Site-specific “Kraftiness”

Magnus Lindberg’s important early opus Kraft received its long-belated NY premiere this past week. While the requirements for the piece itself – a large orchestra, massive percussion section, antiphonal spatializing, electronics, amplification, and several soloists – are daunting enough to make the piece a logistically challenging one to present, Lindberg goes still further to personalize its requirements. He stipulates that the percussion section use found materials from a local junkyard in their performance of the work, thereby locating each performance and making it a site-specific entity.

Here’s a video of the NYPO’s percussionists going on a scavenger hunt with Lindberg in preparation for the NY performances of Kraft.

This type of piece personalization makes each orchestra’s rendering of the work a unique experience; but it’s also curtailed the number of organizations who have, to date, presented Kraft.

Kraft, and other pieces with daunting requirements, raise certain aesthetic questions for composers. Is it important for each performance of a new piece to have a sense of personalization? Should composers strive to think big, even if it means that they’ll get less performances as a result? Or is a more portable and utilitarian view preferable?

Of course, one can make strong a case for both options and many variations in between. Lindberg himself has composed works which are far more easily programmed than Kraft!

But the piece does throw down a gauntlet. Composers: are you willing to wait years for performances of your music if that’s what making highly personal work requires? Or do you prefer getting your music out into the world right away and thus favor more practical solutions?


David Smooke has more on his blog at NMB:

4 thoughts on “Site-specific “Kraftiness”

  1. As a long-time subscriber to the New York Philharmonic, I was there last Wednesday night. I thought this ‘noise’ I am not educated in music enough to recognise it as music, was HORRIBLE. Yes, I am a senior citizen but interestingly enough, one of the board members of the NYPhil, I will not say who, was seated next to me for the first half, and he left at intermission and never returned for Kraft. Good for him!

  2. At Friday night’s performance, I saw many people who, like Ms. Chapman, looked like they would rather have been elsewhere. I must admit to chuckling at the spectacle of the philharmonic percussionists mingling with fleeing patrons as they (the percussionists) moved from position to position in the hall. Although I didn’t find the piece “horrible,” the sounds were too undifferentiated for my taste. The large percussion component was dominated by junkyard metal instruments and was playing practically the whole time. I would have wished for more diversity of sound color, even within that component of instruments. Maybe the piece sounds better with Helsinki junk.

  3. I must add: Kudos to Alan Gilbert for putting on an elaborate (and controversial) piece like this. It was a fascinating evening.

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