Length: c. 12 minutes
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = bass flute; all = harmonic tubes), 3 oboes (all = harmonic tubes), 2 clarinets (both = harmonic tubes), bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, bongos, tom-toms, tam-tam, gong, 4 small gongs, thundersheet, cymbals, almglocken, log drums, lion’s roar, spring drum, Waldteufel, guiro, sandpaper block, triangle, wine glass, large PVC tubes, harmonic tubes, and marimba bar), piano, harp, and strings
First LA Phil performance
Hlynur Aðils Vilmarsson studied composition at the Reykjavík College of Music and electronic music at Kópavogur School of Music from 1997 to 2000. He has also studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough in masterclasses, and computer engineering at the University of Iceland. His music has been played in Europe, the U.S., and Asia by groups such as the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Brodsky String Quartet, the Uusinta Chamber Ensemble, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He has also composed music for theater and film, and played keyboards for Trabant and other pop and rock bands.
In bd, Vilmarsson works primarily with timbre and texture. He calls for lots of extended techniques and special effects, including multiphonics and harmonic glissandos in the winds, prepared piano tones, and vertical bowing in the strings. He introduces a lot of unusual percussion, including big plastic tubes slapped with flat mallets as in the Blue Man Group, and he asks the percussionists and woodwind players to blow into smaller tubes for harmonic overtones.
The result is music of highly charged atmosphere and great contrasts, music operating on the basics of sonority rather than traditional ideas about pitched themes and harmonies. It grows in density and volume, reaching a more conventionally evoked and rhythmically playful plateau based on A minor, which subsides into glassy harmonics.
bd was commissioned by Ilan Volkov and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in March 2013.