Jonne Valtonen Interview: Arranging Symphonic Fantasies (March 2009)
On September 12, 2009, the concert Symphonic Fantasies will occur at the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne, Germany. It will feature a selection of brand new arrangements from the Final Fantasy, Chrono, Kingdom Hearts, and Mana series by Jonne Valtonen, the acclaimed arranger of Symphonic Shades.
Recently the fanfare for the title — actually an original composition by Jonne Valtonen — has been unveiled. You can see the video premiering the fanfare below. In this interview, the composer discusses his inspirations and approach for composing the fanfare. In addition, he reveals why an original composition was chosen in the first place.
Interview Subject: Jonne Valtonen, Thomas Boecker
Interviewer: Chris Greening
Editor: Chris Greening
Coordination: Thomas Boecker
Chris: How was it to compose music for a concert instead of "just" arranging or orchestrating existing material?
Jonne Valtonen: In some ways, it was easier to compose the music instead of arranging it, but in other ways harder. Easier because I was able to use more of my own aesthetics and obviously was more involved in the process. Harder because I was creating something totally new that does not have the familiarity of existing themes and textures.
Chris: What style did you choose for the fanfare?
Jonne Valtonen: I thought about this for a long time. In the end I came up with introducing a very traditional fanfare with "boosted means". I took a hint of late-romantic approach for the fanfare, used a small amount of mediant harmony, and a very small amount of early modernistic approach in the form of polytonality.
I really want to make this concert special and with this approach I am hoping that the fanfare stands out a bit from the normal fanfare repertoire. I also tried to stay away from making the melodies too obvious. The soundtracks from Square Enix have such beautiful and strong melodies, so the focus should be on those, not on my themes.
Chris: How long did it take to compose that music?
Jonne Valtonen: I think it took me two full working weeks. For the actual composition process I searched the main material for 3-4 days and played it around with a piano. This is something I did eight hours a day. Then I sketched voiceleading and rhythmical ideas for other 3-4 days. The rest of the time was orchestrating and trying to find the best and most effective way to present my vision. This does not include the time I used to go through different fanfares and thinking about the final form of the fanfare. That part took me about a month.
Chris: Talking of which, where did your inspiration come from?
Jonne Valtonen: I try to listen to a lot of music in general. With this piece I listened to a lot of different fanfares from different eras (from early music to present day movie music). With a "fanfare" I always hear the American influence (Aaron Copland, John Williams, etc.). Generally the inspiration might come from all kinds of places. Literally.
Recently there was this flu epidemic raging all over here in Finland and I realized that a lot of people cough to the same rhythm! I am planning on putting that rhythm on one place of the puppet theatre opera I am working on later this year. Well, I do not think I got inspired by flu though, but I am just pointing out that for me the "inspiration" might come from anywhere!
Chris: What do you think is the purpose of your fanfare?
Jonne Valtonen: My fanfare is a spirit lifter and appetizer that hopefully takes your mind off from your normal daily activities and sets you in a concert hall. Like when you start reading a book, it always takes some pages before you really get into the story and the real world disappears around you. So that when the music of Square Enix starts, you would already be tuned in to the orchestra and on the music and not somewhere else mentally.
Chris: Now that we have talked about the fanfare quite a lot, are you allowed to tell us a bit about the concert itself? What can we expected from your arrangements?
Jonne Valtonen: Not that much, I am so sorry to say. What I am allowed to say is that I am trying to introduce the orchestra as much as possible, but always keeping my eye tightly on the original music. We have a couple of huge surprises. Truth to be told: I hardly can stand waiting to hear them live myself!
The last tickets for Symphonic Fantasies are available here. Prices range from 6 EUR to 30 EUR so should be very affordable. Young people, students, and certain other groups are eligible to half price tickets.