Liner Notes

Dada-aria for soprano or mezzo soprano (2016)

In the 19th Century, the singing style of romantic opera developed alongside the growing size of orchestras and concert halls. In Dada-aria, this style of operatic singing has been employed, distinct from the context of its supporting instrumental music. In this context, the vocal sounds and their emotional quality appear as naked and exposed.

 

The “Dada” of Dada-aria refers to the attempt to distance the work from rationalism and intellectualism in art. The text of Dada-aria comprises a constructed Latin-Greek-Italian-like language; an imitation of an opera aria, resulting from the idea that the sounds and articulated words can themselves be beautiful.

 

Wuthering Modes. Not Moods. for string quartet (2017)

Wuthering Modes. Not Moods. was composed for the Ultima Festival in Oslo in 2017. It was first performed by the Améi Quartett.

 

The work is an attempt to turn certain musical materials—that each carry a sentimental or emotional quality—into “musical modes.” This is done by freezing musical elements and focusing on their expressive qualities, rather than by harmonically structured narrativity, and by stretching and expanding the elements in time.

 

Winds electronic work: fixed media sound (2016)

Winds was originally composed as a work for 8-channel surround-sound, using Ambisonics. The work comprises the sounds of breathing, of wind resonating in the woods, and of the fragile sounds of the melodica. The element of air moving and creating resonance is present in all the sounds. This air forms the core of the work.

 

Winds was composed during a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida in November 2016, under the advisement of composer Natasha Barrett, the lead artist during the residency.

 

Herz beim Spinnrade for soprano and prepared piano (2013)

Herz beim Spinnrade is an interpretation of Franz Schubert’s Lied “Grätchen am Spinnrade,” based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. In Schubert’s Lied, Grätchen sits by a spinning wheel and grieves, as she doesn’t know whether she will ever see Faust again. In this work, the music moves from observing the scene to the inside of the experiencing body and its processes. The mechanic and expressive sounds made on the strings of the grand piano might resemble heartbeats, a spinning wheel, and blood moving through the veins. The composition is an echo from the Romantic era, and does contain elements of nostalgia — but these are heard as dissolved fragments that are observed from behind an historical veil.

 

L’operette d’amour for percussion, voice, and electronics as a loop (2014)

The miniature L’operette d’amour is originally a movement from a larger work, Encounters, that was composed in collaboration with Sigurd Fischer Olsen. That piece was premiered by a classical singer, a jazz singer, a classical percussionist, and a jazz percussionist in 2014.

 

This musical fragment playfully shows what might happen when these different traditions start to interact, and co-interpret the materiality of their musical expressions.

 

Ode to a Tree for Bb clarinet and voice as fixed media sound (2016)

The singing voice—heard as fixed sound files during the performance of Ode to a Tree—might appear as archaic, performing long vowels and bouncing from chest voice to head voice. While the title itself might seem romantic, this work doesn’t play along with the codes of romanticized beauty, neither in vocal technique nor in clarinet performance. There is a search for concreteness and nakedness of musical expression, combined with a questioning of what is ‘natural.’

 

The work was first performed in July 2016 at the Mostly Mozart festival by Joshua Rubin in front of the Lincoln Center in the area surrounded by large trees.

 

Lucia for piccolo flute and electronics, as amplification and delay (2009)

The piccolo flute is most often used as an orchestral instrument in order to emphasize the effects of an ordinary flute. In this context, its sounds might appear as cold and penetrating. Lucia, whose title refers to the Italian word for ‘light,’ is an attempt to zoom into the richness of the sounds of the  piccolo on its own terms. The use of piccolo as a solo instrument, combined with amplification, allows us to listen closely to its slight nuances: the fragile transitions from air to sound. In addition, the piccolo becomes an extension of a physical body, and allows us to be present in the intensities of inhaling and exhaling.

 

Barnet som blev osynligt for female voice, percussion, and fixed media sound (2013)

The work is inspired by Tove Jansson’s Moomin story about a girl who has become invisible. Living with a lady who constantly put her down with ironic comments, she first turned pale, then disappeared out of sight altogether. One can only hear a silver bell tinkling around her neck. She is sent to the Moomin house to become visible again.

 

In the story, there is an ambiguity as to the source of information since the girl lacks her voice and can’t tell her own story. The musical narrative interprets elements related to her physical presence, such as intensities, nervousness, and breathing.

 

Three quotes from Tove Jansson’s original novel, “Berättelsen om det osynliga barnet,” appear in the work (as English translations): “Ninni was a very orderly little child,” “If people start to get misty and difficult to see,” and “[T]o talk with people who are invisible. And who never answer me.”

 

Banalala electronic work: fixed media sound (2014)

Banalala, commissioned for the Only Connect festival in Oslo in Spring 2014, was composed as a reflection of the architecture and atmosphere of Tjuvholmen: a fancy and fashionable, recently rebuilt, area in Oslo. Every square meter of Tjuvholmen is defined and put to use from the joint viewpoints of functionality and aesthetic experience in everyday life. There are no incidental elements or historical layers. What happens when human beings define their surroundings completely, and then try to adapt to these surroundings, adhering to their associated expectations of behavior? Do human beings also try to turn themselves into aesthetically pleasant things? There are three spoken quotations in Banalala, all originating from the writer J.G. Ballard, who was the subject of the festival. One of the messages is that, in a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom.

 

A Song for the Viola for viola and fixed media sound (2011)

This three-minute work functions as a window to a musical world rather than a short, musical narrative. Its material could expand in multiple directions. The work arose from a project first initiated by Ny Musikks Komponistgruppe in collaboration with violinist Mira Benjamin from Montreal Canada. A Song for the Viola has, at the time of recording, been performed 20 times by 5 different performers.

 

Tacit-Citat-ion for string quartet (2013/2018)

The title of this work refers to the concepts of “tacit knowledge” and “citation,” and together this refers to the idea that a musical work will appear inside of an historical context of musical codes. Tacit-Citat-ion takes some of its inspiration from works by Kaija Saariaho, Hans Abrahamsen, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Giacinto Scelsi. It is especially a tribute to the music of Saariaho, and includes musical quotes from her work Nocturne for solo violin. In addition the work has found inspiration in Abrahamsen’s beautiful work Schnee for nine instruments. The aesthetic appeal of these composers can be found in the fragile, textural, and weightless quality of the musical gestures that this relationship brings to the string quartet.

 

— Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi

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