Mp3 Blog #76: Jardins Secrets

Kaija Saariaho:
”Jardin Secret I” (1984-85)
For tape
Available on this compact disc at emusic

”Jardin Secret II” (1984-86)
For harpsichord and tape
Performed by Vivienne Spiteri
Currently unavailable commercially

”Nymphéa (Jardin Secret III)” (1987)
For string quartet and tape
Performed by the Kronos Quartet
Available on this compact disc

* * * * *

Kaija Saariaho is arguably one of the most prolific and successful Post-Spectral composers. Like many of the other composers in this generation her music broadens the initial experiments into harmony/timbre the 1970’s by spectral composers like Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail with various structural and more traditional melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic techniques.

The three pieces in Kaija Saariaho’s “Jardin Secret” cycle are unified by an interest in combining harmony with timbre primarily by means of a unified technique of expansion and contraction. The esthetic approach in “Jardin Secret I” harkens back her earlier pivotal first work for computer “Vers le blanc” where she “sought to create the illusion of bodiless, eternal, and ‘unbreathing’ voice whose timbre changes continuosly…”
In “Jardin Secret I” this approach is accomplished with sounds that are only created digitally.

In “Jardin Secret II” this approach is expanded with the concréte sounds of a harpsichord and her own breath. The focus then becomes the interaction that leads to a new hybrid instrumental harmony/timbre between the live harpsichord and the prerecorded tape.

“Nymphéa (Jardin Secret III)” is the last work in this cycle and you may also notice that it is yet another string quartet that I am posting. In this work the harmonic/timbral materials are mostly taken from a spectral analysis of a cello transitioning between “pitch” and “noise.” Formally Kaija Saariaho organizes this material following her model of a “timbral axis” that moves from purely deterministic pitch (such as in a sine wave) to the completely indeterministic white noise. This cohesive and well-thought out approach helps this work become arguably the most fully developed and sophisticated work in this fine trilogy.

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