Kent Olofsson: Terpsichord

for bass cimbalom, percussion and electroacoustic music. (16 minutes)

The work is built around a special instrument called bass cimbalom, constructed by percussion- player Jonny Axelsson and composer Volker Staub. It is an instrument with pianostrings attached on a big resonating wooden box. It has 17 pitches, in the lower register it is one string for each pitch, in the higher register there are two or three strings on each pitch, like a piano. The tuning is built on parts of the overtone series, a selection of pitches which create a very special mode for the piece.

The work on the piece started with a recording session where we recording different sounds from the instrument. Mainly the strings played in different ways but also other sounds like beats on the resonance wooden box. The recorded material where later worked out for the tape part that the soloist is interacting with.

The over-all structural idea of the piece is simple: the pitch of the 17 strings appears in a slow, falling order throughout the 16 minutes of the piece The pitches act as central notes for each short sections, where around everything is built. A kind of variations around each pitch of the instrument.

The basic, simple musical figure is: a string is struck, it is sounding, vibrating, turns up in the tape part and is transformed into new sounds and gestures which is responded in the percussion part with new gestures that are again transformed in the tape part, and so on. This process goes on and on and builds up the structures of the piece. The work is in four movements with different characters.

The percussionist plays basically on the bass-cimbalom in the piece but there are also other percussion instruments that prolong and varies the sounds from the bass-cimbalom and the tape part.

”Terpsichord” was commissioned by IMEB in Bourges, France. It was premiered at the the festival Synthése in June 2003. The tape part was made at IMEB in the studio Circé during March 2003.

Kent Olofsson

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