“Freely-Pulsating Composition” of Leif Segerstam as an Individual Aleatory Project
This article is devoted to the characteristics of “freely-pulsating composition.” This technique has been developed
in the works of Leif Segerstam – a significant Finnish composer and conductor. Segerstam’s creativity astonishes by its
extremely prolific quality. The composer wrote more than three hundred symphonies and also numerous compositions
in other genres. Such artistically creative activity has been stipulated by those principles of composition which the
Finnish composer has developed.
Their formation and evolution took up over two decades. The “freely-pulsating phase” was initiated by Segerstam
in the mid-1970s, while all the basic features of the composer’s technique were formed by the late 1990s. In its final
variant, the method of “free pulsation” became connected with the sphere of the symphony: it has been demonstrated
by musical compositions written since the early 2000s. These symphonies are essentially one-movement sonoristic
compositions, generally, all of them of the same duration and performed without a conductor (in Segerstam’s words,
they rely on an “built-in conducting mechanism”). Their musical texture is based on an aleatory counterpoint, in which
the various instrumental parts are synchronized loosely. The form of symphonies consists of several (from 5 to 8)
blocks, in which there is an alternation of more and less controlled sections.
In general, the features of “freely-pulsating composition” make it possible to consider it an individual version of
aleatory techniques and to see its preimages in the American music from the 1960s, with the works of Earle Brown
and Christian Wolff.
Keywords: Segerstam, aleatory technique, aleatory symphony, freely-pulsating composition, built-in conducting
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