Repertoire Search

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Foreign Bodies (2001)
commissioned by the Finnish Radio Corporation
Work Notes
dedicated to Jukka-Pekka Saraste Yantra - choreography by Wayne McGregor (2010)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Foreign Bodies (2001)
Foreign Bodies (2001) - programme note

“Foreign Bodies” shares some of the material of my recent piano piece“Mécanisme” (1st movement of “Dichotomie”) and a choral piece “Djupt i rummet” (Deep Within the Chamber). In addition, there is some completely new material, but basically the piece is a synthesis of all the thinking and new ideas I developed during my sabbatical year from conducting in 2000. I revised the score in the spring of 2002, after the first run of performances.

“Foreign Bodies” is scored for a very large orchestra; in fact the largest I have ever used with quadruple woodwinds, six horns, two harps, four percussionists and organ. For fairly obvious reasons, my thinking tends to be orchestral even when writing music for another medium, which makes it very natural to expand ideas in an orchestral context. I’m endlessly fascinated by the complexities of texture, balance, timbre and instrumental gesture; therefore the category “Kapellmeistermusik” has no pejorative meaning to me.

As the title “Foreign Bodies” suggests (it actually suggests lots of things), the music is very physical in expression, almost like an imaginary scène de ballet. The title also refers to the fact that I am less concerned about the purely cerebral aspects of music and more interested in the physical reality of the music, i.e. the sound itself, than before. Also, more than two decades of conducting have helped me to think in a simpler, more direct way than before.

“Foreign Bodies” consists of three movements:
Body Language

The first movement is essentially a study of mechanical motion. The music is often machine-like in its relentless movement. These machines are not watchmaker’s precision instruments but huge and extremely massive things that consume enormous amounts of energy. In the process of Body Language the machines sometimes become other machines through gradual transformation. Sometimes the motion changes suddenly and drastically, but mostly the new machines start growing inside the old one unnoticeably not unlike a virus or another foreign body within a host organism. The first movement ends peacefully however: a hymn-like theme is heard under gently pulsating strings.

The second movement, “Language” is base on a choral song I wrote to a poem by the Swedish poet Ann Jäderlund,“Deep Within The Chamber”.

Rosy pink eye flower
Shoulder skin gentle flower
Gentle eye shoulder skin
The sun enters oh a flower
Yellow pink in islands skin
Red in mouth yellow gentle
Eye red shoulder skin
Deep within the chamber flower

(Translation by Ann Jäderlund)

The words are well hidden in the music, but always present. In this movement I ask double bass players and cellists to de-tune their instruments (scordatura) in order to produce unusual natural harmonics.

The third movement, “Dance” is precisely what the title suggests: a monotonous, shamanistic dance. Even this short movement contains a virus: the persistent triplet figures in the horns cause the entire rhythm to collapse, and the music shifts to a lower gear rather dramatically. At the end I bring back the Ritornello-theme from the first movement in the brass, enforced by the organ.

All three movements are played attacca, without pause.

Foreign Bodies was commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and is dedicated to Jukka-Pekka Saraste, a close friend and a much-admired colleague, who conducted the first performance in Kiel at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in 2001.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Ensemble
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi (sopranos)
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
I wrote the programme note for "Foreign Bodies", so I had been over the score fairly thoroughly. But I was unprepared for the sheer richness of the sound, the exuberance, the joie de vivre. It is a sort of concerto fro orchestra-cum-bacchanale, and my first live encounter with the piece left me fizzing with excitement.
Martin Anderson, classical music,22/12/2001
As a manifest from the deafening rhythmic 'tutti' of the opening, Salonen's concerto is with physical immediacy, the capacity of a huge virtuoso orchestra to stun us with its deftness and prestidigitations. The music is not all decibels. The central section begins in calm and quiet, and its final expressive string pulsations, one of several hints of Sibelius' influence (yet with nothing of homesickness about them), slow down to nothing. Slick rhythm is restored in the succeeding 'Dance', and the heavy metal of the work's start comes back to round it off. Like recent Salonen pieces, this one is very skillfully written. As a composer he gets better.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,26/08/2001
Close X

Newsletter Signup

Enter your email address to keep up to date with the latest news and special offers from Wise Music Classical.
Your data is secure and you can unsubscribe at any time. Read our Privacy Policy

Click here to receive regular news
© Copyright 2020 Wise Music Classical. Part of Wise Music Group.