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Rolf Wallin

Publisher: Chester Music

Boyl (1995)
Commissioned by Ensemble InterContemporain with funds from the French Ministry of Culture
Chester Music Ltd
Large Ensemble (7+ players)
Year Composed
17 Minutes
Programme Note
Rolf Wallin Boyl (1995)
Boyl is a Middle English spelling of the imperative boil, found in an alchymical writing by Aeyrenaeus Philalethes, London 1677.

Alchemy is known as the grandfather of modern chemistry, but the philosophical aspects of it was perhaps even more important. The chaotic massa confusa, excavated from the mountain, has to undergo a long process in which it is repeatedly dissolved (boiled) and coagulated, and from this the prima materia emanates, the raw material for making gold. Carl Gustav Jung was very occupied with the archetypal aspects of alchemy, and was struck by the similarities between opus magnum and the psychoanalytical process. In the latter, the massa confusa of the subconscious is the prime instrument for reaching mental completeness.

In my music, the massa confusa is number material emanating from a so-called "fractal" mathematical function. The function is relatively simple, but it generates fascinating and surprisingly "organical" patterns when repeated a large number of times. The main issue of "Boyl" is the interaction between the liquid, cold and yielding principle of mercury, and the solid, burning, and dominant principle of sulphur. In the piece, mercury is alone on the scene for a long time before sulphur enters. During the piece, the two principles interchange their qualities, and, finally, they melt together.

'Boyl' was commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

© Rolf Wallin

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (Concerti); Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (Ground); Oslo Sinfonietta (Boyl)
    Leif Arne Tangen Pedersen, clarinet; Tom Vissgren, timpani; Øystein Birkeland, cello
    Rolf Gupta (Timpani Concerto); Christian Eggen (Boyl/Clarinet Concerto); Terje Tønnesen (Ground)
Boyl (1995) owes its title – merely ‘boil’ in an early, pre-Johnsonian spelling – to a seventeenth-century alchemical text which talks of the repeated melting base substances in the process intended to produce gold; Wallin binds in a subtext with Jungian allusions to psychoanalysis. Shifting, edgy, superficial phrases in the strings are gradually answered by ever bolder gestures from winds and percussion as the orchestra are gradually wracked by increasingly forceful elemental power reminiscent of Xenakis, the music drops, its power spent, into a gentle duo of xylophone and vibraphone (if my ears have it right), exchanging brief, drooping phrases from either side of the orchestra. Wallin’s First Symphony will be something to look forward to.
Martin Anderson, International Record Review,07/01/2002
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