Kärestans död – the Lover's Death

Oboe and voice

Duration: 9 minutes
Composed: 2013
Score for oboe, dynamic score for voice


Video audio

Kärestans död piece is based on an old Swedish ballad about a man returning home to find out about the death of his betrothed. This song has been collected in several hundred versions, some dating back to the early 1800’s (some with, but most without transcriptions of the accompanying melodies).

I used 5 different versions (all different renditions of version 133), creating a dynamic program that randomly picks syllables/words from the different versions. However, every position in a line (12) and each line (I used 32 lines) is kept in the correct position and order. This way the generated lines are never complete nonsense, but straddle the border between coherence and incoherence. These vocal lines are generated live during the performance of the piece, but they are the only instructions to the singer, who has to improvise each line in terms of melody, rhythm, etc.

The oboe part is scored using one of the transcribed melodies of version 133. But instead of carefully arranging the oboe part, I use fragments of the melody and create three parallel parts, leaving the oboist with the decisions as to when and how to skip between the parts. The idea is that this is a process in many ways similar to the process that generates the vocal part.
This piece is another of my explorations of the use of encryption/decryption as a means to create music. It is also a commentary on the vast collection of fairly similar versions of the song. Whether taken from different performers or at times from the same performer, a song will slowly change. But the differences can be small and are basically at the discretion of performer. This version (always different at every performance) of the five related versions, reflects the idea that we when are dealing with oral ly transmitted music, there is no "true" version.