Emergence (US premiere)
Composed: 2011; 2014/2016
Length: c. 15 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (2nd & 3rd = piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd = English horn), 3 clarinets (3rd = bass clarinet), 3 bassoons (3rd = contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (vibraphone, floor tom, cymbals, suspended cymbal, tubular bells, ratchet, glockenspiel, bass drums, marimba, xylophone, wooden box, small tuned gongs, temple blocks, tam-tam, crotales, anvil, bellow, snare drum), harp, piano, and strings
First LA Phil performance (U.S. premiere)
Emergence, Richard Whitehouse wrote in his Gramophone review of Bjarnason’s recording with the Reykjavík Sinfonia, is “a triptych in which the musical substance comes into focus via an amalgam of minimalist gestures and long-term harmonic planes, scored with a fastidiousness that those familiar with Bjarnason’s string arrangements on the last two albums by Sigur Rós will recognize as a personal trait.”
“Silence” is a rather paradoxical title for a movement as richly and rhetorically sonorous as Bjarnason’s opening, which sets a soundstage – to misuse an audiophile term – urgent with implications and possibilities. “Black Breathing,” suggested by the hissing sound of the strings, is glittering, push-pull cinematic music. “Emergence” makes explicit this pattern of great sonic blocks emerging from expectant quiet. There is a palpable sense of grandeur to these shimmering, sometimes shivering masses and a feeling of vast energies just barely contained yet expanding with great purpose and strength.