Ansgar Beste, foto © Beate Heidecke
Ansgar Beste, foto Beate Heidecke

Arctic Sound – Vokalmusik med djurjojkar och medeltidscitat

Den framstående Londonbaserade vokalensemblen Exaudi ger ett musikaliskt porträtt av den nyskapande tonsättaren Ansgar Beste. Han söker efter innovativa klangskikt och teatraliska element i musiken och strävar efter att utmana och spela på lyssnarnas förväntningar och upplevelser. På denna konsert framförs Ansgar Bestes samtliga fem vokalverk, bland annat prisbelönade In the Steppes of Sápmi, (Dés)illusion d’un chant och ett helt nyskrivet verk som alla baserats på samiska djurjojkar. Dessutom ges Mascarade nocturne inspirerat av den viktiga medeltidstonsättaren Hildegard av Bingen och Poème parodique som behandlar gamla tiders poesi på ett kritiskt sätt.

Samtliga fem verk är uruppföranden i någon mening; förutom det helt nyskrivna verket är det premiär för (Dés)illusion d’un chant, och övriga tre verk framförs för första gången i dessa versioner.
 

Mascarade Nocturne (nattlig maskerad) för (preparerad) (dam-/mans-/blandad) vokalsextett a cappella (10') (2016) (blandad sextett-version) – uruppförande

Nytt verk för valfria röster och instrument (15') (2020) – uruppförande

(Dés)Illusion d’un chant ([des]Illusion av en sång) för preparerad sångröst och preparerat(/de) stränginstrument (8') (2017) – uruppförande

Poème Parodique (parodisk dikt) för 6 eller 12 preparerade blandade röster a cappella (5') (2010-11 / 2020) – uruppförande (blandad sextett-version)

In the steppes of Sápmi (på Samelands stäpper) för (preparerad) vokalsextett (SMezATBarB) a cappella (21') (2014-15) – uruppförande (21 min-version)

Konserten genomförs i samarbete med Stockholms Domkyrkoförsamling med stöd av Statens musikverk, Statens kulturråd, Region Stockholm, Goethe-Institut Schweden, Region Norrbotten, Konstnärsnämnden.


Ett tonsättarporträtt av Malmösonen Ansgar Beste. Han har studerat komposition vid 7 musikhögskolor i 4 länder. Hans ofta krävande musik har vunnit flera betydande internationella priser och har framförts i 21 länder, på 51 festivaler och 20 radiokanaler. Tonsättaren har samarbetat med och fått beställningar av en rad namnkunniga ensembler och solister från in- och utlandet. Samtliga verk är komponerade av Ansgar Beste.

Det senaste decenniet har Ansgar Beste profilerat sig som en av Skandinaviens mest nyskapande, säregna och internationellt framgångsrika tonsättare i den yngre generationen. Han har kallats för den nya musikens 'Wallraff': han undersöker alla musikinstrument från grunden och kliver in i deras innersta mekanik och funktioner, synar och exponerar tidigare ohörda ljud från dess mäktiga innanmäte.

Ansgar Bestes tre huvudsyften med komponerandet är: innovativa klanger, strukturering och teatralitet. Han fokuserar sitt musikaliska material på komplexa klanger och (o)ljudelement som produceras på konventionella musikinstrument på ett okonventionellt, rent akustiskt (icke-elektroniskt) sätt: Genom att främmandegöra instrumentens välkända klangvärld med ett brett spektrum av nya spel- och vokaltekniker och nyupptäckta prepareringar, önskar han att spela med lyssnarens förväntning, perception, erfarenhet och förståelse.

 

Medverkande
Rebecca Lea – sopran
Jessica Gillingwater – mezzosopran/alt
Ruth Kiang – mezzosopran/alt
David de Winter – tenor
Simon Whiteley – baryton och solist i (Dés)Illusion d’un chant
Jimmy Holliday – bas
James Weeks – dirigent
Alastair Putt – gitarr i (Dés)Illusion d’un chant och tenor (nr 2)
Verkkommentarer

Exaudi framför Ansgar Bestes samtliga fem vokalverk, bl a det prisbelönade verket 'In the steppes of Sápmi' (2014-15).

Tre av verken (nr 2, 3, 5) är baserade på samiska djurjojkar och önskar därmed att förankra denna viktiga gränsöverskridande nordiska musiktradition bättre i klassiskt nordiskt musikliv. Även ett fjärde stycke (nr 1) behandlar en nisch från musikhistorien: medeltidsmusik av Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), en viktig tidig kvinnlig tonsättare. Det sista verket (nr 4) tematiserar poesin från gamla tider på ett klassiskt-avantgardistiskt och kritiskt sätt.

Vi får höra fem uruppföranden: Två av verken (nr 2, 3) har aldrig framförts tidigare på något sätt, men även de övriga tre verken presenteras för första gången antingen som blandad sextett-besättning (nr 1, 4) eller i fullständig längd (nr 5).

Total speltid: c:a 60 min.

Mascarade Nocturne

The work Mascarade Nocturne was first of all inspired by a courtly masquerade resp. by a traditional masked ball in former centuries. Old and more recent dance rhythms of popular music are generated by vocal noises and elements of vocal percussion, i.e. by the imitation of the drum-set through human vocal articulation.

The dance rhythms appear in diverse variations: treatments like augmentation/diminution, permutation and modulation result in a rhythmic texture with varying degrees of density, partly through polyphonic superpositions. This rhythmic framework gives rise to a musical form consisting of three more animated and two contrasting calmer sections (A B A' C A'').

In these calmer sections B/C the masquerade is surrounded by a nocturnal atmosphere – quiet, meditative, lyrical and cantabile in character, suggesting the image of night, moonlight and dreaming. Three vocalists are making use of their singing voices, repetitively quoting shorter melodic excerpts from the 'Dark' Ages: from the medieval opus magnum Ordo Virtutum (≈ 1151) by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).

Even though the excerpts were selected almost exclusively according to their melodic uniqueness and expressiveness and even though they are performed as a vocalise, they also embrace a textual dichotomy which might be related to the emotional ambivalence of the night:

The excerpts used and fragmented in the through-composed sections (bars 26-41 / 43-57 and 73-88 / 90-104) could stand for the inner fears of the dark: 'succurrite mihi' (come and support me) from Anima Illa (no. 11), 'fugo […] Diaboli' (I'm fleeing from the Devil) from Verecundia (no. 47) as well as 'curre' (run now!) from Humilitas ad Victoriam (no. 75). By contrast, the excerpts provided as a basis for two improvisational sections (bars 42 and 89) could symbolize the light at the end of the tunnel: 'speculum vitae' (mirror of life) and 'fontem salientem' (leaping fountain) from Fides (no. 33) as well as 'O victoria' (Oh Victory) from Humilitas ad Victoriam (no. 75).

Nytt verk 

Ett minimalistiskt jojk-stycke i variabel besättning och längd

(Dés)Illusion d’un chant

The main idea of the piece is to create the illusion of a song, by using short joik fragments and increasing them in length and density. After the climax (at the golden section) the song is deconstructed again, making the illusion a disillusion.

The work is supposed to merge classical avant-garde music with traditional Nordic folk music. At the same time, the work shall deliver a unique contribution to the Romantic lied tradition.

The vocal part is based only on one joik, a folk melody from the Sami people of Lapland, a cultural region in Northern Europe (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia).

Joiks are short melodies, performed soloistically without coherent lyrics, with only few words or phonetic syllables and with a noise-like chesty vocalization. Joik melodies are usually repeated many times during the recitation with a gradual rise in tempo and tonality towards the end.

Most of the joik melodies represent famous people from the past, but some represent animals of the region. These animal joiks imitate the characteristics of the animals’ sounds and movements. In this case, the joik melody represents the wolf.

Poème Parodique

The main idea behind the piece is a confrontation of two timbral processes within the sound world of a prepared vocal ensemble: On the one hand, a poetic lava of slowly moving sound masses from harmonica playing singers, on the other hand, a parodistic fireworks of emotional, theatrical and quickly moving interjections from whistle blowing speakers.

Formally, the composition is divided into 8 sections, of which sections 1-4 and 7-8 represent the confrontation between singing and speaking voices, whereas sections 5-6 are entirely sung and form a kind of static climax.

The development of densities runs in the same direction (in both timbral processes) in sections 1 and 8, but in opposite directions in sections 2, 3, 4 and 7. The development of pitch or brightness proves to be rather static in the spoken layer, but dynamic in the sung counterpart, in which the registers are rising between sections 1 and 4, but falling between sections 7 and 8.

In the steppes of Sápmi

Sápmi is the Sami word for Lapland, the cultural region in Northern Europe (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia) which has traditionally been inhabited by the Sami people. The largest part of Sápmi lies north of the Arctic Circle, resulting in a subarctic climate, a sparse vegetation and a steppe-like landscape. Only few animals can survive in this wasteland: reindeer, wolf, bear and different birds.

Sami people have their own traditional folk songs, the joiks: short melodies, performed soloistically without coherent lyrics, with only few words or phonetic syllables and with a noise-like chesty vocalization. Joik melodies are usually repeated many times during the recitation with a gradual rise in tempo and tonality towards the end.

Most of the joik melodies represent famous people from the past, but some represent animals of the region. These animal joiks imitate the characteristics of the animals' sounds and movements: The vocal technique of the growl voice, for example, is supposed to simulate both the wing-beats of a northern hawk owl (movement) and the cawing of a crow, the roaring of a bear or the growling of a wolf right before attacking its prey (sound). Also the particular intervallic-rhythmic shape of a melody can in some cases imitate the movement (e.g. the waddling, hopping and stumbling over the fields of a crow) and in other cases the sound, in an onomatopoeic manner (e.g. the howling of a wolf or the birdcall of the long-tailed duck).

Traditionally, joiks were both sung at work (while herding reindeers, hunting or fishing) and at any kind of social event (esp. weddings and shamanic séances).

In these religious ceremonies, it has been reported that the shaman, while playing the magic drum, joiking and gesticulating, was trying at the same time to invoke helping spirits and to fall himself into a state of arousal, ecstasy, trance and deep unconsciousness. In this state, the soul was supposed to separate from the body, to follow the helping spirits on their journey to the realm of shadows and finally to receive divine inspiration and epiphany.

As the auxiliary spirits were believed to have animal forms, they were called by imitating animal voices. In order to support the shaman, especially when he was lying motionless on the ground, his assistant and the participants from the community constantly and ceaselessly joiked the same animals during the entire séance.

For these overall strenuous efforts it is presumed that a certain degree of loudness, distortion and monotony of the voice resp. of the chant have been necessary.

The main idea of this work is to reflect on the sparse steppe landscape of Sápmi and to create an atmospheric soundscape, by combining the timbre of extended and prepared vocal techniques with the timbre of joik vocalization and with animal sounds from 6 traditional Sami animal joiks, imitating the following 6 animals: long-tailed duck (S), crow (Mez), northern hawk owl (A), reindeer cow (T), wolf (Bar) and bear (B).

The musical and textual repetitiveness of the joik has been made to a compositional principle for the entire work, illustrating the monotonous, repetitive scenery of the steppes.

The overall formal dramaturgy of the piece, continuously and polyphonically heading for one final climax, can on the one hand be perceived as the successive gathering and incitement of a group of animals, resulting in a wild, roaring animal orchestra.

On the other hand, the whole process can be interpreted simply as one single, elongated and polyphonic joik performance, or as an allusion to a shamanic séance, with the magic drum represented by vocal percussion and with the ritual ecstasy and epiphany in the very end.

The work consists of 6 parts:

Part 1 (b. 1-40) is a shorter inversion of the last part and serves as an anticipated climax.

Parts 2-4 (b. 41-639) and part 5 (b. 640-746) are gradually building up the 6 joik melodies from small fragments, until they finally appear in complete versions (e.g. in bars 635-639 and 742-746 as a dense canon).

In parts 2-4, these isolated animal sounds join together with extended vocal techniques and elements of vocal percussion, i.e. with the imitation of the drum-set and popular-music rhythms through human vocal articulation. A systematic, pre-compositional elaboration, differentiation and sound-typological structuring of the so-called extended vocal techniques has been undertaken in advance to allow for one elongated and smooth 15-minute timbre transformation from air sound via several intermediate stages to sung pitch.

In part 5, the pure joik cells (excluding vocal percussion) form an increasingly complex dialogue, resulting in a continuous density crescendo, thus preparing for the final part.

Part 6 (b. 747-829) is composed as one complex polyphonic joik using 3 traditional joik methods for increasing tension towards the culmination in the end:

- gradual (microtonal) transposition of the joik melodies upwards.

- gradual accelerando by shortened single notes.

- gradual accelerando by accelerated metre.