This part of the article focuses on how Cendres has been influential to my music.
After listening to Cendres I knew that this was the type of piece that I wanted to compose. When I was finished with the piano piece I was composing, I began to think about this Cendres-influenced piece. I checked out a copy of the score from the university library and began to study this piece.
The primary focus of Cendres is timbral. This means that texture and tone color are as important as harmony and themes. After figuring out some of the primary techniques Saariaho employs to create her sound world, I began to think about how I could use these techniques in my music and make it my own. Breath tones in the flute and vertical motion of the cello bow (up and down the strings rather than just across them) were two of the techniques that really stood out to me.
The piece I composed that was inspired by Cendres was Off you go… for flute, cello and percussion. I used a similar instrumentation to that ofCendres which was alto flute, cello and piano. I opted to use percussion rather than piano because of the large palette of sound available with percussion instruments. The three primary percussion instruments I chose to use were vibraphone, suspended cymbal and brake drums. The vibraphone was a logical choice as there are a few different ways to play the instrument. These ways include with mallets, with a bass bow on the edge of the tone bars or with the hands. Also this instrument can sustain pitches like a piano.
Inspired by Saariaho’s exploration of the instruments she used I looked at some extended techniques for some of the percussion instruments. I found that using a bass bow on the edge of the tone bars on the vibraphone creates a thin, sustained sound which complements the flute and cello tones.
The gradual unfolding of the harmonic language is another aspect ofCendres that I wanted to explore in my piece. This was accomplished by using the extended techniques. By changing the way in which the tone is played the sound will be different while the pitch stays the same.
Listening to and studying this piece has given me tools that I have used in my piece Off you go… and still use today. This is one of the pieces that has really helped me to develop my compositional voice and one that I think deserves the label: Modern Masterwork.