Here is an orchestra spinning a gyre:
Helix (2005) is an exhilarating single-movement short orchestral work by Esa-Pekka Salonen (b. 1958) that traces the revolution of a conic helix. It starts slowly at the wide bottom of a cone and accelerates as it spirals to its top. The composer writes: “The process of Helix is basically that of a nine-minute accelerando.” The spiral metaphor of the title signifies that the material “is being pushed through constantly narrowing concentric circles until the music reaches a point where it has to stop as it has nowhere to go.”
I find it fascinating that the piece may be heard in several different ways, such as:
An ascending spiral moving rapidly towards the tip, its destination.
A spiral of moods, from the idyllic opening to the manic stop.
A celebratory overture opening a classical concert.
An exuberant piece heralding a new, exciting day.
An exploration of movement bursting into space.
A musical exercise in revolving acceleration.
A virtuosic revolution in time and place.
A contradictory combination of growing sonic expansion with pressure forced into an increasingly smaller space.
Above all, an activated creative “process” (Salonen) – not a static composition but an open-ended pulsating becoming that reaches its apex without ending.
It may also be just the gyrating motion in which the world looks and sounds to two great friends, a Finn (Salonen) and a Russian (Valery Gergiev), drinking vodkas in St. Petersburg the night the idea of the piece was conceived.
17 October 2019