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Composed: 2010-2011

Length: c. 13 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes, alto flute, oboe, English horn (= oboe), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (cymbals, hi-hats, metal plates, almglocken, tom-toms, bass drums, tam-tam, marimba, large tuned gongs), harp, piano, and strings

About this Piece

After studying music in her native Iceland, Anna Thorvaldsdóttir earned MA and PhD degrees at the University of California, San Diego. She won the Nordic Council Music Prize for Dreaming in 2012, and was named the New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer in 2015; Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic will perform Aeriality later this season. She has released three albums of her own music, including 2014’s Aerial on Deutsche Grammophon, which includes Aeriality in a performance by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra under Ilkan Volkov and Shades of Silence from Nordic Affect.

The composer has the following note for Aeriality on her website:

Aeriality is a work for a large instrumental force, written in 2010/2011, consisting of vast sound-textures combined – and contrasted with – various forms of lyrical material. The piece was commissioned by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra to be premiered November 24, 2011, conducted by Ilan Volkov in Harpa, the new Concert and Conference Center in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Aeriality refers to the state of gliding through the air with nothing or little to hold on to – as if flying – and the music both portrays the feeling of absolute freedom gained from the lack of attachment and the feeling of unease generated by the same circumstances. The title draws its essence from various aspects of the meaning of the word ‘aerial’ and refers to the visual inspiration that such a view provides. ‘Aeriality’ is also a play with words, combining the words ‘aerial’ and ‘reality’, so as to suggest two different worlds; ‘reality,’ the ground, and ‘aerial,’ the sky or the untouchable.

Aeriality can be said to be on the border of symphonic music and sound art. Parts of the work consist of thick clusters of sounds that form a unity as the instruments of the orchestra stream together to form a single force – a sound-mass. The sense of individual instruments is somewhat blurred and the orchestra becomes a single moving body, albeit at times forming layers of streaming materials that flow between different instrumental groups. These chromatic layers of materials are extended by the use of quartertones to generate vast sonic textures. At what can perhaps be said to be the climax in the music, a massive sustained ocean of quartertones slowly accumulates and is then released into a brief lyrical field that almost immediately fades out at the peak of its own urgency, only to remain a shadow.”