Interview · Mads Emil Dreyer

2021-05-26
On 27 May, Athelas Sinfonietta will premiere Mads Emil Dreyer’s ‘Miniature 3’. We asked him a few questions about the work.

Mads Emil Dreyer. Photo: David Stjernholm

How would you describe the piece ‘Miniature 3’?

It is a piece for sinfonietta, in which I try out a technique of incorporating electronic sound in an acoustic context. I have placed small surface transducers, which are a type of loudspeaker component, on two miniature glockenspiels and five string instruments. The percussionists play the glockenspiels and, together with the pianist, also three MIDI keyboards that send electronic sine waves through the transducers and in that way turns the glockenspiels and string instruments into small loudspeakers. One might say that this technique is an attempt at hacking the acoustic instruments and extending their natural timbre in a more electronic direction. 

This is actually the third work in a series in which I experiment with transducers on small miniature instruments. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, the two previous pieces have not yet been premiered, so this is the first time that I’ll get the opportunity to hear for myself how this idea actually works.

What role do the electronics play in the expression of the piece and in your compositional process?

Besides being an essential part of the actual sound-picture, the electronic sound is present as an underlying timbral ideal that has shaped the way the acoustic instruments sound. The instruments with transducers mounted on them play in unison with the sine waves transmitted through them. The strings only play harmonics and the glockenspiels are played with rubber mallets, eliminating most of the attack. The acoustic and electronic sounds overlap in a way that makes it hard to tell one from the other. Actually, the acoustic sounds move much closer to the electronic domain of the sine waves.

How have you worked with the sinfonietta format?

I haven’t taken the sinfonietta format as a genre or tradition into consideration. The piece is developed from a rather electronic premise, so a large part of the compositional process with the acoustic instruments has consisted in cutting away timbral possibilities in order to focus the music as closely as possible around the electronic sound.

The two percussionists play ostinatos and small melodic fragments throughout the piece, so in a way, they are the ones holding it all together, but apart from that, there is a very flat non-hierarchical relation among the instruments. Every musician plays very silently and straightforwardly, and except for the percussionists, they play either long, stretched out tones or short staccato attacks, so they to a large extent act as small gears in a larger machine.

What do you hope the audience will experience, hearing your music?

From a musical point of view the piece is in many ways very simple. It consists of three shorter movements that are connected in different ways. There are some small melodic seeds that are turned and examined, and some very simple harmonic movements, but I don’t know if there is anything in particular that the audience should try to notice. I’m hoping that this way of integrating the acoustic and the electronic results in a sound world where the distinction between the two sources of sound is blurred or maybe, in one sense or another, completely erased.

Mads Emil Dreyer: Miniature 3
Performed by Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen
27 May, 19:30
The concert hall at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen (DK)
The concert will be broadcast live at DR P2, P2 Koncerten >>

Read the score for Miniature 3 here >>
Find more information about the concert here >>

NEWS & EVENTS