Noa Noa (Fragrant, 1992) by Kaija Saariaho for flute and electronics, (electronics produced at the studios of IRCAM) duration: 10 minutes
Saariaho: "Noa Noa (Fragrant, 1992) was born from the ideas I had for flute while writing my ballet music Maa. I wanted to write down, exaggerate, even abuse certain flute mannerisms that had been haunting me for some years, and thus force myself to move onto something new. Formally I experimented with an idea of developing several elements simultaneously, first sequentially, then superimposed on each other. The title refers to a wood cut by Paul Gauguin called Noa Noa. It also refers to a travel diary of the same name, written by Gauguin during his visit to Tahiti in 1891-93. The fragments of phrases selected for the voice part in the piece come from this book."
The work of Paul Gauguin that Saariaho refers to can be seen here.
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is one of my favourite composers: definitely top ten.
I first heard her work whilst at university (York, UK); and I had honestly never heard anything as mysterious, subtle and eerie like it, although George Crumb’s Vox Balenae and Black Angels come very close.
This particular work uses extended flute techniques to explore all the diverse sonic qualities of the instrument: these include the use of the spoken voice and electronic interface that create a multi-layered sensory event. In particular, the syllabic vocalisations of the flautist as well as a recorded reverberation of both these sounds creates new ‘sound events’ that can be echoed, bent and re-doubled in various ways. As the flautist performs, the ‘electronic’ sounds are layered with the acoustic, creating a new tonal medium that realizes the dream-like, mystic and exotic sensations of Gauguin’s experiences in Tahiti.