I’m spending the week here in Stockholm working with the wonderful Royal Stockholm Philharmonic for concerts as part of the Anders Hillborg festival. I am so impressed by this organization devoting a serious, two week long festival to a living, Swedish composer. Anders’ towering picture is hanging between the columns in the facade of the concert hall–exactly where a contemporary composer should be, but so rarely seen.
Anders’ music holds a special place for me in the lineage of composers working with popular music as source material–a legacy dating back from Mozart and Beethoven, through Stravinsky and Bartok, to our day with John Adams and Mason Bates. Hillborg draws specifically from the electronic music studio–but not the electronic music studio of Stockhausen–more the electronic studio of the Beatles and Brian Eno. There are numerous electronic effects that Hillborg translates into live instrumental techniques, like running a tape backwards as he does in his pieces, Eleven Gates, Cold Heat, and Kongsgaard Variations. Another source of inspiration is various delay effects as one hears in Peacock Tales and the Brass Quintet. But my all time favorite is what he calls “twisted spectra” where the attacks of notes are removed so that we are left with unplaceable waves of tone modeled after natural harmonic spectra but convoluted into unnatural forms. This is most amazingly applied in Cold Heat. When we played this for the first time in Wroclaw, a cellist from the orchestra who was listening to the concert told me that as he listened in disbelief–“I thought my head was melting!”