Stjärnenatten (Starry Night) (2017)

TTBB (multiple divisi, soli)
(text: Edith Södergran – in Swedish)
10 min.

Stars figure prominently as an image in many of my works to date, so it was quite natural, when asked to write a piece for a Swedish-speaking choir, that I should gravitate quickly toward the poetry of the visionary early Finnish modernist Edith Södergran. Stars are practically a leitmotif throughout her work, and it became impossible to choose a single text to set. Rather, I wove together a series of powerful lines relating to stars from four different poems to provide the basis for a symphonic poem of sorts for male choir. Stars for Södergran are at the same time objects of wonder and fear, symbols of discovery, of holiness, or dark omens of encroaching discord. The vastnesses of space between them can be a metaphor for the self-isolation and narcissism of individuals in Södergran’s writings, and in the next breath stars become a portent of a new dawning awareness. As such, Stärnenatten is full of contradictions. Stars rise and fall, wheel about, voices cry out in anguish and soothe one another. The canvas is painted with a whole world of nocturnal sounds, from the opening drone music through chorale-style invocations to the stars, like a religious rite under the open night sky, ending in a quiet, rapt awakening before a long-awaited dawn.

Stjärnenatten was commissioned by the Akademiska Sångföreningen male choir and their conductor, Kari Turunen, for the choir’s 180th anniversary, and is dedicated to them.