Windflower (2020)

11 min.

The slow-moving changes between seasons at Nordic latitudes have always been an object of great musical fascination to me, especially the long, almost grudging progression from winter to spring. One of the clearest signs of spring in southern Finland is the blooming of the anemone nemorosa, or wood anemone, known more poetically as the windflower. One of the first wildflowers to appear as winter’s hold finally releases, they soon cover the sunny patches of the otherwise bare forest floor with their delicate white blossoms, bringing with them all manner of new life. When asked for a solo piece by harpist Vuokko Ahtila, whose first name is the Finnish word for this flower, I knew immediately what to call it.

The music starts hesitantly, with static, whirling figurations around chromatic pitch groups, as if resisting the harp’s more traditionally euphonious idiom. Gestures start out angular and dissonant, volatile, the quality of light veering between muted grey and piercing paleness. The atmosphere throughout is one of suspended flow. Very gradually, the material “thaws”, slowly ceding to the instrument’s nature as it becomes warmer and more diatonic, eventually flowering into a carpet of sound reaching off into the distance.

Windflower was commissioned by Vuokko Ahtila with the assistance of the Teosto commissioning fund, and is dedicated to her.