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?

5 Responses to “Site-specific “Kraftiness””
  1. Christian says:

    David Smooke takes up this question again at NMB:

  2. Smooke says:

    Yes. I raise the question again because to me the answer is very clear–I’d much rather create (and enjoy) art that stretches beyond the limits of the probable. Even when that transcendent quality necessitates fewer interactions with it, I find these interactions to be more nourishing.
    - David

  3. Christian says:

    As a listener, I agree. As a composer, this is an issue I’m thinking about a fair bit.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to build a career as a composer of one-off events. Too many hybrid ensemble works get a premiere and then no subsequent hearings.

    My own penchant for unconventional forces (orchestra+ live locomotive, singing cellist, singing violist) has allowed me to create a body of work that I find engaging. But it doesn’t always lend itself to easy programming or multiple interpretations. My sense is that it’s worth the wait, but … I’m thinking about writing a piano sonata. Unless LotUS wants a piece …


  4. Jim Klosty says:

    Christian, would you let me have your email address? I want to ask you to write something for a book I’m working on.

    Jim K

  5. Sure Jim. You can contact via the “email me” link on my blog: Let me know if you can’t find it.