Although conservatory-trained, Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür was also much influenced by the progressive rock of the late ’70s and early ’80s, bands such as Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson. For four years he had his own band, In Spes, which fused prog rock with elements of Renaissance and Baroque music. After graduating from the Tallinn Conservatory, Tüür became interested in minimalism, and then in the 1990s, serial techniques.
“My work as a composer is entirely concerned with the relation between emotional and intellectual energy and the ways in which they can be channeled, accumulated, liquidated, and re-accumulated,” Tüür writes. “My pieces are abstract dramas in sound, with characters and an extremely dynamic chain of events; they unfold in a space that is constantly shifting, expanding, and contracting, not so much like a mosaic, but rather in the manner of a block of sculpture. I am very interested in a combination of opposites – tonality versus atonality, regular repetitive rhythms versus irregular complex rhythms, tranquil meditativeness versus explosive theatrics – and especially in the way they change from one to another.”
Seven, mostly unrelated, Architectonics pieces were composed by Tüür between 1984 and 1992. The third in the series, “postmetaminimal dream,” was written in 1990 for the California EAR Unit. The ironic, multivalent subtitle notwithstanding, this is very direct and high-energy music, an aggressive expansion of the pitch ‘G’ that ends more or less where it began. The pianos and mallet percussion take an increasingly jazzy jaunt to a sort of polytonally ruffled G minor and a midway subsidence. After a fff jumpstart, the process begins again with renewed strength. The violin pushes its pattern into something like a medieval dance, which gets sucked into a whirling vortex of all the instruments in rhythmic, Andriessen-like unison, now in E minor. Other instruments – synthesizer and tom-toms particularly – come to the foreground, as this section also collapses. The music then nearly escapes harmonically in questing, rhythmically unmoored music, only to succumb to the gravitational pull of G.