Linea d'ombra

by Magnus Lindberg

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Magnus Lindberg

Linea d'ombra

Edition Wilhelm Hansen


According to Lindberg himself, the idea behind Linea d’ombra is to create continua between various different means of producing sounds. The instrumental forces are not treated as an ensemble but as a macroinstrument, the harmonic spectra of which are put under the lens in the piece. The mode of progression could be likened to a strip-cartoon in which separated, still images are used to create an illusion of continuous movement. The complex rhythmic models in what is all in all a highly virtuoso work derive from the fragment of the text to be heard at the close. Truly an organic fusing of words and music!

© Risto Nieminen, 1986

(Finnish Music Quarterly 3/86)

The role played by the guitar in classical and romantic chamber music is predominantly accompanimental. In the music of the twentieth century, from Schoenberg on, it has been used increasingly as an independent and equal instrument in various instrumental contexts by Boulez, Carter and Donatoni for example.

At the extreme end of this development we find a work such as Magnus Lindberg’s Linea d’ombra for flute, clarinet, guitar and percussion, from 1981. In this piece the guitar is employed as part of the composer’s ‘macro-instrument’. He has declared his aim as wanting to achieve as perfect a continuum as possible between differing instrumental material on the one hand, and on the other between music and spoken phonetic elements. The virtuosic parts rush by at breakneck speed in their search for timbral continua, spintering at times into solo cadenzas or choruses of phonemes. As the end approaches the phonemes thicken, transrforming themselves into syllables and eventually into words. The words are taken from a verse of a poem in Italian from which the composer has also derived the work’s complex rhythmic formulae.

The guitar fits surprisingly well into this macro-instrument, itself some kind of outsized mixer-blender. Dynamic balance can be achieved even without amplifying the instrument in spite of the apparent disparity between the instruments in the ensemble.

Lindberg makes ample use of the guitar’s fingerboard, strings, the fingers, the player’s voice (and occasionally nerves) in order to accomplish his goals. His chords are often massive and in difficult positions. Runs are fast and interspersed with jagged jumps. Typical of the synchronisation problems is the section at bars 102–111 where consecutive and simultaneous phonemes, tremolos, glissandi, trills, Bartók-pizzicati and percussive effects are all to be found together. In the ever more intensive run up to the conclusion of the work, the overall sonority opens up into what one can only describe as a dazzling ice-crystal-like radiance. The density of the musical gestures and events has been taken to its extreme and by the same token stretches the guitarist’s abilities to the limit (particularly demanding are the left hand’s runs back and forth on the fingerboard).

None of the above description is intended in any way to discourage prospective players (or any one else) from taking an interest in this work Quite the opposite; Linea d’ombra is just the kind of new music which guitarists are looking out for. The technical difficulties are not directed towards showing off technical facilities or virtuosity for its own sake, but rather the result of a clear design and the demands of the ‘macroinstrument’. Each one or the four players has to be constantly alert – almost on edge (...isterico, ma fantastico, energico e meccanico, coma una macchina...). The subtle congealing ofthe musical material and transformation from phonemes into words makes itself evident towards the end as three players gather around a tam-tam and start to knock, scrape, hit and finally whisper the words of the poem out loud. For the players this act is amazingly liberating. They have in a sense played their instrument ‘into bits’; nothing remains to be played in the way of instrumental sounds, but the human voice still remains.

If guitarists have a tendency towards introversion in their means of expression the reasons might be found in the character of instrument and the limited possibilities for social music-making. If one is looking for medicine for this malaise, Linea d’ombra must surely be the right one.

© Esko Virtanen, 1991

(From the Article “Tutte le corde. The Classical Guitar in Finnish Music”. Finnish Music Quarterly 1/91)

Linea d’ombra (‘Boundary of Shadow’) is dated Rome, August 23, 1981 , the same year as Tartuffe, je crois. This work was written for the Cluster ensemble, like all Finnish works written for the eccentric assembly of flute, saxophone, guitar and percussion. [...] Lindberg has said that he aimed at using the instruments as a single macro-instrument rather than as four individual ones. Four such diverse instruments striving towards harmony produces naturally rich and untypical colours and sounds. The instruments also have solo passages. Actually, there is a fifth instrument, the human voice, since the players are required to utter sounds and, ultimately, words. The voices blend into the multi-faceted world of the work and extend the sound games of the instruments.

Linea d’ombra is constructed of the dramaturgy of abrupt turns, rapidly emerging and quickly extinguished bursts. The type of ensemble alone provides a lucid and colourful sound, and in the climaxing section towards the end the sound world seems even excessively rich. The disjointed human sounds coalesce into words which, in turn, are extracts from a line of poetry in Italian: “Sorridi, sospira, sospendi la morte, giura che un melo si freddo dà fiori sta sera.” (“Laugh, sigh, keep Death away, for the cold apple tree will bloom tonight.”)

© Kimmo Korhonen, 1992

(Finlandia Records 500332, 1992)

(translated by © Jaakko Mäntyjärvi)

Linea d’ombra (Varjon raja) on päivätty valmistuneeksi Roomassa 23. elokuuta 1981, samana vuonna kuin Tartuffe, je crois. Teos on sävelletty suomalaiselle Cluster-yhtyeelle niin kuin kaikki samalle erikoiselle huilun, saksofonin, kitaran ja lyömäsoittimien ryhmälle tehdyt suomalaiset sävellykset. [...] Lindberg on huomauttanut pyrkineensä käyttämään soittimia enemmän yhtenä makroinstrumenttina kuin neljänä erillisenä soittimena. Neljän näinkin erilaisen soittimen pyrkimys kohti yhtenäistä ilmaisua tuottaa kuin luonnostaan rikkaita ja soittimille epätavallisia värejä ja sointeja. Lisäksi soittimilla on myös omia soolojaksoja. Oikeastaan mukana on viideskin instrumentti, ihmisääni, sillä soittajien on myös lausuttava teoksessa yksittäisiä äänteitä ja lopulta kokonaisia sanoja. Ihmisäänteet sulautuvat saumatta teoksen moniulotteiseen maailmaan ja muodostavat jatkeen soittimien sointileikeille.

Linea d’ombra rakentuu äkillisten käänteiden, nopeasti syttyvien ja sammuvien purkausten dramaturgialle. Sointikuva on jo soitinkokoonpanon vuoksi läpikuultava ja värikäs, loppupuolen huipentavassa jaksossa suorastaan tuhlailevan rikas. Lopussa irralliset lausutut äänteet tiivistyvät sanoiksi. Teoksessa käytetyt ihmisäänteet pohjautuvat italiankieliseen runosäkeeseen ”Sorridi, sospira, sospendi la morte, giura che un melo si freddo dà fiori stasera” (”Naura, huokaa, pidä kuolema loitolla, tiedä että kylmyyden omenapuu kukkii illalla”).

© Kimmo Korhonen, 1992

(Finlandia Records 500332, 1992)

Although he had some difficulties writing pieces including a singing voice, Lindberg did not abandon spoken texts. Tartuffe, je crois had already contained a few sentences spoken by the musicians. In Linea d'ombra (Line of shadow), an extract from a poem written in Italian by Walter Valeri provides the rhythmic values for the instrumental writing. At the end of the piece a quotation is included: "Sorridi, sospira, sospendi la morte, giura che un melo di freddo dà fiori stasera" (Laugh, sigh, defes death, but be warned that the apple tree of cold will bloom tonight).

Lindberg was awarded his diploma from the Sibelius Academy in May 1981 and spent the summer in Rome composing Linea d'ombra. It was, then, the first piece he had written without being 'supervised' by a professor. "This new freedom definitely influenced the composition of this piece", wrote the composer in the accompanying text.

The specific instrumentation of the first version was chosen with the Finnish group Cluster in mind, who had requested the piece but never in fact played it. The music is complex, virtuoso, and foreshadows some aspects which only became apparent later with Action - situation - signification or Kraft. It was performed in Paris on 23 May 1986 by the 2e2m ensemble, conducted by Georges-Elie Octors.

© Risto Nieminen, 1993

translated by © Nick Le Quesne

© Ircam - Centre Georges-Pompidou, 1993

(From Magnus Lindberg, Helsinki 1996)

Bien qu'il ait eu quelques difficultés à écrire des pièces incluant une voix chantée, Lindberg n'a pas abandonné le texte parlé. Dans ... de Tartuffe, je crois, il y avait déjà quelques phrases prononcées par les musiciens. Dans Linea d'ombra (Ligne de l'ombre), un extrait d'un poème en italien de Walter Valeri donne les valeurs rythmiques de l'écriture instrumentale et, à la fin de la pièce, est intégrée une citation : «Sorridi, sospira, sospendi la morte, giura che un melo di freddo dà fiori stasera» (Ris, soupire, suspend la mort, sache que le pommier de froid fleurira ce soir). Lindberg a reçu son diplôme de l'académie Sibelius en mai 1981 et a passé l'été à Rome à composer Linea d'ombra. Ainsi, c'est la première pièce qu'il ait écrite sans «surveillance» d'un professeur. «Cette nouvelle liberté a certainement influé sur la composition de cette pièce», écrivit le compositeur dans la notice de présentation.

L'instrumentation particulière de la première version était prévue à l'intention de la formation finlandaise Cluster, qui avait demandé la pièce mais ne l'a jamais jouée. La musique est complexe, virtuose, et laisse présager certains des aspects qui ne sont devenus apparents que plus tard dans Action - situation - signification ou Kraft. L'ensemble 2e2m l'a interprétée à Paris, le 23 mai 1986, sous la direction de Georges-Elie Octors.

© Risto Nieminen, 1993

© Ircam - Centre Georges-Pompidou, 1993

(From Magnus Lindberg, Ircam 1993)


fl, asax, guit, perc


Chamber Works


Ensemble Musica nel nostro tempo, Milan, March 17, 1983.

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