Tombeau pour New York

by Johan Tallgren

in memoriam Leif G. Tallgren

Empty sheet

Johan Tallgren

Tombeau pour New York

Music Finland


New York+New York = tombeau ou toute chose en provenance du tombeau

New York-New York = le soleil

New York plus New York equal a funeral.

New York minus New York equal the sun.


When I encountered for the first time in the late 1990s the name of Adonis's poem Tombeau pour New York (A Tomb for New York, 1971) I knew instantly that I wanted to write a piece with that title.

The Syrian poet Adonis's (Ali Ahmad Sa'id ) modern fantastic and surrealistic poetical language had already earlier impressed me. The main themes in his poetry - exile, identity, language, politics and religion - remain universal and challenging, seen from his unusual multicultural perspective.

Nevertheless it should be pointed out that my own Tombeau is not a musical interpretation of the poem. The first drafts and ideas for the piece orginated in 1998 when I studied in San Diego with Brian Ferneyhough. I returned to the material in December 2003 after having made a few changes in the ensemble as a point of departure for the current piece. When returning to the material at that point I very well realized that the implications of the title could in the aftermath of 9/11 be seen in many different lights. The piece is thus not a direct reflection around the horribilities of 2001 in NYC.

Perhaps the title in my interpretation should be more seen as a hommage to the diverse collisions between mythologies and ambiguities that the surrealistic pairing the capital of the 20th century New York and Tombeau could give rise to. Additionally I have often been attracted to the calm serenity and refinement of many pieces written in memoriam during the end of last century.

Behind the surface of the piece is a harmonic canonic matrix which designs how different harmonical things occur in the piece. Not very far away from the architectural urban crisscross of Manhattan with Avenues and Streets. We could say that each region or streetcorner in NYC has its own surface identity which might change at the next corner. When walking lazily around passing a landmark you think for a moment that you are at a certain corner before realizing it was a 'duplication' of the same landmarks (neon signs) more uptown.

The piece is dedicated in memoriam my father Leif. G. Tallgren who passed away in January of 1998.

© Johan Tallgren


1121 1210 02 1, pno+cel, 2vln, vla, 2vlc, db [pic+afl, ehn, bcl]


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


Ensemble Modern, cond. Alexander Adiarte, Frankfurt, Germany, October 3, 2004

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