The Estonian composer Helena Tulve’s (b. 1972) compositions are informed by natural patterns and processes, as expressed in music of surpassing timbral richness and textural complexity. Orchestral works such as Sula (1999) record a crystalline, organic world in constant change, while her vocal works weave influences from non-Western oral traditions with contemporary, early music and folk traditions. These influences meld in a music that prioritizes “slowness”: a sustained focus on sonic detail as an ethical and aesthetic choice, one that echoes spectral aesthetics as well as the composer’s ecological concerns. This paper analyzes Tulve’s unique timbral process—and reconcile it with her use of indigenous instruments—in Sula and L’Équinoxe de l’âme for soprano, triple harp or kannel, and string quartet (2008). The title Sula—to thaw or melt—has both literal and allegorical resonance. As it expresses the gradual erosion of an iceberg by global warming it does so through the subtle transformation of musical ideas, sound colors, articulations and dynamics, L’Équinoxe de l’âme (The Equinox of the Soul), by contrast, evoke sparks bursting into flame, emblematic of an aesthetic in which “Everything has its color, as well as sound.” My analysis shows how melodic layers and the registral placement of tones are determined by the qualities of the “sound material” and its natural expression in space. Tulve’s sonic transformations are shown to resist simple representational narratives of form in favor of sustained, ecological listening that attends to music as a natural process and sonic event.
6.G.3Pre-organised session - Spectralism on the Margins: Spectral Ideas and Intercultural Influence
Amy Bauer is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine. She received her PhD in music theory from Yale University, and has published articles in Music Analysis, The Journal of Music Theory, Contemporary Music Review, Indiana Theory Review, and Ars Lyrica, and book chapters on the music of György Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen, Carlos Chávez, David Lang, the television and issues in the philosophy and reception of modernist music. Her monographs include Ligeti’s Laments: Nostalgia, Exoticism and the Absolute (Ashgate, 2011) and the collections György Ligeti’s Cultural Identities (Routledge: forthcoming), co-edited with Márton Kerékfy and The Oxford Handbook of Spectral and Post-Spectral Music (Oxford, forthcoming), co-edited with Bryan Christian.
University of California, Irvine United States of Americaabauer@uci.edu