How I Wrote... Over Light Earth - Daníel Bjarnason

From being inspired by works of art, to working with John Adams and André de Ridder, this week we're looking at the music of composer Daníel Bjarnason, through his eyes.

Composer: Daníel Bjarnason

Piece: Over Light Earth

Date written: 2012

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the music to someone who's never heard it before?
It’s a two-movement work for chamber orchestra that draws inspiration from paintings of the so called abstract expressionists.

How did the idea for the piece come about?
The piece is an LA Phil commission and I was in LA thinking about this piece which I was about to start on. I wandered in to the Museum of Contemporary art (MOCA) and saw some paintings that really resonated with me, especially the ones by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. When I came back to Reykjavík those paintings stayed with me and I decided to use them as inspiration and draw from them somehow. I also liked the fact that I wouldn’t actually be able to see them again until when the piece was premiered.

Did you have a musical 'EUREKA!' moment where everything fell into place, or did the piece gradually shift and change over time?  
I would say it gradually shifted but there were many small 'EUREKA!' moments. So, more like 'eureka' moments.

Is there a musical moment in the piece you're most proud of?
I think some passages and transitions maybe came off better than others, but I will let other people judge that for themselves.

What's been your favourite performance of the music?
The premiere in LA was very special, and I was just thrilled to have John Adams conduct the first performance.  The european premiere at the Barbican with Britten Sinfonia and André de Ridder was also really great.

If you could hear anyone admit they're a huge fan of the piece, who would it be?
Pollock and Rothko, were they still alive...

If you had to compose it again, what would you change?
That’s a tricky question. I’m actually happy to leave this piece as it is.

Where was the premiere and how did you feel hearing the piece for the first time?  
The premiere was in Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Hearing your work live at the premiere is an intense experience. It’s like hearing the work for the first time and it is an absolutely essential part of the composer’s experience.

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