Perhaps it can be described as an acoustic film, and contains more tonal and pulse-based material than my earlier pieces.

Ljudpark II - Det bidde en tumme/Sound park II – Ending up with a molehill (2005)  0-∞

This sound installation uses electronic sensors that react to light and heat. In a device built by Fredrik Olofsson, the voltage from the sensors is transformed into MIDI information that can be deciphered by a computer or a synthesizer. The MIDI data is handled by the computer, using Max/MSP, a sound programming software.

Originally, the installation was meant to be a much larger piece that was supposed to be composed together with a colleague. We wanted to use sensors that reacted to air pressure, air humidity, wind and other movements. My ambition was to study how birds and other animal sounds were affected by weather changes, in order to use this for programming.

The installation was to stand there 24 hours a day in all weathers and for a longer period of time, without continuous assistance. The sounds were to be produced by two SY77 synthesizers with eight separate sound channels, all controlled via the computer. We had different ideas on where to place the loudspeakers – hanging them from a tree, or casting small boxes in raw concrete that would blend in with the stones of the limestone quarry.

Unfortunately, my colleague abandoned the project and because of this and for other reasons (both practical and financial), I chose to make the simplest possible installation. Besides sensors and transducers there was only the need for a computer, a MIDI interface and a CD disc, as well as two loud speakers with amplifiers.

The information from the sensors is used to control the CD player of the computer, which plays different CD tracks of sounds from the SY77. The lighter and hotter the weather becomes, the more active and brighter the sound is from both loud speakers. If anything should go wrong, for instance if the sensors stop working, you can play the disc in an ordinary CD player, albeit without the sound being influenced by the environment.

Sometimes one makes a mountain out of a molehill, but in this case I ended up with the molehill.

Nyarlathotep (2001/2006)  9:50  (.mp3)

"... the crawling chaos ..."

(Daniel Eideholm/Pär Johansson)

Harvey Dent (2005)  3:21  (.mp3)

Holy random generators, Batman!

Arkham (2005)  30:02  (.mp3)

Sleep in sanity ...

Showdown (2003)  3:58  (.mp3)

After having drawn inspiration for several of my pieces from literary and philosophical sources, I wanted to compose a work with a purely musical idea. It turned into a crab canon, a piece which sounds the same played backwards as well as forwards.

In electroacoustic music, where neither harmony nor voice-leading have to be considered, producing a work that is identical to its retrograde is a trivial task. But there is a different compositional challenge, which is to find suitable timbres for this kind of musical game. Similarly to a melodically based crab canon, neither the whole piece, nor parts of it, should sound as if played backwards.

The result of my pleasurable efforts is Showdown, commissioned by EMS/Rikskonserter (Electroacoustic Music in Sweden/Concerts Sweden) to celebrate the 70th anniversary (1933-2003) of the contemporary music society Fylkingen. The piece consists of two simultaneous layers, being each other in retrograde and therefore composed of sounds that work equally well when played in reverse.

A large part of the sound material was recorded at the Oxelösund Steelworks, for which I am indebted to SSAB Oxelösund and their guide Teuvo Tuukkonen.

Ljudpark I/Sound park I (2003)  0-∞

The installation randomly plays short excerpts from our earlier pieces simultaneously through eight channels.

(Pär Johansson/Love Mangs)

Nepenthe II (1999/2003)  12:00  (.mp3)

Nepenthe II is a heavily abridged and somewhat modified version of Nepenthe, with an original duration of close to 36 minutes. The work is inspired by the heat death - the universe's expansion and disintegration - and has a very strict formal scheme where the sound material constantly recur in new formations. All of the sounds are taken from my earlier pieces.

Tombeau de Lovecraft (2002/2003)  25:22

The Outsider, At the Mountains of Madness and The Colour out of Space are loosely modelled on the short stories by Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), the U.S. American author of horror and science fiction stories and one of Western literature's most prolific epistolarians. His vast correspondence consists of more than 100,000 letters to friends and colleagues. Some 20,000 of these have been preserved and provide a unique insight into his personality, authorship and aesthetic stance, his transformation from political conservative to Roosevelt supporter and aristocratic socialist as well as his fondness for cats.

The three pieces form a suite, that, besides being based on ideas and plot elements from the Lovecraft stories, also is a kind of musical self-portrait. There is a tint of self-irony, perhaps most noticeable in The Outsider - the piece which has deviated the most from Lovecraft's short story. The narrative structures of the pieces are adapted from the stories, but more important is the overall mood, e. g., in At the Mountains of Madness the melancholy portrayal of the cold, vast beauty of the Antarctic.

The pieces can be played separately.

The Outsider (2003)  4:17  (.mp3)

"Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness."

At the Mountains of Madness (2002)  13:43  (.mp3)

See notes for Tombeau de Lovecraft

Tender Berth Musicke (2002)  6:57

(Part I 2:43 (.mp3) - Part II 2:39 (.mp3) - Part III 1:31 (.mp3))

"Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God's good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth."

(Pär Johansson/Jan Liljekvist)

The Colour out of Space (2002)  7:18  (.mp3)

"West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentle slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs."

Orqwith (2001)  9:50  (.mp3)

(Daniel Eideholm/Pär Johansson)

Azathoth (2001)  5:45  (.mp3)

Hommage à Rune Lindblad.

Restprinciper/Leftover Principles (2001)  1:15  (.mp3)

 

Det tomma palatset/The Empty Palace (2000)  24:04  (.mp3)

"Having surrounded and besieged the Palace for over three months, unexpectedly, an order to escalade the walls and to assault the inner courtyard was issued. Upon our successful arrival at the courtyard we met with complete quiet and utter desolation. The main building was in ruins. The interior was ravaged and ransacked. Draperies, paintings and valuable decorations were wrecked and defiled.

As if to smoothe the memory of the massacre, trees, bushes, grass and flowers had found their way back and commenced the retrieval of everything man-made. Birds were nesting, foxes and badgers had furnished their lairs and setts, ants had erected their anthill cities. Hence, the whole view now embodied the prophecy of nature's recapturing of those places that it had once ceded to man. As if we long ago had been preordained to meet an empty and abandoned abode.

We started, then, to note down the inscriptions on the walls, we gathered the few remnants and residues of human life and death in what was left of the rooms, halls and hallways of the Palace, and our scribes were sent to the dilapidated library to copy the surviving books and written documents and to interpret their message. All this was done in a painstaking attempt to map out and understand what must have happened many years before our siege of the Palace."

The jianzhu notes: "From this occasion originates the habit of referring to the art of history by the name of The Empty Palace."

Xia Gu, referring to the hackneyed myth of the Siege of the Empty Palace, in the secondary commentary (the jianzhu) to an early Ming edition of Credo Incognito (Qian fu lun) by Han philosopher Wang Fu. Translation by Göran Sommardal in The Empty Palace. An Archaeology of Ruts and Ruins from the Chinese Literary Mind, Stockholm University, 1998.

The emotional content of this piece emanates from my impressions of the quotation above and of the dissertation by Göran Sommardal. I strived to create a piece with a slowly changing texture and a cyclic sense of time. The formal structure is largely based on the Chinese philosophical concept of the Five Phases (or Five Elements) - earth, wood, fire, metal and water - and their correlations, especially the Five Seasons. In one of the sections I also used Yi Jing randomisation in the selection of sound materials.

Nepenthe (1999)  35:58  (.mp3)

This piece is inspired by the heat death - the expansion and disintegration of the universe - and has a very strict formal scheme where the sound material constantly recur in new formations. All of the sounds are taken from my earlier pieces.

Coughing on Mars (1999)  3:55  (.mp3)

This piece tries to describe a dream and an awakening, without being programme music. The form is three-part, where the over-lapping parts are separated by the temporarily thinning out of the texture of the voices.

Coughing on Mars was specially composed for the Electrophone– a sound sculpture with 12 independent channels – though nowadays the 8-channel version is performed. The 12 channels were mainly used to allow several independent processes to happen together in the room and only exceptionally for dynamic panning and 3-dimensional effects.

The sound material consists of concrete, synthetic and digitally processed concrete sounds. Some of the sounds are originally radio astronomic data.

Notes on Chinese Warfare (1998)  5:33  (.mp3)

Originally conceived as a study in the integration of rather dissimilar sound objects, this piece soon grew to an attempt at making a kind of contrapuntal, slowly evolving acoustic film. Although the piece is not really programmatic, it does suggest various events and processes taking place in a large hangar-like space.

The material consists mainly of concrete and analogue synthesiser sounds. I wanted to preserve the original timbres, and thus used digital processing only sparingly. I also avoided traditional musical development in favour of a more cyclic form. However, there is a vague tendency toward thematic correspondence between certain episodes.

The title, which tries to capture the mood in words, was chosen when the piece was finished. At this time, I was deeply influenced by Chinese culture (which I still am, but in a different way), especially literature, philosophy and martial arts. This interest was later to become more fully expressed in The Empty Palace.

Liten svit/Little Suite (1996)  4:48

(Fanfare 0:22 (.mp3) - Nocturne 1:23 (.mp3) - Omaggio a Dufay 2:59 (.mp3))

This suite, which should be considered as an early piece, consists of three etudes from a course at EMS. All the sound material has been made with the Yamaha synth SY77, giving the three movements a sort of timbral unity.

Taiji

Pär Johansson

Composer, sonic artist

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