Chamber

play Magnolia

MAGNOLIA
For solo Kantele
(2002-2003)
Performed by Eva Alkula


Magnolia was written for Eva Alkula, one of the finest kantele players in the world. The kantele is a traditional Finnish instrument. In its original form, it had only five strings. The modern kantele has 39.

Its mechanism is similar to that of a harp. The strings are tuned to five diatonic octaves. The pegs on the upper left hand side tune all octaves of a given pitch class up or down chromatically.

I was drawn to it because of its haunting and beautiful sound. The glissandi and harmonics possible on this instrument give it a unique sound palette. I was particularly interested in the fact that it is the only acoustic instrument on which a five-octave glissando is possible. I discovered this experimenting on the instrument myself, and was the first to employ the effect (subsequent pieces using this effect have labeled it the "Freeman glissando", a term coined by composer Matthew Whittall).

It is a one movement continuous work. The title can be thought to represent the overall 'blooming' effect of the musical material. It was also a word that seemed to fit the ambiance of the music. This is a purely abstract association, but the nostalgic feeling of it could also be connected with the Magnolia trees around my childhood home.