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On Commissioning

Jeffrey Holmes

26 February 2021 Comments Off on Jeffrey Holmes ‘Kaun (Kenaz)’ Première with Thierry Pécou & Ensemble Variances Views: 297 CE News

Jeffrey Holmes ‘Kaun (Kenaz)’ Première with Thierry Pécou & Ensemble Variances

Jeffrey Holmes Kaun (Kenaz) for 5 players will be premiered in Paris on Thursday 4 March by Thierry Pécou and Ensemble Variances, who commissioned the work.

The concert will be without an audience at Paris’ Salle Cortot with both audio and video recorded for livestream and later release.

Jeffrey tells us about the special connection between their life and music interests, and about this commission:

My recent commission from Ensemble Variances came about through a connection with Pierre Bibault (Ensemble Variances, Ensemble Intercontemporain). I have known Pierre for several years, and have previously composed pieces for him, so when Pierre became a regular member of Ensemble Variances, he told Thierry Pécou (Ensemble Variances founder and Artistic Director) about my music.

It turns out that Thierry and I have similar aesthetic pursuits. We both are searching for and inspired by imaginary primal worlds that we can never find, those of our past and also of our current consciousness and of our future…not as a recreation, but instead as an interpretation and as a living current and relevant expression. Thierry is pursuing a pre-Columbian America, his heredity, and I am pursuing a pre-Christian Scandinavia, my heredity.

Additionally, the vision of Ensemble Variances as dictated by Thierry is to “link the music of our time, with contemporary humanitarian and environmental issues”. My music is also inspired by and deeply rooted in the environment and natural phenomena and violent and dramatic landscapes.

So I believe this collaboration with Thierry and Ensemble Variances was destined to manifest. When Variances began planning a tour of North and South America for the 2021 season, the opportunity for me to write a new work for them had arrived.

Thierry Pécou, artistic director & piano – Ensemble Variances

Jeffrey also tells us about the piece and the inspiration behind it:

Kaun (Kenaz), for 5 players, takes its name from the Old Norse Runic symbol for the sound or letter ‘K’ (Proto-Germanic: Kaunan). This symbol has both linguistic as well as esoteric and mystical meanings, wherein various dualities are imbedded: torch and flame – ulcer and disease; knowledge and inspiration – destruction and decay; flame of cremation – transformation and transcendence, etc.

My choice of this concept and title for this work is directly tied to the period of time when I was composing Kaun (Kenaz), the summer and fall of 2020. My family and I live on the top of a mountain, surrounded by ancient forest and wild animals, and throughout the summer of 2020 we had a record heatwave and a record number of forest fires. There were days when ash was falling from the sky, days when the smoke was thick both to see and to breathe, and many periods of time when we were waiting to see if we needed to evacuate to escape the encroaching flames…hence the connection to the term “torch”. Additionally, 2020 was the year of the world- wide pandemic, the plague, the year of the disease (Covid-19). So within this seemingly apocalyptic time, both the image of the torch as positive inspiration and as negative anxiety were at the forefront of daily life.

The most obvious and engaging element of Kaun (Kenaz) is the dramatic and expressive flow of lyricism that evolves through various textures and registers, approaching and receding from violent and chaotic climaxes contrasted with moments of serenity.

The live Paris premiere will happen later in 2021 when concerts can resume with normal audiences. And there is a North and South America tour with Jeffrey’s piece confirmed for 2022.

Composers Edition is proud to present Kaun (Kenaz) available for perusal and purchase through our website, as well as other works by Jeffrey Holmes.

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