Friday, October 28, 2011

Composer Yrjö Hjelt interviewed by Markku Pölönen

Before the Elämän maantiellä film concert the director Markku Pölönen interviewed the composer Yrjö Hjelt in the concert hall of the Helsinki Music Centre. Mr. Hjelt told that he had followed the Leitmotif principle in for instance composing a bassoon theme for Tarini and a flute theme for Irmela. Film composition is precision work in several stages, and I actually use millimeter paper in planning a score. I'm a pedant, composing with the precision of a fraction of a second. In the opening war montage I composed non-tonal clusters to express violence and evil. And when Greeling appears, there is a trombone with rancid glissandoes and glib elements. There is also diegetic music in the movie. In the intertitles the wanderer Tarini's instrument is called a barrel organ, although it is actually a street piano. A street piano cannot be imitated with an ordinary piano, but fortunately in the city of Varkaus there is a museum of mechanical music, and there they have a Czech street piano built in 1890 by Karel Čech. We went there with the movie downloaded in my laptop, and I played the street piano in the tempo of the movie. The music is rather supporting the imagery than in contrast to it, but not like in an animation. At times, distance is held to what is taking place in the story. Externally there is sometimes not so much going on, internally infinitely much. There are glimpses of Wagner and Händel in the music. Sometimes a composer is called to save a scene, to paint with protective paint an unsuccessful scene. Here, nothing of the kind. I have no real models, especially not silent movie composers. I am not oriented into film music especially. I am oriented in the music of the era and the heritage of the last 300 years.

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