Matthew Whittall (FI)

The wine-dark sea V

The Mediterranean looms large in my family history and genealogy, such that I came to associate the sea with a distant, muted sense of ultimate home, despite my strong attachment to the North. As I draw primarily on landscape for creative impetus, during a trip to the region in 2007, I expected to find in the lands of my ancestors a potent new source of ideas.

Although the vistas were arresting and beautiful, they did not resonate in me on a deep level at the time. What I – a northerner by more than birth and temperament, it would seem – was allowed to carry away from that first contact were merely fond recollections of a foreign place, profoundly “other” from my experience: the archetypal “Mother Sea” and its numberless shades of blue, the quality of the sunlight, the smell of flowers and herbs in the air. (I could add to this a feeling of blissful honeymoon detachment.) The wine-dark sea is a dreamlike postcard written after the fact, through a haze of memory.

Previous versions of the piece for early or folk-origin instruments carried a sense of the contemporary overlaying a deeper antiquity, a fundamentally Old World sound. Adapting it for piano, it suddenly dawned on me how New World the musical material was, and that, however great the temporal or geographical remove, one can never fully leave one’s roots behind.

Canadian-Finnish Matthew Whittall is a composer of orchestral, vocal and chamber music. He lives and works in Helsinki.

Lecture 1, wednesday 2.9. klo 12.00, Pohjoismainen kulttuuripiste
Concert 3, thursday 3.9. klo 19.00, Camerata, Musiikkitalo