Tip! "In September 2019 I was asked by cellist Leo Svensson Sander and harpist Stina Hellberg Agback if I would be interested participating in a project together with them, violinist Eva Lindal and a couple of visual artists, a poet and a scenographer, which would deal with questions concerning how to make art in times of crisis, something I gladly and curiously accepted. The project would take Messiaen's ’Quatuor pour la fin de temps’ and its genesis, creation and historical context as a point of departure when reflecting on questions on how and why to make art in our present time and its escalating climate crisis.
The project received some funding from a couple of Swedish institutions and we were just about to start working when the pandemic quite suddenly broke out in late February or early March 2020. All of a sudden we found ourselves in a situation which affected our working conditions more profoundly than we ever had expected in the short term and which not only had us reflect on the above mentioned questions but rather forced us to quickly adapt to the changing situation. So at the time when I was about to start writing some music for the project, societies all over the world were more or less closing down and I was quite struck by all these pictures of more or less deserted or abandoned cities from all over the world that were being broadcast and reproduced during the initial period of the pandemic. So, quite inevitably the first verse of the book of Lamentations came to mind, ”How lonely sits the city that was full of people!”, a text which of course also has been set to music innumerable times throughout history and which also became the title of my piece. So with these two different points of departure, Messiaen on the one hand and the Lamentations on the other, I started to conceive of the piece and in the end I ended up using mainly tonal material (basically a few scalar motions which I transformed into new modes) but also a couple of rhythmic cells from Messiaen’s piece, and some further rhythmic materials from Thomas Tallis’s and William Byrd’s different takes on the Lamentations of Jeremiah as points of departure for generating new musical materials.
When starting to conceive the piece I was also very touched and inspired by the recurring (and always slightly altered, if I remember correctly) melody played by the flugelhorn in Stravinsky’s Threni, which has some sort of counterpart in an extended melody in slightly shifting meters in my piece as well. The original version of the piece was written for a quartet consisting of violinist Eva Lindal, cellist Leo Svensson Sander, harpist Stina Hellberg Agback and myself on piano, but since we also wanted to do something with Skogen during the pandemic I just decided to write some additional parts for us to play and record." - Magnus Granberg