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WAVES II-b for Ensemble by Maja S. K. Ratkje (Norway, 1973)

[#198] May 08, 2023

1997 | Wind Ensemble | Grade 6 | 5'-10' | Use of electronic instruments


Norwegian composer and performing artist Maja Ratkje
Credit: Ellen Lande Gossner

Waves II-b, by Norwegian composer and performing artist Maja Ratkje is our Composition of the Week.

Waves II-b is based upon earlier versions, Waves I and Waves II, both first performed by the Dutch ensemble “de Ereprijs” in 1997 and 1998.

Waves II-b was premiered at the Oslo Chamber Music Festival in 1998 by the Oslo Sinfonietta, with Christian Eggen conducting.


“Waves of sound, water or light behave similarly. Waves move through a substance with a certain frequency or energy. Waves interfere with each other, and new structures are shown. The combination of frequencies gives every sound a unique audible quality.


Waves II-b is an expressive piece of music. An analysis of a sound source was the point of departure. The object of interest was a saxophone tone spectrum caused by playing the deepest note on the horn with a sound commonly used in jazz music. This analysis has already resulted in many pieces. (Sinus Seduction (moods two) for tenor sax, four speakers and reverb, among others.)

[In Waves II-b], the 29 tone chords are transposed on every step in the 29-tone scale to make a harmonic palette for the piece. The progression through the chords happens in up to three layers at the same time. Symbolically, the piece climbs out of its frames at the end, and the instruments are not able to fulfil the tasks the calculations require. The “human” aspect is also shown through the choice of estimating the pitches to the closest quarter tone. With this piece, the composer won the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris 1999 for composers less than 30 years, which means that the piece will be broadcast in more than 30 countries during 1999/2000. She also received the Norwegian Edvard price (work of the year) for this piece.” (Program Note by Maja Ratkje)

The work has a duration of around 9 minutes. It is available at Wise Music Classical.

Waves II-b is scored for:


2 flutes (doubling 2 piccolo flutes) 1 Bb Clarinet – 1 Bass Clarinet 1 Soprano Saxophone – 1 Alto Saxophone 1 Soprano Saxophone – 1 Baritone Saxophone (both tuned one quartertone up) 1 Bb Trumpet – 1 Horn in F 2 Trombones – 1 Tuba 1 Electric Guitar (tuned a quartertone up, with volume control pedal) 1 Electric Bass Guitar (preferably fretless with 5 or 6 strings. With bottleneck) 1 Piano/Synth (pre-programmed) 1 Percussion (includes vibraphone, woodblock, BD, SD, Timpani, Tam-Tam, Tom-Toms, hanging metal objects, low pitch metal object (preferably an oilcan).


The performing composer Maja S. K. Ratkje is at the forefront of the musical avant-garde. Despite its boldness and originality, her music is meant for sharing. At its heart lies Ratkje’s own voice, an open door to her individual musicianship and a constant tool for realigning her work with natural expressions and human truths.


Karlheinz Stockhausen, Olivier Messiaen and Arne Nordheim all tantalized Ratkje during her studies. She played in a gamelan ensemble, worked with the experimental percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love and joined the ensemble SPUNK as a vocalist, a move that would have a lasting impact on her day-to-day creativity.


Ratkje’s exploration of her own voice’s timbral properties led to its involvement in the compositional process. In 2002, she released the album Voice, a catalogue of previously unexplored vocal production techniques fused with electronics that was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica. Ratkje’s exploration of the voice as an instrument came to maturity in Concerto for Voice (2004), commissioned by Radio France.


Ratkje’s music frequently involves stark contrasts, more often in the delivery of balance and kinetic action than in the creation of shock or effect. Her ability to hold disparate materials in her grasp is as apparent as her care and restraint with that material. ‘Form is the most important aspect of composition and the reason I consider myself a composer,’ Ratkje once said.

While many of Ratkje’s scores are notated, many stretch beyond the confines of traditional notation in aspiring to both greater precision and greater liberation. Some reveal her DNA as a performing and improvising musician; some ask performers to improvise or produce material themselves.


Her music has links her to Norwegian identity and politics (Ro-Uro, 2014), to her beloved Japanese culture (gagaku variations, 2002), to children under the age of three (Høyt oppe i fjellet, 2011) and to instruments as varied as the viol consort (River Mouth Echoes, 2008) and the world’s largest mobile horn speaker system (Desibel, 2009).


Ratkje was the inaugural winner of the Arne Nordheim Prize and was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2013. She has been Composer-In-Residence at numerous institutions and festivals, has contributed to well in excess of 100 albums and has written music for dance, radio plays and gallery installations. She is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.


Andrew Mellor, 2018

 

Other works for winds include:

  • 69 Marching bars of leftovers from an old century (1999)

  • Waves I (1997)

  • Waves II (1997)

  • Where were you when they cut me down from the gallows? For Brass and electric guitar (2011)


More on Maja Ratkje https://ratkje.no

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