May 2007

recently finished projects

A scene from Bakkynjur in The Natinonal Theater of Iceland.
Courtesy of The National Theatre of Iceland / Eddi

I had to postpone some projects to tackle a commission that came up last summer: The stage music for the first Icelandic staging of Euripides' Bacchae at the National Theatre. This proved to be hard work in close collaboration with director Giorgos Zamboulakis, choreographer Erna Omarsdottir and the cast of seven bacchae. The only acoustical instruments were clarinets and other wind instruments, played by the incredibly versatile Gudni Franzson, and percussion, performed by Kjartan Gudnason, both dressed up as satyrs. The soundscape consists of electronic sounds, "voicescapes" and some songs performed by the bacchae. To conserve some of this music in a concert version I made a suite for female voices, clarinet and percussion, 20 minutes long. It will be premiered next season by Vox Feminae in Reykjavik. The music of the Bacchae was nominated for the Icelandic Theatre Prize 2007.

Before setting to work on the oboe concertino for Helen Jahren, now underway, I quickly adapted an older trio for the Adapter Ensemble, in the form of a quintet. In brief I took Trust Me for clarinet, viola and piano, and made it into The Blessings of Madness for flute, clarinet, percussion, harp and piano. They premiered it in Berlin on May 17, following up with concerts in Hamburg and Kiel, and finally in Reykjavik on June 10.

A very small work I just had to finish was adding the third song to a set of two previously arranged folk melodies. Somehow I needed this to complete the form which now bears the title Myndir af thremur thjodlogum (pictures of three folk melodies), scored for flute, violin, cello and mezzo-voice. The first two were composed and performed in Bologna about a decade ago. This new version has yet to be premiered.

recent performances
One of the most memorable events of this season was the premiere of Composition, the performance project combining my accordion, double bass and sax solos, in all fifty minutes of music. I had a very theatrical approach to this job. All the time I tried to imagine the three guys on stage and even wrote in some movements they should perform while not playing. Quite experimental for me but I have a feeling the risk payed off, people seemed to enjoy it. My friends in the Poing Trio sure enough did a fantastic job. They premiered it at Ultima in Oslo, and then played it in Reykjavík, Huddersfield and Trondheim, besides occasional performances of the solo pieces separately.

Besides Composition, the Ultima festival in Oslo featured two performances of Suzannah at the Black Box Theatre: The Cinnober Theatre group and Göteborg Kammarsolisterna toured to Oslo and then on to Reykjavík where the National Theatre hosted two evenings on the Workshop Stage.

works in progress
After the work for oboe and ensemble, which should be finished by August, there is a number of projects coming up, among these a radio-drama. I will give news of them in due time.

Since I have been teaching harmony one afternoon a week this winter I got the idea of assembling my notes into a volume on harmony, focusing on Bach-style. I will complete it little by little as I teach next winter. I really could not have imagined this a couple of years ago since I have never seen myself as a theoretic or a pedagogue. But maybe I am after all!


May 2006

My site actually isn’t updated often enough to keep out a fresh news column but this might change sometimes in the future.

Right now I can only offer a quick overview of what has been happening more or less recently:

new cd

The profile cd, ENTER, finally came out in March 2005, distributed by BIS records. Reviews have been mostly from good to very good (see reviews section). Although a big recognition goes to the marvellous musicians playing on the cd, I like to think some of its merits also consist in its recording and post-production criteria. ENTER was nominated for the Icelandic Music Prize as disc of the year in the classic and contemporary music category.

recently finished projects

I worked on three projects last year, all of them quite unique as compared to what I have been doing until now:

Play and Destroy for electronics and six instruments is the project I worked on at the CIRM in Nice (see programme notes in the catalogue section) with a video realised in collaboration with Simone Bellotti, sculptor, scenographer and designer. The electronic part greatly benefitted from the fruitful and instructive collaboration with Frédéric Voisin, musical assistant and head of research at the CIRM. The premiere took place on November 5 in Nice, played by the Ensemble Sillages. The Caput Ensemble then performed the piece in Reykjavik on February 11, 2006 and again in Montréal in the beginning of March.

Snap for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and sampler, part of the Microwaves project by Alter Ego in collaboration with the electroduo Pan Sonic from Finland. This is a small piece but part of a bigger whole, premiered on February 24, 2006 in Stockholm. It has been scheduled also in Berlin (MaerzMusik), Geneva (Archipel), Barcelona (New Sounds), Paris (IRCAM), Rome (RomaEuropa) and other places will probably follow.

Suzannah, the music-theatre piece for the Cinnober Theatre Group in Gothemburg and Göteborg Kammarsolisterna. Text by Jon Fosse. Directed by Svante Aulis Löwenborg. Premiered on December 5th 2005 and showed eleven times between December and January. Quite a success with critics who generally noticed how the work strives for a rare balance between words and music. Has already been booked in Oslo, Black Box, for a couple of evenings in October and a tour to Reykjavik is all but certain. It seems like other venues might follow but this cannot be confirmed.

A scene from the music theater Suzannah.

works in progress

In 2006 I hope to complete Brain Trill, a solo for alto saxophone, to be incorporated in a single performance designed for the fantastic Poing Trio from Oslo. The performance should contain solos for each one of the players (I already have the accordion and double bass solos) and some connecting parts.

For the autumn 2006 I am preparing a 25 minute electroacoustic installation sponsored by Orkuveita Reykjavikur, the Reykjavik Power Company.

Oboist Helen Jahren has also commissioned from me a piece for oboe and chamber group. This obliges me to come back to apparently more conventional settings, which is only a welcome challenge.

recent performances

To mention some recent performances, I was happy to know of the reprise of Sulphur Pulse for six percussionists in Royaumont on August 27 (Les percussions de Strasbourg). I had two pieces on programme in Saint Petersburg at the end of September. I was able to hear Orchestra B played by the Munich Radio Orchestra in February, Arturo Tamayo conducting. That was good.
Accordionist Frode Haltli keeps playing Radioflakes here and there, and the young Peter Katina also did it. Haltli’s last performance of the piece was in Vitasaari in July 2005. Some of my pieces have had their Icelandic premiere since I moved back, Opna, Kvenna Heiti, The Juggler’s Tent, and it seems others are to follow.

I would like to thank some guests on the site for very friendly remarks. You’re right, I should update and correct more often. Will try and make that happen.