Simon Steen-Andersen (1976)

On And Off And To And Fro (2008)

for three instruments and three players with megaphones

  • General information
    • Composition date: 2008
    • Duration: 15 mn
    • Publisher: Edition·S
    • Commission: IMD, Darmstadt 2008
    • Dedication: aux Duffies
Detailed formation
  • soprano saxophone, vibraphone, double bass

Premiere information

  • Date: 17 July 2008

    Allemagne, Darmstadt, Orangerie, International Summer Course for New Music.


Installation sonore épidémique (chambre, rue et web).

Program note

The title of Simon’s portrait work, On And Off And To And Fro from 2008, encapsulates his music very well. The first part, "On and off" can be understood logically as the operation of the piece’s three megaphones, while the second part, "to and fro", refers to the motions which are at first only necessary to produce certain sounds, but which in the course of the piece become an independent theme - a sideways motion that is propagated through the ensemble. It begins as a trio - a saxophonist/clarinet, a cellist/double bass and a vibraphonist make small, focused, overlapping entries in a tight rhythmic, partly repetitive progression, passively amplified by the three megaphones, with a slightly distorted transistor radio sound as a result. But you can hear intense breathing alongside the notes of the instruments, and slowly the megaphones begin to react - to intervene in what they are amplifying, with noise and feedback sounds - and finally they themselves become instruments. And before you know it the megaphones are playing through a pure siren cadenza while the acoustic instruments, which were actually the centre of attention, have temporarily disappeared. Many people will probably be amazed at how much music comes out of the three megaphones, in principle only created to speak through, while for example the cello must be content to take over the function of creating deep and heavy breathing sounds. Although there are great limitations in the rigorous concept, On And Off And To And Fro is very quickly transformed from megaphones and instruments separately into delicate music with fragile, clear sounds.