Broman, concertmaster of the Swedish Radio Symphony, came to Britta Byström with the idea of a piece in which she could “play with herself.” Byström immediately thought of Virginia Woolf’s 1929 extended essay “A Room of One’s Own.”
Woolf’s essay focuses around the privacy that women need to write literature. A segment of her writing reads: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
“I thought rather of the great joy that comes from the lonely process of creating a work of art, and of the magical moments that may arise in that process,” said Byström. “This magic remains also during a pandemic.
“During the last 18 months, we have seen the music life sadly affected by restrictions and lock-downs, but the joy of making music has still lived on, untouchable in its own private rooms,” she added.
Broman is not a stranger to playing multiple instruments in one piece — in 2020, Broman skillfully managed to perform all parts of Mendelssohn’s Octet.
In Byström’s piece, Broman not only plays its eight parts on three string instruments, but also whistles and speaks in eight voices a text fragment that is written into the score.
The incorporated text, derived from Woolfe’s essay is — in Byström’s opinion — given new meaning during this period of closed concert halls. The fragment reads: “there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
BRITTA BYSTRÖM | “A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN” | MALIN BROMAN | 2021
Byström’s “A Room of One’s Own” is connected to a double concerto “Infinite Rooms” that she wrote years ago for Broman and Rick Stotijn. “At that time,” she said, “I tried to create large-scale orchestral rooms, inspired by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.”
“Now, however, [we’re moving] from the large orchestral hall into the small, private chamber, but the principle is the same,” she continued. Where “the private room proves to be an infinity chamber, where a small number of musical details multiply themselves infinitely through mirrors.”
Performers of Byström’s works include the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. She also wrote pieces directly for Radovan Vlatkovic and Janine Jansen.
This year, Byström’s “Parallel Universes” was commissioned by the BBC Proms and received its premiere in August 2021 with the BBC Philharmonic and conductor John Storgårds.