Spiral motion in time and space

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

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