‘Each Composition’s Own DNA’
Of course, I would come calling with questions just as the man is trying to put Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex on its feet at Croatia’s Rijecka Opera House — opening Friday if you’re in the area.
But composer Ville Matvejeff, among the busiest conductors and composers today, was gracious to a fault in handling our interview for the new Alba Recordsrelease of his gripping works Ad Astra and Crossroads.
Thanks to New York Public Radio’s Q2 Music from WQXR, you can listen as you read — there’s more about this fine release at Q2 Music’s coverage by Daniel Stephen Johnson for Album of the Week. Start at the beginning, if you will, with the Ad Astra. That’s where we begin our conversation.
And, speaking of the Stravinsky he’s conducting at Rijeka, I ask Matvejeff — 29 years old and a native Finn — a bit about his relationship to his homeland.
Ad Astra: ‘An extremely intense process’
Thought Catalog: Ville, are you based in Helsinki when not traveling? And are you ever not traveling?
Ville Matvejeff: Yes, I’m based in Helsinki, although I’m most of the time traveling to or from somewhere and my time at home is rather limited — less than half of the year. In the summertime I prefer to retreat to my family’s summer house in the Northern Karelia where I love to compose, so I’m really not spending that much time at all in Helsinki. On the other hand, I feel it’s important to have a base there — every one of us needs a place one can call home, and ever more so when one travels extensive amounts.
TC: In your album notes for your composition, Ad Astra, you write very movingly about the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s painting of the same name. You write: “I was walking round the Gyllenberg Art Museum in Helsinki when my eye was caught by a painting above one of the archways: a naked young woman with golden hair gazing into the heights.” We know that Gallen-Kallela saw this painting as a resurrection. In your bracing, expansive work, are we hearing an expression of personal resurrection for you?
VM: I could say that there are always some personal motives and reasons for writing certain type of music, but I prefer not to refer to them too much, as I feel they’re my private matters. Maybe biographers and researchers can try to connect these points after I’ve left this world, but I think it’s my own world and, on the other hand, the music shall always speak for itself.
Also, I feel that even if I had some personal thoughts or experiences behind some music, and as much as the audience might want to hear about them, it might limit too much the listener’s evolving relationship to the piece — each one of us can experience the musical visions and the expressions it creates in very different ways.
But it is of course clear that, as Gallen-Kallela himself states about his painting with the same title, the theme of resurrection — whether referring to Christ or a personal resurrection — has been of great inspiration while writing this piece. On the other hand, I would say that as a composer, completion of each piece somehow symbolizes a process of resurrection as creating a new piece is always an extremely intense process with lots of “sweat and tears.”
TC: Yes, it’s easy for many authors who read Music for Writers, of course, to identify with the creation of such work as wrenching — a resurrection of sorts at the end of a that intense struggle. Well said. Does the Ad Astra have any programmatic concept to it? Does the wonderful, foreboding opening, for example — with so much menacing sound in the bassoon and bass — start us in the depths of an experience of suffering, to then be transfigured?
However, eventually these metaphors and sources of inspiration lay in the background as they only set the frame for my work, and as I start writing, the piece itself usually always starts to tell me how it organically wants to develop, and I feel it’s very important to follow each new composition’s own DNA.VM: I was thinking about certain metaphors while writing Ad Astra: Firstly, the transfiguration from dark colours to bright ones, from profound soundscapes to luminosity. Secondly, the certain type of mysticism as well as audio-visual impressions related to certain moments of an Orthodox Easter Mass. I’ve even included and rewritten some generic, imaginative fragments of Byzantine melodies typically sung in those worships. And thirdly, the painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
Therefore, there’s not that much of a programmatic concept in the ending result. You could rather call it a collage of different programmatic or non-programmatic elements that eventually, through the writing process, blend into a larger entity that eventually becomes the piece. Of course, in vocal or stage music with text, the case of programmatic presence might and usually will be different.
There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog
By Porter Anderson
Writing on the Ether: Music For Writers: Ville Matvejeff’s ‘Resurrections’
Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com