Nordlyd / Composers Bergner, Thorsen and Snæbjørnsdottir

5/6 2018

Nordlyd is a three-year Nordic co-operation project on the creation of a new Nordic concert repertoire, network and exploration of the Nordic identity (s).

Composer and Nordlyd mentor Lauri Supponen (FI) has been following the project and had deep concersations with the perticipating composers about their music and about their perception of the creative process.

Ylva Lund Bergner (SE)

”You have to work and compose as if you know that it’s important. And that something will happen and… like your work is really, really… how should I say this? It must be worth it! It should be worth it in that way that someone will listen and maybe do something about it. Because our way of doing something about how the world is – is writing music. That’s the best way for us. We can’t really change the world in other ways, through leadership. We composers are standing a bit outside of the rest of the society, since we earn so little and don’t really have any power. We can observe. We hope that we can inflate someone to do something about the problems that we see the in world. It still feels like we are the ones who are watching and can see the world more clearly than other people in the society, maybe, because we’re always analysing.

”If I work really hard with my music, if I do what I can in my power to write good and important music, I think the audience will notice it. They can feel the tension, they can feel the essence and the importance underneath the music.

”I think we sometimes forget what we’re doing. We are so focused on our music, on how we look. I think it’s good to go back to why we started doing music, and why we started liking music at all.

”When you have to go into yourself to find inspiration and ideas, you end up somewhere in your memories. My childhood is very strong in my memory. I think it’s very important to who I am as a composer. In a way I don’t know if I have ever grown up. It’s where I’m drifting off in my mind when I’m composing. I’m going back to my nine-year-old self, walking around, being in her thoughts all the time. Music happened a lot then. It was also a difficult time with my parents’ divorce. I grew up a little too fast and now I’m going back to being a child again.

”It’s not important to me to write very difficult music. I want to do something, but it’s hard in the moment to do it in the best way, maybe. Then I have to go back to what I’ve done before, to the pieces that I’m satisfied with but haven’t really gone back to. I analyse and finally extract myself and put it in the piece. I’m using two kind of elements a lot. On the other hand, there is the klang-like music with long lines and on the other, noisy, distorted sounds and using objects. I like both, but I have to use them together to make something musical out of it. I’m going more toward writing rythmical music, that I’m really afraid of. To me is it’s one of the most difficult things to write, because it takes a lot of time and it’s also about really having to hear the music and how it is growing and flowing. I’m going more towards that. The difficult things. What I’m afraid of.

”It’s about the presentation as well. It’s about how I show the music, what it looks like on stage, how I make the musicians want to play it, make them really engaged in the project. The sound-quality and all the details have to be perfect to present the music in the best way. This way everyone feels like someone cares for them, that someone really wants them to hear this piece. And that they are happy they came to the concert. The bad thing is, usually there is not much time for all of that. You have worked really hard on the piece, the musicians have practised so much, and then you come to the concert and you have fifteen minutes to set the lights. It’s too bad. Since music is becoming more and more about what it looks like, there should be time to spend on that.

Bergrún Snaebjörnsdóttir (IS)

”The piece is coming along ok. The form isn’t quite set yet, for me. I’ve been banging my head against the wall for two days just trying to knock it out of my… it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t speak it yet. It’s already there, but it’s not at the same time. I’m having a hard time blurting it out. I’m working around it. I’m zooming in on spots that I can work on, but there is always the fact that the grand form is not set into stone yet. When I have that, I will be much more comfortable. One more day will seal the deal, and then I can relax and fill in the blanks. That’s not so intensely brain-draining.

”I can focus in on things when I want to, but I have a very easy time of completely ignoring my immediate surroundings. My head projects into some other dimension. Doesnt that happen to you too?

”I’ve never used my voice literally in my work. I started thinking what is my voice. I decide to bring my inner voice literally outward and try to capture the process that usually happens in other pieces I write. Before I’ve been doing word association games just to try to capture a state of mind that I’m in. I took one of these word associations, that for me is like a list of words that combine an intent or meaning as a whole but not separately as words. Which is how words work. I’m using these words to create the literal meaning of them together in one congealed mass. It’s not going to be as literal as maybe it should’ve been, it’s not going to be very wordy. What’s the word? There’s a really good word for it. Something related to taking a lot of space. My voice is not going to take up literally a lot of space in the piece but still it’s going to be the whole piece.

”My voice. I don’t really talk much about what I’m thinking about it. I’m not very well-versed in talking about it. I always see my voice as being something super-private. It feels very risky for me to bring it out, in the sence of talking or speaking about it. But that’s a risk you take every day, I guess.

”I don’t really think about my voice being heard, I guess because I’m a little bit of a nihilist. I don’t really care that much whether someone else is hearing what I’m saying through my music. I’m mostly doing it for myself, because I need to get these things out. It’s something I do, it’s something I have to do. Contemporary music is not getting out to too many people, I guess. I dont know, I can’t think like that. Ultimately it has to be about the work. It cannot be about is someone hearing it. I personally can’t focus too much on ’who’s listening to my music’. It would fuck up everything I’m doing privately in my work. I would become afraid of what I’m doing: ’should I do something differently?’, ’what do they like?’, ’I wonder what I could do to make someone want to listen to this?’. I don’t think like that.

”I was working on a piece I was going to record a part of. Someone came up to me and asked ’so, what’s the endgame of writing this piece?’ As in, I must have an ulterior motive for writing it, it couldn’t have been just for the sake of it, there had to be some kind of social repercussion. I had never even thought about it like that. At first I didn’t even know what he was trying to ask. When I realised how he thought about it, I didn’t now how to answer. Some people think like that. It’s not representative of how I’m thinking or feeling. Then I mostly just laugh it off. I marvel in it, I try to put myself in their shoes of thinking about it. That’s how I understand the situation. By running into that and turning my head around like: ’I wonder what it would be like if I think like that for a minute’ and then laugh a little. Because it has to be about the work, it can’t be about some endgame.

”I don’t see how the perception of the work has to be separated from it being just for yourself. Of course I think about that too, about how is it going to be heard. But for some reason I don’t connect it with an endgame situation, like an ulterior motive.

”That’s the only way I work. Intuition bereft of intentual thought. Blind instinct. One has to follow through.


Bente Leiknes Thorsen (N)

”The problem with many political pieces of music that I have witnessed is that one is not given room to reflect as an audience. To have this room is one of the nicest things that can happen in a concert. It starts things in your own head, instead of finishing them when you leave the concert space. The piece keeps evolving. Some of the political pieces I’ve seen are too one-dimensional to do that. They fail at being political, because they are marching at you with that one banner.

”Over the last few years I have become more aware of the fact that I’m a female composer. I almost feel like I’ve come out as a female composer. I started out. I wanted to become a composer, I studied composition and I started to feel like a composer. Then I noticed there was something different with me. That was me being a female composer. I didn’t want to be a female composer. I never did. I always wanted to be a composer. These last few years I’ve been thinking about this mostly due to having a family. Things start to happen to you when you have a family in terms of a carreer. I’ve also used my kids’ sounds and voices as musical material, which has gotten different attention than some of my other music. I don’t know whether I have a clear message. Obviously I want more women to compose. I’m angry and dissappointed about the missed opportunities before me, and still today. For instance Norwegian orchestras commission fewer women that would match the overall gender-balance of composers in the country. There’s a structural problem. Gender is inherent in our notions about who can do what. I can’t change this with this piece, but because I’m using my own voice I’m trying to tell a few stories about my own experiences with this, in a musical context.

”I’ve always wanted to act more. I think I have a little bit of flair a for it. When you teach a group, that is a performance. You have to know your timing, you have to play the room, you have to be energetic. I really see it as a performance. One of the movements is going to be a lecture, where the ensemble will act as my CD-player, like ”let’s listen to this masculine main theme…” So the only thing I’m worried about is that I will talk too quickly in Norwegian and all the Danes won’t understand it. I wonder if I should have a stupid opera-like sing-along banner…”

”If one wants to grow up to be old, grumpy and bitter for everything that didn’t pan out, we have many forbilder (role-models) for that. I like the word forbilde, because it evokes a picture. That’s another thing that my male colleagues don’t get. Beethoven is not a role-model for them, and it’s not about that. It’s in the sence that if you grow up as a man and want to be a midwife, for instance, it’s hard for you to see that picture of yourself as that, that forbilde, because the name of the profession is gendered. When you close your eyes and I ask you to see a composer, you see a dead man. If I ask you to see a nurse, you see a blonde 35-year old woman. You need to make an effort to see something else. My female forbilder are often not musical. They are something to help me picture myself in my profession. Most of my musical forbilder are usually men, and that’s fine, but it’s that mental image some professions don’t have in the same sense.

”I feel much more secure as a composer when I can see the whole shape of the piece, and then launch into the specific parts of it. I like the kind of work when I start without any clear ideas, you get the ideas through your work. I wasn’t able to work on it for a while, then I take it up again and suddenly there is a path that seems clear. My mind had been subconciously working on it.

”It’s a part of the commission that my voice is being heard somehow in the piece. That got me started on a lot of things: what is my voice? ”My voice, my voice”? Should i have that in the piece? Should I say something? Should I use a recording? Should I use a software that renders my voice into sound material? Also – although the actual text doesn’t imply it so much – that my voice as a composer, in the metaphorical sense, is also present. That I have things to say.

Author: Lauri Supponen

Experience the composers live in concersation 5/6 2018 19.00. More info

The Nordlyd 2018 music will be premiered 5/6 2018. More more