Kristaps Pētersons Money (2012) für Ensemble

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Orchestration: flute (also piccolo), cor anglais (also a paper plane), clarinet – horn, trumpet, trombone – percussion (also money bags, a white flag and a portrait in a frame) – violin (also bank notes), viola, violoncello, contrabass

Laughter forbidden, that is what Kristaps Pētersons wrote in the score, because Latvians are serious people. It is actually not a very funny topic, because the work of Pētersons is about money. Pētersons recalls the first economic boom in Latvia in 2007, when people believed that there would be eternal wealth and that Latvia would become a modern land of milk and honey. The first movement of his piece is called MONEY – economic boom/economic crisis, because in 2008 the economic crises followed, “as if by a miracle”, as Pētersons points out sardonically: “Mass unemployment and salary cuts of up to 60% were the consequence. Everyone had to tighten their belts, toil more, emigrate (and toil more somewhere else), some even committed suicide.” In spite of this, Pētersons did not lose his sense of humour, but he satirizes in his piece the greed of the politicians and bankers.

In order to write such a piece, there are of course numerous props needed. There is the sound of ringing coins and there are bank notes which can be nicely threaded through the strings of a string instrument and thus something more beautiful can be prevented. The arrogance with which even handicraft for children is used then introduces the crises irrevocably, a dark chapter with black bad-tempered humour in which the media society and the economic dependence of Western democracies are challenged. With a lot of humour and theatrical gestures, Pētersons not only portrays economic and monetary phenomena, but also the habit of success and confidence of victory, of failure and hopelessness.

The fact that Pētersons not only inidicates a solution of the problem in the second part of the piece, but at the same time he crosses out the word money, makes it clear that he does not link the common good of humanity to its financial prosperity. What follows is a scenario in which not only that hierarchies are removed, but also pleasant experiments and curiosity become the driving force for action, and not the profit. If Pētersons used the techniques of a musical avant-garde in the first part in order to compose striking sound gestures, in the second part the primary aim is no longer the effect and dalliance, but the music itself.

Pētersons added instructions on how to listen to his score. They say:
"This piece is intended as a game, as an intellectual game for the audience. With a little imagination it is possible to travel through three levels there (as in a computer game). In order to play the game the player must be capable of thinking for themselves, it should therefore be a person that can recognize lies and finds the way to the truth by means of analyzing the events. If there is sensitivity added as well, then I would find my ideal listener/spectator. The message of this piece is simple – use your brain. I admit that my ideal listener/spectator does not need this message at all. I should rather appeal to those who cannot analyze for themselves and do without hesitation what they were told. But, to be honest: I cannot reach them. The only benefit which my ideal listener/spectator can draw from this is: you are not alone.”

Pētersons calls the three levels foreground (boom and crisis), background (gestures, sound symbols) and the “not likely to guess” level, at which he expresses his own attitude. Pētersons reveals the source of the spoken text there as well: it is borrowed from graffiti of the English street artist Bansky.

Kristaps Pētersons was born in 1982 in the Latvian town of Valmiera and he studied contrabass and composition at the Latvian Academy of Music in Riga. He graduated from both subjects with a bachelor in 2005, where he received the top grade; in 2007 he was awarded the master degree in composition. At the music academies in Oslo and Enschede he earned further master degrees.

His composition Glenfiddich was awarded with the Forest orderly award in 2008 which is bestowed by the music magazine Mūzikas Saule. He won in the category “Under thirty” with his piece Twilight Chants at the prestigious contest International Rostrum for Composers in 2010. Since 2005, Kristaps Pētersons has been a member of the Latvian Symphonic Orchestra.
Björn Gottstein
works as a freelance journalist about contemporary and electronic music. He lives in Berlin.

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