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Hans Thomalla "... the Brent Geese fly in long low wavering lines ..."​

commissioned by Musica Viva and Bavarian Radio

First performance February 17 2023, Herkulessaal Munich

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Vimbayi Kaziboni

Instrumentation: 2,0,3,2 - 2,2,2,0 - Perc (3) - Hrp - 2 Pno - 8,6,6,4,3

… the Brent Geese Fly in Long Low Wavering Lines … is a study of collectivity: The collectivity of an orchestra, in which the smallest motive begins in the back of the violin section, is passed on to a neighboring group of players, grows into a denser and denser texture, and then slowly moves through the instruments while transforming all along its path; where harmonies gradually build up one voice at a time and where rhythmic patterns are shaped together, one player interlocking with the next, one group of instruments connecting with another. 

Behind this rather obvious concept of collaboration that a modern orchestra embodies, other aspects of collectivity shine through. On the one hand the violence, that cannot be separated from the term. On the other hand, an almost trance-like experience of a self that is becoming lost, that disappears into time slowing down, into unmeasured streams of harmony, of sound, drifting away from any kind of metric or harmonic home.

The title of the piece is borrowed from Juliana Spahr’s poem Transitory, Momentary – a text that I discovered during the compositional process, and that itself seems adrift in its structure and in the story that it tells: From the description of a flock of birds in their migration, to movements of a group of protesters in a park in San Francisco; from the narration of different parts of a song to the collective feelings these parts seem to connect us to. And through this transitory movement the poem slowly forms a set of questions: Where and how are we positioned in a late-capitalist society? What has happened to us and our feelings? And how are these feelings part of a collective experience today?

Hans Thomalla, January 2023

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