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About this Piece

Composed: 1967    
Length: c. 10 minutes

Þurídur Jónsdóttir studied flute and composition at the Reykjavík College of Music, and later at the Bologna Conservatory, where she added electronic music to her studies. She further studied in Italy with Franco Donatoni and Alessandro Solbiati. Her works have been commissioned and performed by ensembles such as Caput, Ensemble Adapter, FontanaMix, and EnsebleMa, and in 2004 her piece Flow and Fusion, for orchestra and electronics, was chosen for the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.

Like many of Jónsdóttir’s works, Cylinder 49 employs electronics as an integral part of the work, not simply for altered colors and timbres. In this case, she fuses the amplified sounds of chorus and orchestra with a sampled recording. “The piece is based on an old recording, a wax cylinder containing one of the first sound recordings made in Iceland (collection of Jónbjörns Gislason – Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, 1920),” the composer writes. “Amid a variety of noise related sounds, an Icelandic epic chant, a rima, emerges.”

The voices are treated as instruments, vocalizing on specific phonetic sounds and whistling. Only at the end is there any text, as a bit of the recorded chant – about winter – makes its way into the chorus. The effect – even with teacups muffling the mouths of the singers – is a final union of ancient artifact and modern artifice. (Teacups offer a sort of noise motif: a percussionist begins and ends the work stirring in one, for example, among various tea cup manipulations.)