2004 (27 minutes)
Composed for: Works for soloist(s) & orchestra
First performed: Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Esa-Pekka Salonen, opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, 5 June 2004 (Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra)
Instrumentation: 2 solo sopranos - 4(3afl:1afl,bfl).3+ca.3(3Ebcl,bcl)+cbcl.3+cbn/4431/timp.4perc/2hp.2kbd(cel,sampler)/str(min 22.214.171.124.8)
Salonen: ‘In sailing terminology, when a sailboat opens both the foresail and the main sail to a 180-degree angle to produce the maximum amount of sail area, the beautiful sculptural constellation is called ‘wing on wing’. Frank Gehry uses that as a metaphor for the view of Walt Disney Concert Hall from the corner of Grand Avenue and First Street.
My composition Wing on Wing is, of course, not an attempt to translate architecture into music, which would be an impossible task anyway. Nor is it a musical portrait of Frank Gehry, but rather an homage to an extraordinary building by an extraordinary man. At the same time it celebrates the efforts of every man and woman whose dedication, skill, and faith made a fantastic vision into reality.
Wing on Wing uses metaphors of water and wind. I also decided to use the weird sound of a fish from the local waters of Southern California, the Plainfin Midshipman, as an instrument. (A school of fish uses this sound probably as a means of staying in formation.) Fish, of course, was Gehry’s unexpected move in the post-modern game of architecture. The image is beautiful, perfect, and yet completely surprising in the context of intellectual discourse. We hear Gehry’s sampled (and modified) voice here and there. Sometimes we can discern words, key words in his work and life. Sometimes words become musical sounds, and they lose their intelligibility wholly or partially.
There are some other unusual colours in the score: two coloratura sopranos join the orchestra sometimes as soloists, sometimes as instruments among others. In the beginning of the piece I pair them with the lowest-sounding woodwind instruments, the contrabassoon and the contrabass clarinet, and create a new kind of hybrid instrument, a sci-fi fantasy of a union between humans and machines. I decided to disperse some of the sounds in the auditorium. The sopranos, some percussion, and the sampled sounds travel to different parts of the hall.
The form of Wing on Wing can be described in 10 sections:
1) Introduction. A chorale and a song of the two sopranos alternate, always in slightly different guises. Faster music starts to grow underneath.
2) Nervous figurations in the strings and woodwinds. The movement congeals into triplets and develops into a metaphor of a strong wind. A storm develops, dissolves, and disappears into nothingness.
3) A new beginning. Another gust of wind develops, but soon calms down to a tranquil section, where the woodwinds play melodies originally introduced by the sopranos. The layering of these melodies becomes very dense. The strings recede, and the woodwinds unite gradually into a chorale.
4) The sopranos return, now out in the hall. An explosion of glittering, metallic sounds. Again the music calms down, this time to a mysterioso section with tremolos in the strings and fragmentary phrases in the oboes and the sopranos.
5) Plainfin Midshipman enters. These fish sing an e natural.
6) Fast movement again. Sandpaper blocks and strings spin ornaments.
7) Scherzando section. The sopranos are back, now in the normal solo position on stage. Light virtuoso textures, which gradually become another gust of wind (a memory of an earlier moment).
8) The wind solidifies into a triplet pulse. A kind of dance develops.
9) The dance doubles its speed. Joy and energy. Culmination in two huge chords. The music slows down.
10) Epilogue. At the very end we hear Frank Gehry, the Midshipman, and the sopranos for a last time.
Wing on Wing is dedicated to Frank Gehry, Yasuhiso Toyota, and Deborah Borda.’
Published by: Chester Music Limited
Copyright: Esa-Pekka Salonen, 24 April 2004