composer, pianist, music theorist



43.

Ratatoskr (2015)

for solo piano

Ratatoskr” is a little eight-minute piece for solo piano which consists basically of the piano part from my piece Yggdrasill detached from its accompanying set of acousmatic sounds. Upon hearing this piano part alone when I was at the studio mixing down Yggdrasill, I marvelled at how beautifully it standed on its own. I was specially taken by the expressive way in which the numerous empty spaces between the utterances of the piano seemed to reverberate and prolong the presence of their respective preceding musical events not always literally but sometimes just in a rather psychological way.

Also, when thinking of montage techniques one usually often perceives that the assembled whole tends to transcend the mere sum of its parts. Here one notices that the converse is also true: taking a composition and stripping away entirely one of its constituent layers does not simply yield a mere subset of the original composition. Instead, such operation often results in a whole new musical entity, for the equilibria between the musical forces in the original composition and in the derived “subtracted” version hardly end up being the same.

And hence comes the opportunity for the piano part of Yggdrasill to also have a life of and on its own as Ratatoskr. Ratatoskr is a mythical squirrel from Norse mythology who runs up and down the world tree Yggdrasill exchanging slanderous messages between an unnamed eagle dwelling at the top of the tree and a snake-dragon called Nidhoggr, which lives on gnawing on the tree's roots. Ratatoskr is mentioned in chapter XVI of the Prose Edda's Gylfaginning:

“Then said Gangleri: 'What more mighty wonders are to be told of the Ash?'
Harr replied: 'Much is to be told of it. An eagle sits in the limbs of the Ash,
and he has understanding of many a thing;
and between his eyes sits the hawk that is called Vedrfolnir.
The squirrel called Ratatoskr runs up and down the length of the Ash,
bearing envious words between the eagle and Nidhoggr';”

Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda (c. 1220); Gylfaginning‍, chapter XVI; translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916).



score: recording:

Piano: Marcus Bittencourt

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