Malted Earth uses adaptations of melodies from the traditional fiddle tune Maltsteinen from Telemark in Norway. More symbolically, the work seeks to thematize the relationship between the natural and the constructed, and especially how humans, for better or worse, create modified and often more extreme versions of natural phenomena and processes. In Malted Earth, the three processes that are central in the production of malt: soaking, germination and drying, help to define the transformation of the music in the work. The musical material can be "softened", it can "sprout" and it can be "laid out to dry".
In the opening of the work, the double bass and piano play the theme from Maltsteinen with long, enduring unison sounds. Beating tones sometimes occur, as the difference between overtones on the bass and the pianos equal temperament tuning is highlighted. At the same time, the memory of the original tune is awakened through a self-playing Hardanger fiddle.
The theme is then repeated almost uninterruptedly throughout the work, while the melody is processed and varied from the unrecognizable to the recognizable.