Jesper Nordin (1971)

Circe (2012)

concerto for percussion and ensemble

  • General information
    • Composition date: 2012
    • Duration: 22 mn
    • Publisher: Peters
    • Commission: Jean Geoffroy et l'Ensemble orchestral contemporain
Detailed formation
  • soloist: percussionist
  • flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussionist, piano, violin, second violin, viola, cello, double bass

Premiere information

  • Date: 16 March 2012

    France, Lyon, biennale Musiques en Scène


    Jean Geoffroy et l'Ensemble orchestral contemporain, direction : Daniel Kawka.

Program note

Circe was commissioned by EOC and GRAME for Jean Geoffroy and EOC with the help of the Helge Ax:son Johnson foundation in Sweden.

Even though this piece doesn’t contain electronics it was composed to a large extent with the help of digital tools. During the last few years I have programmed an environment in the computer where I can control the harmonic and rhythmic framework and then, using a pen on a digital drawing board, I can play freely within this framework and listen to the result while I play. This is the ultimate tool for me who has always searched for controlled freedom using improvisation in different ways. In this piece I took this idea one step further and let Jean Geoffroy generate the material within my framework using a Kinect motion sensor as input instead of the digital drawing board (this was done with the technical assistance of Christophe Lebreton). The result is that most of the music in the piece is in fact based on Jeans hand gestures. When we were working with this tool it felt like magic - Jean was waving his hands in the air and we listened to a full ensemble playing beautiful music! For me this was also fascinating since it let me work with material within my ordinary sound world that was shaped by someone else. We did extensive work with this tool and of course there was just a small percentage of it that actually was used in the final piece.

This is my second percussion concerto, and the first one from 2006 is named Moirai after the greek goddesses of fate. Therefore I searched for another greek goddess for the title of this piece and then I found Circe - the goddess of magic. A bonus to this name is that I have done what some analysts say that James Joyce did in the chapter Circe in his Ulysses, interpreted ”Circe” as a misspelling of ”circle” or ”cycle”. That is to say, I also work a lot with circles, loops and repetitions in this piece both in form and in material.

Jesper Nordin.