Benjamin Staern (1978-)

Godai: The Four elements (Concerto for orchestra)


1. Earth. Introduction
2. Water. Aria
3. Fire.Intermezzo
4. Air/Shadow. Finale

  • Year of composition: 2012-13
  • Work category: Orchestral works in several movements
  • Dedication: Maestro Marc Soustrot
  • First performed: May 15th 2014,
    Konserthuset Malmö
    Malmö Symphony Orchestra
    Marc Soustrot, conductor
  • Duration: Approx. 20-25 min


3*3*3*3* 4331 13 11, str.

Location for score and part material

Gehrmans Musikförlag AB, Stockholm

Description of work

Concerto for orchestra in fourcontinuous movements.


Work comment

I wanted for a long time to write music that is danceable and can in many ways be physically received when listening to it. Godai means " the five great elements " in Japanese and has a background in Japanese philosophy about martial arts and is a Buddhist term with some influences from Hinduism. The Buddhist philosophy is perhaps best known in the West for their use by the samurai Miyamoto Musashi's famous text, The Book of Five Rings, which he explains different aspects of swordsmanship and martial arts by assigning every aspect of each element. The different properties are interconnected. The five elements are formed on the basis of the well-known basic elements: earth, water, fire , air, and the fifth element is a shadow , ie . the sum of all elements into one unit . From a musical perspective, I have used the orchestra as one large body of sound with both soli and tutti passages exchanged during the course of the work. In the instrumentation included except triple woodwind, brass, strings, harp, celesta, piano and percussion, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, tubular bells, gong, xylophone, marimba for more Asian instruments opera-gongs , java gongs , wattles , china cymbal , temple bowls and crotales (antique cymbals).
The work is divided into four movements, performed without interruption with clear leading notes/chords that binds each it together and are described as follows:

1) Earth. Introduction: stubbornness , stability, physicality that gives substance. The first movement opens with a grand opening of horns and trumpets along with vibraphone and bells , and later temple bowls with a five pitched motive (pentachord) (AC- C-sharp H -Ess ) as the basis for the entire work that gradually shifting to a flashy orchestral tutti . The music fades down to a pretty danceable and comic sections , much like watching " Kabouki – theater " and later show of martial arts.

2) Water. Aria: sentiment, conducted caution , adaptation , flexibility, keeping together things . The second movement is quiet and reflective. A string sound is like a rippling sea where boats pass by on the horizon (high woodwinds) and clock sounds from celesta and glockenspiel that gives rise to meditation (solos from instruments that is wandering along the orchestra like a small channel) the music goes softly. The fine moment is interrupted and then you are into defense and battle.

3) Fire. Intermezzo: passion , aggression, energy , heat that warms and transforms itself . A brief interlude that takes material from previous batches and turning into lava – like movements in the orchestra. It leads up to a climax and fades gradually into the thin air.

4) Air/Shadow. Finale: will, volatility, wisdom alternated with power, creativity , spontaneity , forming a nuclear reaction. The fourth and final movement has a volatile nature where abrupt changes are evident and where all the elements presented are shown again in the transformed shape and ultimately formed a shadow where the character turns into more intensive end where it says in the score " techno mayhem! " ( techno hell !) . Everything leads to total chaos and then an abrupt and sudden end on the note D as the work begins.

Godai was commissioned by the MSO under Music in the South within the project Musik i Syd "Tonsatt Continued" and is dedicated to MSOs Chief Conductor Maestro Marc Soustrot .