Everybody knows about Pictures at an Exhibition. When will we get to hear Books on a Bookshelf?
A local bookseller and a very dear friend of mine pitched me this idea several years ago – half in jest, half in earnest – and has reminded me of it every once in a while since. Far from simply an unconsidered suggestion from someone with little interest och understanding of music or art, my dear friend’s original elaboration on this concept made it clear to me that it was something he had dwelled on for a while.
My friend was inspired, obviously, by the famous piano suite by Russian 19th century master Modest Mussorgsky. He didn’t suggest any particular books to me, though, or detail suggestions on duration or structure but – emphatically – suggest the idea.
I secretly took this idea, this embryo, to heart and pondered it off and on over the years. I did give it serious thought on a few occasions, but never came up with anything substatial enough to start working on. The turning point came when another friend of mine approached me in January and commissioned a new work to be premiered this summer, a septet scored for the same instruments as Beethoven’s (which is set to be performed at the same concert).
After a few weeks of mulling over the commission, it struck me as if out of nowhere: this is going to become that book piece. I had a few short ideas already that on the one hand were an awkward fit, but on the other were too good to simply throw away. This idea would allow me to use all of these disparate ideas. (Making sure that the movements fit together anyway could become a problem later on, but why worry about that now?) I officially started working on the suite on March 9th and am proud to announce that it will be finished later this week. And I dare say that the movements do fit.
Six different books are featured in this work, picked from my own bookshelf, naturally. I wanted to make a varied and interesting selection that also felt representative of me in some way. Six books comes nowhere near a nuanced or exhaustive illustration of my reading habits, and there is also the matter of fitting the books with music – and fitting the music together in a cohesive enough whole.
There’s obviously much more to tell about this new work of mine, but I will leave that to another post.