Rose Wars – Grieg vs Stravinsky vs Goethe vs Piazzolla. A performance for Festpillene i Bergen, part of their Masterpiece Revisited series.
The performance uses the song “Zur Rosenzeit” by Edvard Grieg as a base for telling the musical story of four rivals fighting each other; Edvard Grieg, Igor Stravinsky, Astor Piazolla, Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe. They all want romance. They are connected by a rose. The work references and incorporates Zur Rosenzeit, The Spring Rite, Wehmut and multiple works of Astor Piazzolla.
The performance uses the song “Zur Rosenzeit” by Edvard Grieg as a base for telling the musical story of four rivals fighting each other; Edvard Grieg, Igor Stravinsky, Astor Piazolla, Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe. They all want romance. They are connected by a rose. They will fight to the death.
The song by Grieg is is based on the poem “Wehmut” by Goethe. The poem is horribly yucky romantic. The Grieg song is great. It is written for piano and voice. Which is boring. I took multiple recordings of the Spring Rite by Stravinsky and with digital tools remodeled them into a upgraded version of the Grieg song. This was a lot of work and impossible to explain in text. It sounds like this, here is the whole musical backdrop.
Then, I built expressive fighting-instruments for each character, to be performed by separate Nintendo Wii controllers, so I could play characters against each other, multiple at the same time.
Edvard Grieg – very few people know this – was a Jedi. His part was performed with a melodic light-saber. A Wii controller worked as a sonic version of a light-saber, with a setup for multiple sounds and directions manipulating these sounds. I trigger notes and handle dynamics, expressions, timing. The computer handles pitch. I had to re-write parts of the melody to work with the light-saber, it doesn’t like moving to far from the root note.
Turns out, Igor Stravinsky also had a secret. He was a Frozen Lava Jade Sword master. His Wii controller works similarly to Grieg’s, just with kung-fu sword sounds and cutting-wind effects. It was a bit of work to get a sword sound into functional musical pitches, but a stretched swoosh worked pretty well and contrasted the dark electric sound of Grieg’s lightsaber nicely.
Astor Piazolla was a great tango composer and also a performer of the bandoneon. I went through all of Piazolla’s recordings and extracted every single monophonic bandoneon tone of his. With these, I reconstructed a playable Wii bandoneon, where every triggered tone within the various expressions like staccato legato etc are randomly picked from all of Piazolla’s catalogue. A Franken-zolla. The Wii instrument could be played similarly to Grieg’s and Stravinsky’s, with me triggering notes, expressions and effects, with the computer handling pitches.
For Goethe, and his romantic rose-neurotics, I used multiple handheld rose petal cannons, like they have in weddings.
The four character then musically battled each other. Grieg knocks out Stravinsky with his saber in round one. Goethe shoots Piazolla in round two. Winners pick up their opponents weapons, so in the finale it’s Grieg with light-saber and jade-sword versus Goethe with a rose cannon and Wii-bandoneon. FIGHT.
There is a full video of the performance including a ten minute introduction (in Norwegian) where I talk about the production and development with Erik Fossen, with sound examples and musical demonstrations. Then the full performance. Gets a bit dark during the intense final battle scenes.