Finn Shields: “Writing for a brass quintet was a difficult and rewarding challenge, and made me completely rethink these instruments I thought I was so familiar with”


Korvat auki is glad to invite NyNorsk Messingkvintett, a Norwegian brass quintet focused in new music, with countertenor Sean Bell and harpist Liis Viira to visit Helsinki this week! Three of our composers Olli Moilanen, Þorkell Nordal and Finn Shields got the opportunity to write new pieces for the quintet. Rolf Gustavson asked Finn about his piece and ideas of composition.

Finn Shields.

How did you get involved with Korvat auki and how did you end composing this upcoming piece for the NyNorsk Messingkvintett?

I got involved with Korvat auki soon after I arrived in Finland in Autumn 2018. I was not studying at the time so it was a good way to get involved with the musical life here. As soon as I heard about the call for scores with NyNorsk Messingkvintett I knew I’d want to apply – the chance to work with an interesting professional group was too much to resist!

Have you composed for brass instruments before and how did you find it writing for a brass quintet?

I have written extensively for brass in the context of larger ensembles, but never as a quintet. It was a difficult and rewarding challenge, and made me completely rethink these instruments I thought I was so familiar with. Aside from the practicalities of making sure everyone is playing in a comfortable register and getting enough air, the relative homogeneity of the timbre calls for very different solutions to compositional problems than would be appropriate for other chamber groups such as a woodwind quintet.

What’s the piece about and how did you approach composing it?

It’s hard for me to say what the piece is about, it certainly doesn’t have any extra-musical narrative to it. I composed it hoping that it would be fun for the players to perform, and hoping that it was not overwhelmingly challenging for either ensemble or listener. I like to think it has something to say.

What kind of music have you been listening too lately and does that music affect the way your composing right now?

Lately I’ve been listening to Sibelius, Janacek, Dvorak and Tiensuu. I think it’s possible this music affects my writing – these composers certainly have a propensity towards bright, brilliant textures I admire greatly.

Interview by Rolf Gustavson.

NyNorsk messingkvintett, Sean Bell & Liis Viira

Sunday 20.10. at 5 pm
Balderin sali, Helsinki

Event on FB.

Tickets at the door 15 / 10 €

Nils Henrik Asheim: Hornflowers for brass quintet (2019)
Tze Yeung Ho: messe norvegienne profane for counter tenor, brass quintet, harp, speakers and audience
choir (2019)
Liis Viira: There are so many insects… for counter tenor and brass quintet (2019)
Þorkell Nordal: Circuit for harp and brass quintet (2019)
Olli Moilanen: Rain Dance for brass quintet (2019)
Finn Shields: Brass quintet (2019)