by Sofi Oksanen & Gerhard Lock


Jüri Reinvere (born 1971) is a composer; and a large part of his identity is to be a thinker and a poet. With the opening of the Iron Curtain in 1990, he migrated abroad to study and live, first in Poland, then for a long period in Finland and from there to Berlin in Germany. The eighteen-year-old boy’s headlong plunge into the widely interconnected world of Central European music culture has left strong impressions on his personality and on his art.

Typically for Reinvere meanings are multifaceted, he moves beyond genre limitations, and recognizes the natural transition from music to poetry. In music he uses materials ranging from traditional instruments to sounds of nature and accompanying sounds of interpretation—and among the latter, most particularly, breathing—or phenomena that relate to sound environments like the echo in a room. Reinvere’s ease with crossing boundaries comes also from his having lived in societies with contrasting lifestyles and belief systems: the atheistic Soviet world replaced by Catholic Poland and followed by Lutheran Finland. Reinvere also lived for an extended period in Stockholm. In 2005, he established his permanent home in Berlin.

Friend and mentor, Käbi Laretei, who has played a significant role in his life, says: „Jüri is a very original composer and writer. Every work is a new surprise, and unpredictable developments are constantly in motion. Jüri is a Free Europe person: lightly stepping from world to world, from Cracow’s intelligentsia to village landscapes of central Finland to the cultural circles of Stockholm—in each of these there is something of himself.“

And despite the fact that all these countries have influenced Reinvere’s music, his music has a characteristic locality, a sense of place. In the same way that a composer’s home is significant to him as a person and his music is born from the continuous reciprocal relationship with his space, so his music progresses to performance most successfully in the right place. His works are often performed in churches: sacred- and theatre-spaces have become a part of Reinvere’s performance convention.

The composer has been much influenced by haiku poetry that speaks of nature and weather phenomenon, particularly the works of the classical masters Bashō and Kobayashi Issa. In their minimalist verse are expressed meaningful connections and in paralleling it with Reinvere’s music there is the feeling that these fringe-area concentrations are just where Reinvere has employed his style of expression.





Jüri Reinvere’s childhood world was in Tallinn’s Mustamäe apartment complex, filled with the geometry of identically repeated white blockhouses. The mathematical precision of his surroundings affected him surrealistically and suggestively insomuch that his inclination to symmetry is still recognizable in his art, whether music, haiku-style writing—or his white home in Berlin.

His cosmopolitan musical roots are based in traditional Estonian music; Reinvere studied music composition during high school with Lepo Sumera, the final student of the grand master Heino Eller. It is thus that the emotional spectrum of the northern countries is expressed and that until the end of the 1990s the composer tried to find a symbiosis between the modern and conservative thought processes. Since the beginning of the new millennium, with a stimulating life in Berlin, the composer has given up the old ways for the new.

Reinvere began writing his own works at age six in a preparatory class for the Tallinn Music High School. It was immediately clear that he would become a composer when he grew up. An essential role to that end was played by music itself, in that it began to cause scintillatingly intense experiences, that later, when he was working through the foundations of his composing, he began to call the revelation of conception.

A revelation is triggered by a very small fragment of music, where, as it becomes clear, the important role is played by some concrete harmonic situations. The revelation is also accompanied by a vision. Reinvere has later indicated that it is like losing consciousness for a very short period: „A total break from time and space that is offset by the warm flash of the revelatory vision. And along with all that is a great feeling of wellbeing." There are no abstractions in the visions, but rather places, churches, streets, rooms, which are already familiar and known.

The works of young Reinvere were noticed and it was suggested that the child study composition. His piano teacher was opposed, and a compromise was found with lessons with a college student at the then-Tallinn Conservatory. The lessons quickly changed to improvisational classes that inspired both. Someone else who greatly influenced the composer during his school years was the pianist-writer Helju Tauk, who supported the impulsiveness that resulted from Reinvere’s improvisations, and who sowed in the young man a political sentience that would later awaken.

The importance of improvisation has not been lost from Reinvere’s work. It has provided the ability to go beyond boundaries, which would have been obstacles if he had limited his composing to rationalizing. Likewise, improvisation and strictly fixed work are segmented into alternating phases in his current composition process.

Two specific places saved Reinvere from the foundering world of Brezhnev’s regime: the Niguliste church, where he worked at the organist’s assistant and the sound library at the conservatory. Both places represented another reality. Both places were constantly filled with music. Both were lacking the reality of school and Russification. The relationship between space and music became very essential. Reinvere says: „The timbre of the organ is conceivable only along with its surrounding space. And naturally every kind of harmonic situation but multiplies in that space.“

The emerging awareness of the church space awoke in Reinvere a theologically styled thinker, though not through the Christian church and not through ready answers. „And I began to realize how everything is interrelated—how essential the image is to the concept of consciousness that created it: the light in the church space.“

The significance of harmony can be seen in his favorites from schooldays: Debussy, Ravel, and Szymanowski. The compositions particularly of the last of these caused all but a fever. „I was drunk on Szymanowski. I could have organized excursions for people, pointing out to them the places of the revelation visions.“ Szymanowski becomes a presaging figure: in him also lived a writer as well as a composer. Reinvere’s emotional perception of music’s connection was given a precise boundary by the Iron Curtain: after the young Messiaen there was no western music.



Urvaste Evening (1987) for piano


Genesis: vitrified revelation


Reinvere wrote the piano composition Urvaste Evening when he was 15 years old. At the time, it was considered homework for composition class, but in the twenty years since it has risen to become part of the repertory of pianists as well as a part of the composer’s harmonics laboratory: hidden in the structure of the work is an essential element of Reinvere’s later musical devices.

Reinvere had never been to Urvaste, which is located in Southern Estonia; the rough idea he had of it came from a book on church architecture. The Urvaste in the album felt exciting: the rolling landscape was unfamiliar to Reinvere, a northern Estonian, on a ridge stands a church, apart from everything else. For Reinvere empty churches were often the sites of his revelatory visions. And in his head, a picture of light flickered that filtered through the evening and the dense shimmering church interior.

One day while improvising a particular harmonic progression that recalled a picture of Urvaste formed under Reinvere’s fingers. At that moment, Reinvere began to shape a pillar of his harmonic perceptions, based on the revelatory vision. For the first time his own voice was clearly audible.


Construction: three levels


The work is based on main patterns, which can also be considered motifs: the repetition of one sound, arpeggios of triad chords and choral pillars in which voice leading plays an important role by skillfully using doubles and triples in applying the tension-resolution principle. The repeating organ point in the upper register creates an ostinato-like support mechanism, which interconnects various motif networks.

Ostinato is a trademark of young Reinvere. A background in improvisation is also influential, and, Reinvere finds that it is a characteristic of his connection with Estonian music. Reinvere: „Ostinato is like an incantation. And for Estonians, music is most ideal, when it is haunting and magical.

Dominating the work is a quasi-impressionistic, post-Scriabin metaphysical, tonal world, the visionary ideas of which are reflected also in other structural principles of the work. One immediately striking example of them is the inscription of the three abstract levels to the score that functions as the performer’s inspiration. Perhaps at first only in interpretation, starting with Urvaste Evening we encounter the plentiful tri-level quality of the composer’s work—an aspect in which it is possible to see a connection to the composer’s later theological spirit. The work has an introduction and an epilogue and the rondo-like piece is composed of four intermezzos and four choral pillar-like sections, which in turn divide thus as the first and also the third levels of the choral pillars. The harmony of Urvaste Evening, the work’s central tonal entity, is based on the placing together of perfect consonance and perfect dissonance. The Octave, fifth, and infrequent fourth—are among themselves located at an extremely dissonant distance: a big seventh or a tritone. The chords gained from many consonance-dissonance pairs form a progression following a rather complicated voice leading. The so-called Urvaste harmonics, as the composer himself later begins to call them, have developed additional characteristic allusions: modal structures, tensions-resolutions, quasi-subdominants and -tonics.

The composer analyzed the work in depth in 1999-2000 in Finland with Tapio Nevanlinna, creating from it for himself a multi-leveled harmonic wellspring. The Urvaste third-fifth world is found later as one of the harmonic principles in works such as Written in the Sand (2001) and a.e.g./t.i.m.e. (2005).




Warsaw (1990-91)


At eighteen, Reinvere began his higher education at Warsaw’s Chopin Academy, the same school where Karol Szymanowski had been the rector. Poland became his own from the first moment: there was much music, life in the midst of the collapsing nations was stormy, and everywhere there was the smell of a different kind culture. This understanding of music was different: „In Poland I understood quickly that altogether different values were held dear. Everything highly esteemed in Estonia was considered provincial by the Poles. It wasn’t important how the body of music expanded, but rather that everything around me was turning topsy turvy,“ recalls Reinvere. The identity born in Soviet reality crumbled and in its place something new arose. Poland was also the place where Reinvere grasped for the first time how cultures can misunderstand one another. The composer writes: „For many Poles, Estonia is a distant forest, where there is almost no culture at all. In terms of what they consider culture, that is.“

There was no more money and the composer needed work. After some time Reinvere had three offers: Iceland, Germany, and Finland. The Polish postal system played a fortuitous role—the Finnish documents arrived a day before the ones from Iceland. Reinvere borrowed money and traveled from Vilnius via Tallinn to Helsinki and from there to Imatra. Reinvere, who had spoken Polish without an accent in Poland, was now suddenly in a country whose language he knew very poorly. His only thought was: quickly back to Poland.




Imatra (1991-1992)

Lahti (1992-1997)

Helsinki (1992-2005)

Stockholm (1993- )


In Imatra Reinvere is in the middle of a water labyrinth, the Karelian dialect, and shopping malls. Unlike the Finns, for whom Imatra is a problematic little factory town, after Poland, Reinvere sees it as the millennium of the Book of Revelation. The border-crossing Reinvere has always loved moving between territories and Imatra is within arm’s reach of Svetogorsk. For Reinvere, the inquisitive and social southern-Karelian people quickly change Imatra into a gate for new themes about the depths of the human psyche.

In 1992, Imatra is replaced by Lahti, which is one of Finland's organ capitals. There is ongoing work as an organist. Once again he doesn’t live in the centre of town, but rather many kilometres away, in an old, imposing rectory in Häme, where the local members of the congregation bring their life questions directly into the house: people eye to eye with death, birth, love, and anger. But Lahti has everything else that Häme doesn't, it abounds with sausage stands and is very proud of its winter sport competitions. Playing one of Finland’s grandest organs there is an important job for Reinvere. A direct result of these years is the Neue Schönheit-epoch and Double Quartet with Solo Piano (1994).

The year 1993 was significant. In that year, Reinvere personally met with the Estonian ex-pat pianist and writer Käbi Laretei who introduced him to her former husband, director Ingmar Bergman. With Laretei, a deep, mentor-friendship of many years is forged, while Bergman becomes an indirect, yet decisive, teacher-figure. Laretei’s support for forming an expatriate identity has been immutable. These encounters, and his work with his own inner voice that began from them, determine the path of Reinvere’s development for the next fifteen years.

In 1994, when Reinvere begins his studies at the Sibelius Academy, he moves to Vantaa in the outskirts of Helsinki; his work as an organist in Lahti continues on the weekends. Reinvere travels among diverse worlds: Bergman’s Sweden, economically distressed Finland, and Estonia as she is taking her first steps of independence. These three worlds live in three separate universes: thought and experience are different and don’t understand each other. Migrating from one universe to another is very taxing.

The Vantaa home is located in the lap of nature. There are almost no neighbors; the airport is ten kilometres away. Reinvere recalls: „Planes flew overhead almost until morning. I worked through the night and went to sleep only when the last charter flights from Spain had landed.“

As opposed to Stockholm and Häme, life in Helsinki consisted of long periods of solitude. „In a way the work of a composer is one of the craziest in the world—if you don’t take care of yourself, you can be satisfied living like a wolf. While being with yourself is essential, it isn’t possible to think clearly when all around you everyone is crying for attention.“

In 2004, Reinvere got his master’s degree after ten years from the Sibelius Academy. His teachers were Veli-Matti Puumala and also Tapio Nevanlinna, who had strongly supported Reinvere’s search for his voice. Puumala on the other hand helped Reinvere assemble his toolbox.

“As a composer of Estonian origin I’ve had the good fortune of gaining an education that in many ways is oppositional and in its severity maybe even dangerous”,“ says Reinvere. „But for my exuberant, bustling Estonian world, this terribly severe, detailed, matter-of-fact and precise work has been a lifesaver.“

Reinvere’s musical perceptions and methods of working mature during his time at the Sibelius Academy. „I am different from the typical Estonian insomuch that I left Estonia as a boy. And I became an adult in Finland. It could be said that my identity emerged there.“





Northwest Bow (1998)


The chamber ensemble work Northwest Bow was born in Finland in 1998. Reinvere writes: „From the beginning it was clear what the work was based on: a great arc in whose center is change.“ One level isn’t enough: „Within this arc are a great many unnoticeable arcs with smaller changes that must all consist of entirely different elemental matter than what it will all look like in the end. In this work a technique of Reinvere’s developed in Sweden begins to become apparent as a creative process: to give yourself what at first seems to be absurd-sounding assignments, and then seeing to what new combinations you are directed.

The idea has two essential practical implementations: the interpolations between various musical materials and surface structures and an idea of catastrophe, where abruptly all the structural aspects change at once. The elements among which the interpolation takes place symbolize the work’s symbiosis of history and modernity: of them, the central pair changes the sound organization from modality to dodecaphony and back. The form of the work is fashioned from textural samples with various characteristics: starting with meditative choral pillar harmony to dynamic, changing sound fields that later include many noise components. After that, there is a catastrophe and all the processes change direction. In the end, the transformation has moved through not only the musical material, but also the listener, for whom, after the culmination of the work, the resonant birdsong-like flute melody has an unexpectedly wonderful effect.

Northwest Bow marks the peak and end of one of Reinvere’s long stable creative phases and in that the form is in some way dramaturgically exhausted through what the composer has written so far—broadly speaking, the possibilities of contrasting and fusing modern and traditional means of composition.

In 2000, Northwest Bow won first prize for composers under 30 at the International Rostrum in Paris. This in part brought an invitation to the Berlin Arts Academy. While in Berlin for just under a year, he was motivated to create the works: Dialog I (2002), The Opposite Shore (2004) and Luft-Wasser-Erde-Feuer-Luft (2003). At first, though, the composer is still literally on the shores of the Baltic Sea, in the summer traveling between the shores of Finland, Saaremaa, Gotland, and Courland.


Written in the Sand (2001)—the beginning of a new period


Genesis: a tent on a Livonian beach


Every year so far, the composer has set up his tent on the site of the villages of the now-extinct Livonians on the Courland's beach in Latvia. The murmuring nights, the mornings, the sun and the moon’s long rays on the Livonian beach’s emptiness have left a deep impression on Reinvere, and have influenced the birth of many works and the development of new ideas. Only Berlin has for him the same level of importance. Living with the Livonian ghosts is connected to an interest in linguistics, language structure and etymology. Living at the same time in between two other Finno-Ugric cultures: Finnish and Estonian, meant that the tent on the Livonian beach again highlighted in Reinvere’s life the three levels.

Although, Reinvere often used finno-ugric subjects in his works at that time, the composer quickly adds: „Folk music and its history as the subject matter of a work hasn’t interested me as much as the melodic material. The structure of folk and thinking of earlier times interest me—and in that way, I have used the finno-ugric subject in my music.

Livonian Lament (2003), which despite the misleading title is not a eulogy of national romanticism, is most recognizable by the use of finno-ugric materials by Reinvere. At Rostrum 2006, it was again elevated as a recommended work and it is also an excellent example of Reinvere’s not selling out—there was the suggestion that the Livonian subject could have been modified by simple means into a fantastic and touristy nature spectacle.

The first few times spent at the Livonian beach also gave birth to the starting point for an entirely new era: the orchestral work Written in the Sand.


The construction of Written in the Sand: Character and figure techniques


The work is powerful and multifaceted, blended into it are many twentieth century Western European tendencies. Written in the Sand’s score is at once a massive and detailed musical map, including both a spatial workspace and also a wide percussion instrument apparatus. The work is at the midpoint of Reinvere’s oeuvre, the composer values it highly and has achieved with it for himself an important breakthrough from earlier blind alleys: "I disallowed for myself preconceived solutions, working against myself until blindness. And that gave me the very best material."

In Written in the Sand, the composer applies for the first time extensive character and figure techniques. Figure techniques are Reinvere’s method of operating with thematic materials. The composer says: „More important to theme than the melodic material is its background fusion that functions within various parameters, conventionally ’silhouette’ or ’figure’. Using these parameters independently, it frees one from using thematic subjects anymore with identical sound material.“ The main figure’s central part in this work consists of three universal phenomena: the point, the line and the texture of the line.

Written in the Sand is built consistently on the principle of organic form development, the one part work can be divided into five subsections: I Alterando sempre (bars 1–124), II Metro poco meno veloce (bars 125–247), III Tempestoso (bars 248–277), IV Odoroso (bars 278–311), V Impetuoso (bars 312–376). The composer has also structured all the parts into smaller cuts. In addition, many avant-garde-like devices ranging from microintervals to massive glissandos can also be found in the work. Texturally it is reminiscent in places of György Liget’s micropolyphony, and also in very large part of Iannis Xenakis, though spectacularly classical symphonism is employed for long passages. The mark of Reinvere’s great role model, the Finnish composer Usko Meriläinen can be seen in the character technique. For an analyst there can result a direct tie between the work’s title and the existing sound picture of writing on the sand and the crumbling becoming more and more microscopic, over which wash ever newer and newer materials.

Contrasting soundscapes of various durability, size, surface structure, and dynamic resonance emerge and offer spatial associations to the listener that the composer has described as follows: „At a point I used the working title „Arcadias“, to focus on the question of the development of the surface, in the same way they are visible, for instance, in paintings, where there are, in the perspective, growing and diminishing colonnades. The motif material is made up of twenty different characters, who are among themselves kindred spirits. The work’s central figure which actually is a transformation of a horizontal phenomenon to a vertical phenomenon can readily be imagined graphically. His third phase also includes the fissure principle, which the composer considers quite important in his work: „I used fissures and disturbances at each level, while still forcing myself to keep things as simple has possible.“

An altogether different character occupies the fourth and fifth parts of Written in the Sand. The parts are based on on the Urvaste harmonies , yet differing in Urvaste Evenings in that are there now also built-in symmetries. In the midst of numerous principles is one interesting construction variation: the so-called the clock pyramids, that determine the motifs of the brass instruments and various lengths and intervals depending upon which graphic potential they were elevated.

The final surprise in Reinvere’s abundantly eventful and contrasting music is a tiny open-character codetta after the culmination that is dominated by the scherzo-like piano chords at the very end of the passionate culmination. It is accompanied by the retrograde of the original figure played by the solo strings: rays draw together to a point and in the point for the first time the pure form of the work’s rhythmic base is unclosed: 3-2-2-3.


The Opposite Shore (2001-2004)—viewing music from the other shore


Genesis: spatial echo as the protagonist


Underlying „The Opposite Shore“ can be seen the contours of Aino Kallas’s „Parson of Reigi“ (1926). Initially it was the composer’s wish to produce on the stage Kallas's singular work combining Estonian and Finnish themes, but since the charm of Kallas’ original work diminished with each rearrangement, the idea of a radiophonic opera emerged. The name of the work comes from realizing the significance of spatial opposition of Estonia during long walks on the beach of the Swedish island Fårö. The characters in „The Opposite Shore“ are expatriates with many identities, from many locales. One character wonders why saying to someone that "your birthplace isn’t anywhere" is considered an insult in Finnish.

Multi-ethnicity echoes also in the languages used in the libretto: there are seventeenth century Estonian dialects from Western Hiiumaa, through the top layers of which Finnish and Swedish have penetrated into the language structure. This kind of language use is typical of the expatriate psyche, where understanding the participation of one’s descent in a new context dims in the same way that language does in a new context.

One of the works’ main characters is the spatial echo. The idea of the echoing atmosphere of the Estonian island Hiiumaa was already born in the year 2002, when Luft-Wasser-Erde-Feuer-Luft was written, where, in the finale, the jittered sound of a bittern is situated into a space of thirty kilometers. At the time it all felt dreamlike, the reality impossible, however a summer trip to Finnish Northern Savonia in 2005 proved just the opposite. At a five-kilometer long lake the voice of the loon in the evening fading into the wind, whirling like a spiral, set the surrounding mountains and forests ringing. An even wilder notion of space was possible.

The composer says: “Though completely extra-musical, the space defines an important share of the essence of music. But what would the music be like, if the room where the action takes place were to be the leading character and music reduced, much like an echo, to a delicate reflection from some counterpoint?”


Construction: the lamenter and what the opponent feels


The Livonian Lament is a recorded composition that initially belongs to the third fragment of the radiophonic opera The Opposite Shore’s seventh part, titled Sacrament. The melody and interpretation by one of the last fluent Livonian language speaking Livonians, Julgi Stalte, is a hypothetical reconstruction of Livonian homesickness—or bridal lamentation. The base of the melody is a sound progression in the archaic style of the song Laggõgid rūimõgid! The text originates in the wedding songs of Kuoštrõg and Lūž written down in the nineteenth century. Through the focus and construction, it is possible to surmise their being based on the rudiments of two former bridal laments.

The Livonian language lamentation rite in The Opposite Shore functions as the culmination and point of convergence. The documentary background are the sounds of fire, also the sound of the so-called ' jasmine chord ' that consists different layers of sifted fourths, that got its name from the scene of the same name. With minimal dynamic changes enabling extreme color shifts, this chord, as a kind of a rational extract in the Livonian Lament, is supposed to affect the subconscious; in Livonian Lament it begins in the low register with the low B-flat, diverges, cracks and again grows, until the point where the German language text ends, symbolically its third is revealed: B-flat - d2. Two choral motets resound, one on the jasmine chord and the other on the fire layer. The second of those, in German, whispers a response to the Livonian Lament: „Ist dein…, ist deine Nacht schon erreicht?“

The thicket of symbols and wrong way suggestions is huge. The German choir buries the lamenting Livonian woman—the brittle recording of the lamentation blends with the nice-space choral music at the same time as the listener is given an unexpected feeling of home and the joy of recognition with a washed-clean birdsong atmosphere and earthly occidental music. To reveal to the listener himself his anticipations is an intentional device: however damning, he identifies, against his better judgment, with terror, and at first, in a trendy context-space the situated lamenter is in the end still like something unsuitable, from which the listener’s psyche wants to distance itself.

The Opposite Shore and the Livonian Lament are also experiments, to recreate historical seventeenth century time/space sound. The sound esthetic emerges from the traditional, and for the music a distinctive beauty and ugliness esthetic: the murmur of the sea, the voices of the mud, creaking doors, the sighs of people under stress, to the point where Reinvere’s use of these sounds causes an inherent feeling of discomfort for the listener, which can continue at times for a long period. The clear purpose is to place the listener in an unfamiliar listening situation, address feelings, and demand from him active engagement, attempting to find new contact for his feelings and the audible music. The exact same psychodynamic function took place in the olden days at lamentation rites.

The genre and sound esthetic of The Opposite Shore is very difficult to define in today’s esthetic context. The work's genre transitions play a large role, movements from pure documentary to sonorous musical, from a play to a song, keeping the listener constantly in the experience, thinking that in their earlier suppositions they were mistaken.

The Opposite Shore’s sister work is the ballet for pre-recorded tape, Luft-Wasser-Erde-Feuer-Luft (2003), that includes exactly the same nature materials and in it an authentic Tver-Karelian lamentation. In that work, everything is viewed from the opposite shore of The Opposite Shore. And conversely to The Opposite Shore where the listener is flung from the unknown to the known, here he is held in the framework of the esthetic of occidental music.





Berlin 2005


After alternating between Estonia and Finland, Reinvere moved permanently to Berlin in 2005. This time at the border he also left behind the boundaries of the arts: he began to connect from one side the more conventional current musical devices with his own writings and with visuals and drama.

He had a practical reason for this verbal surrender. In 1995, Reinvere had begun to do radio work, because of which he left his job as organist in Lahti. The radio work had brought to life the need to work with words.

Reinvere had never written poetry or worked with it. In the years 2004-2005 a turnaround occurred: the composer started becoming passionately familiar with poetry and after a year, his own written texts could already be seen in use. In this aspect, Reinvere again becomes an oppositional composer: seldom does a classical composer use his own texts—and without multimedia pursuits, he would rarely discover his own verbal language.

Poet Doris Kareva, who has translated Reinvere’s texts, considers Reinvere’s ability to move between different worlds with different tools astonishing. The poet writes: „The effect of his unique, dreamlike, distant, easy and at the same time painfully grating world is very enchanting.“

Reinvere’s poetic language is makes ample use of adjectives, and at the same time, it is economical and set in strict forms. The same way as in music, the genre transitions are typical: from a haiku he creates a center of the whole, and the rest of the text collects itself in that direction or expands itself. Noticeable from one another also are distanced tempo levels or kaleidoscopic circle games with some selected elements.

The poetry used in his works expresses the Reinvere’s multi-lingual cosmopolitan identity. The work a.e.g./t.i.m.e. (2005) is in Estonian, in Ecotone (2007) the language along with its meaning changes in time. The work Sloath (2006) uses a pseudolanguage and Frost at Midnight (2008) is in English.

A metropolis with urban voices opens up for the composer many new roads: Berlin is a city where the subcultures are more vital than tradition and historicity and multiplicity offer a rich musical life in every imaginable community. Berlin’s musical world is free, experienced, and has seen a lot. On the other hand, the culture of old Europe is also a large part of Berlin’s identity; the art life is in an ongoing fermentation as is the city itself. It is also charming that in central Europe the metropolis of Berlin is itself a strong symbol: the wall has fallen, but its traces are still visible.

Starting with the solo flute work a.e.g./t.i.m.e, emerges in Reinvere’s creations a work line using his own texts: the next points are Ecotone (2007) and Frost at Midnight (2008).


Ecotone (2007)


Genesis: poem living in time


Ecotone was born when percussionist Anto Õnnis commissioned a work from Reinvere. In this work, Reinvere’s poem is alive in real time—the percussionist writes the text during the work on the video screen. The poem almost changes its meaning through the work: the text is made up of words and compound words that when partly written also have some meaning. Ecotone’s text is not restricted to a printed picture, or to finality, but rather it is living and changeable, as if it were liquefied in time as a poem.


Construction: Möbius’s paper—overly fast tempo swells to meta-time


This twenty-minute work changes on stage quickly to a drama for three characters and the scenic elements are emphasized in the work on every level. By taking into consideration the acoustic conditions of a particular space, it is possible to stage this work as a very effective drama. Ecotone is clearly different from previous works. First, it consists of an altogether different dynamic character then many of Reinvere’s earlier works; second, it forces the listener to concentrate also on unusual visuals. In addition, it blurs for the listener the logical interconnection between an event and its creation—it isn’t entirely clear, whether the percussionist rules the computer or the other way around.

The work, whose working title for a long time was named after T.S.Eliot’s „The Waste Land”, has, as its essential basic sound principle the struggle between nature and urban materials. The one part work is divided into four subparts: I (bars 0-60)—it is a big mixer, materials are tossed around, the listener isn’t given any stronghold. Part II: (bars 61-163), is a noisy logarithm of rhythmic combinations, where various layers of tempos race each other to go faster and swell at the end to a tempoless meta-time. In Part III (164-274) we arrive at an opposite landscape: for the first time the soloist plays without the recording setting off the birdsong, over which flight control quickly begins to govern. In Part IV (bars 275-299) the recording changes to the background, a still life, as the sound fades, a text phrase remains blinking on the video screen that the percussionist also deletes.

According to the composer, the work is similar to past works in that its assignment is to change the listener’s accustomed way of receiving as well as playing various layers of tempos and transformations. Specifying a genre to this work isn’t easy; it is almost possible to consider it even as program music, but that illusion crumbles fairly quickly, since there is no clear-cut program.


Frost at Midnight (2008)


Genesis: the theme of surrender


In his next work, Reinvere had an essential collaboration with a partner, Glasgow- and Strasbourg-educated Scots flutist Richard Craig. Craig describes him as follows: „Reinvere is an exceptional composer, in that he persists in keeping contact with his composer’s voice and with time and the surrounding environment. Reinvere doesn’t detach from the world or get tangled up in convention or boundaries.”

In 2007, both Craig and Reinvere were in their personal lives near similar states of surrender. From this grew the work titled Frost at Midnight, a work that Reinvere considers his first real Berlin musical work. For the occasion, Reinvere wrote a traditional poem in English. The work’s title parallels British romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of the same name. Both Coleridge and Reinvere deal with the relationship between father and son, but Reinvere’s father-son relationship is painful, an experience of being abandoned in the past.

The poem is a giant leap for the author to a new level. From dense psychoanalytic surfaces and steep unreal jumps, the saturated verse migrates from one time to another, from the distant past to the abstract future; dense time transitions create a world, where speed and universal eternity are both equal. Nature symbols, like a world with different colored water and soured air are melancholy: “The Sun will be black / and the house will be empty”. At the end, the me-character among mute lambs in the spent morning is the clear connotation of the last supper.


Construction: portrait of a speaking voice


The piece is written for solo bass flute and mixed choir with soloists. The composer describes turning to the German Lied foundation for the central textual role of the work, but through a modern sound language prism.

The use of time on three levels in the work is of great importance, the solo flute here represents the so-called dreamtime, which is the most mystical and slowest time. The tempo relationships are precisely defined, every subsequent tempo has the potency of the last. The structure of the poem is very sensitive and skillfully put into an original sound work, connected to governed choral parts and various avant-garde-like sonorities, starting with intimate speech all the way to breathing and whispering. The relationship between the text and phonetics is important and the composer handles it a rather refined way. The choir members singing in normal vocal tones as well as the flute’s natural sound are used extremely sparingly, highlighting certain textual places. This is notable in bars 243-266: where the work’s unbelievably romantic sound picture does exceptionally well in imparting the poem’s romantic message („it’s dark, nearly darkness‘ edge. I touch down / an abandoned field, or the lace of the endlessness…“). The flute part is at the same time both the setting and the commentator on the choral scenes; it is also a strange speaking ghost from another reality.

The work’s overall musical form could be conventionally held as a three-part ABA—or reprise-form. The multi-scheme B-subpart begins at bar 41 with the second choral scene, with slight variation the A-subpart beginning at bar 428, which is followed at bar 461 with an epilogue-like final passage. However, thanks to constant alternation between the choral and flute parts, the work is clearly structured on the middle level. There are altogether ten choral scenes and four flute cadences. The flutist on three occasions has the assignment of speaking over the mouthpiece in the role of the higher spirit, the most suggestive and longest part is a free haiku at bars 387-427 („you will be my most beloved one / to come and in the past, / and I won’t ever see you“). In the epilogue-style final passage the chorus is heard in unison in the background through the flute’s secret commentator’s voice for the last time, offering a calming message („And I will sleep like the shepherd, / mute lambs around me, “), within the sound principles of the end we unexpectedly start to find broken religious symbols: sound used only now for the first time in the work c-sharp, that together with the choral sequence in unison g – b - f-sharp form the cross motif. Likewise, it can been seen in hindsight that the lead status can be attributed to the work’s beginning sound b : tension finally resolves with a big second moving upward. In addition, it becomes clear at this point that there is a connection to the beginning sound of the quasi-reprise, d-sharp, that resolves with a big second moving downward: a solution that creates a cross in the same way.

For the most part, floating spoken text governs the entire work, and is significantly affected by the essential musical movement. Amongst purely musical motifs the swiftly upward moving four-pitch figure of sixteenths in soprano can be singled out, that for the first time are heard in bar 144. It could be called the ghost vision motif, since to some extent it has the effect of the ghost vision of the mother having appeared to the me-character („like a ghost, my mother at the end of the hall“). The motif appears with increasing variations and increasingly often, until bars 191 and 198-201 when its direction of movement changes to the opposite direction. A possible connection with the following text, that contains the word “falling” is not absolutely straightforward, rather the composer makes here in the middle of the work, immediately before the dynamic and substantive culmination, a turnaround in musical texture. Starting here an expansion in the percentage of choral glissandos and delicate harmonic undulating base fabrics occur. The ghost vision motif is also taken over by the flute in its fourth and longest cadenza; the breathing capability of the flutist is pushed to the limits in cadence in bars 267-472.

The composer had stated that for him Frost at Midnight is so far his most classical work. Although it is possible to say that about the use of poetry and choir in general, in other aspects this position does not hold. New effects result from certain repeating elements in Reinvere’s work; the composer’s skill at using them in a constantly renewing environment surprise the listener again each time.





Music’s many levels


Frost at Midnight and Jüri Reinvere’s works are notable for their general high-level signigficance on various planes—whether composition, sound esthetics or philosophy. His work could be held as a constantly forward aspiring stage, with a penetrating mirroring of the environment and—in the composer’s own words—a drill test for his own time.

Reinvere is a very multileveled composer. He could also be defined as a passionate metastructuralist. The composer doesn’t theorize about his music overmuch, but if need be he can discuss it in very exact terms. His music is at once a breaker of music esthetics and also a broadener. Likewise, his music and poetry are fed by the synergy of ongoing discord, creating at the same time the ground for the eternal as well as for the commonplace.

Reinvere’s delicate and powerful music can be characterized first and foremost through various oppositional concepts, like silence—loudness, tranquility—passion, reason—emotion, clarity—a feeling of being overwhelmed. In his music, much beauty can be found—for instance, Double Quartet (1994)—while some works specifically consider beauty, the basic ideas of The Opposite Shore (2001-2004), Livonian Lament (2003), and Ecotone (2007) do just the opposite, including the intentional and unconventional practice of using esthetically unpleasant sound patterns. The composer departs at this point from the so-called traditional beauty and ugliness dichotomy, creating his own criteria altogether of both the nature and urbanization esthetic, a carried over meaning of holiness and dishonor. For this, the composer applies at once electroacoustic, radiophonic, and literary means and instead of the dated contrast of concrete and electronic music that doesn’t work anymore.

Reinvere emphasizes that he is not a multimedia artist and that he isn’t bound by various multimedia conventions. Beginning with Written in the Sand interconnection plays an essential role in the composer’s work, the basic principle is the creation of an exhaustive network between various materials and the elements of their essences. These elements may originate from many various universes, in the case of music this means that every interval, harmony, longer horizontal structure or denser vertical-horizontal fusion carries within it a specific meaning from the distant or nearer past, the clarity or obscurity of whose meaning is possible for the composer to decide based on his experiences and purposes. Creating for himself verbal universes, Reinvere widens the purely musical intertextual connection between direct thought and text-input. These are new multi-hypertextual connections, where through the technique of metaphor and Bach-like rhetoric it is possible to cast much more wide reaching nets between both musical and textual integrational levels than of either on their own.

Reinvere’s individuality and openness in the existing world reflect off his work on many levels. This can be seen in both his handling of musical and literary materials during the composition process and in his realizations and unceasing selfimprovement. The composer doesn’t walk on paths already tread, nor does he take the path of least resistance. He doesn’t abide by dogmatic rules and is always looking for new and independent solutions, with individuality and in his own voice—that last of these, according to Reinvere, can lie wholeheartedly. Recognizing this requires experiences and intensive work with one's self.


In Berlin


The composer is working on current projects in his Berlin study, in the Charlottenburg district. From his desk there is a view of the courtyard, where among arched ruins grow trees and there is an echoing quiet.

For Reinvere it is very important to work with performers and partners, for which in Berlin there are altogether different opportunities than in Scandinavia. Well-networked and inspired, he always finds time and a reason for meeting, whether it be in Cologne, Paris or an early morning telephone conversation with Australia. Partnership is essential both at work and at home: the nighttime kitchen easily forms life’s center where the composer has long conversations to offer his life partner.

Traveling is just as important: works always find their starting point while he is wandering somewhere and it also affects the final outcome, like with Frost at Midnight in Venice. However, on the microlevel: immediately upon exiting Reinvere’s home, one is plunged into the wide world in the midst of a language Babel. Estonian, Finnish, German, English languages are all in daily use by the composer, and on odd days another four languages would be in use as well.


again again:
rainy mornings
colored all the earth blue
late nights
lit up all the cities as rosaries
waters diagonally through the ice
ice diagonally through the earth
the earth diagonally over the water
and I did not find you anymore
and I found you
pear trees frozen in
honeycomb of cues


(from the work a.e.g./t.i.m.e. 2005)


© translated by Tiina Aleman




Tallinn Music Secondary School

Warsaw Chopin Academy

Helsinki University

V-M.Puumala & T.Nevanlinna




Jüri Reinvere has participated and won for Estonia in International Rostrum of Composers twice:

· 2000 for “Northwest Bow” which was nominated as best work in cathegory under 30 year old composers and

· 2006 for “Livonian Lament” which was nominated as the recommended piece


© Estonian Music Information Centre





Contact: info (at) reinvere.de