Kalevipoeg in California
duration: 7 minutes
Kalevipoeg in California was premiered by the New Jersey Symphony in Princeton, NJ on July 19, 2014.
Stream a recording of the premiere performance on WQXR’s Q2 Music.
Kalevipoeg in California (2013) imagines what would happen if the Estonian folk hero Kalevipoeg were magically transported into present-day San Francisco. Though I was born and raised in California, my mother is Estonian. I spoke Estonian at home and remember being drawn to the strange characters of Estonian folklore. I was particularly fascinated by Kalveipoeg, the great hero of the Estonian national epic. The deeply flawed Kalevipoeg was not much of a hero; actually, his bluster, thoughtlessness, massive strength and propensity to get drunk and commit heinous crimes combined to make him a pretty unlikeable person. For some reason, perhaps in an effort to understand his character better, or perhaps just as a playful pastime, I began trying to imagine how Kalevipoeg would deal with contemporary society; what would happen if he were suddenly toappear, say, in downtown San Francisco? I imagined his power turning into awkwardness: a spastic, clumsy dance of sorts. And as I imagined him flailing about, searching for something recognizable, my image of him, a relic of a mostly forgotten world, became a sad one. Faced with the hard-hearted crudeness of the modern world, Kalevipoeg’s own brand of crudeness became more sympathetic. So I imagined Kalevipoeg lashing out at the modern world in one last mighty outburst and then roaming away from the city and finding solace in nature, in particular in the majestic, ancient redwood groves of California, one old fogy hanging out with others.