On January 8, 2012, in support of the APAP - performing arts conference in New York, USA, The Scandinavia House hosted a wonderful Swedish musical showcase. Heard that night was music that ranged from acapella to traditional folk, to pop, to transcendental rhythms, to electronic loops, to the most manic rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Composing some of the finest musicians Sweden has to offer, many of them recipients of numerous awards and accolades, not to mention Grammy nods. With much to cover, we decided to give a brief summary of each performance (click the artists links below) and we urge you to check out their individual pages to experience more:
Karin Ericsson Back
Well anchored in the Scandinavian folk tradition, this fantastic vocal trio sings stunningly beautiful, with pleasure and joy - songs from the North Sea area. The group Irmelin has been singing together since 1999 and has released two CDs and toured in Scandinavia, Europe, and Asia. Irmelin has also done children's shows and sung in theater, radio, film, and TV shoots around the world. Irmelin has on several occasions received awards; in Taiwan's international a cappella competition and by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee and Swedish Arts Council.
In sum: These three ladies are capable of grabbing any note out of thin air and add harmonies that emulate the experience of floating in the clouds and nail the dissonances that keep you on the edge of your seat, then resolve it all back to a euphoric state. With creation of rhythmic harmonic foundations and answer and question style melodies their voices fill the room with comforting and enjoyable sounds.
Emilia Amper: Nyckelharpa
Jonas Bleckman: Cello
Anna Roussel: Wooden flute
Skaran plays Swedish traditional tunes and own compositions bursting with attitude and joy. This explosive trio charms audiences from all over the world with their fascinating instruments, contagious groove and energetic presence. Three of the most high profile young Swedish folkmusicians invite you to their musical playground! With a mesmerizing sound full of raw beauty, the Grammy nominee and World Champion of nyckelharpa, the flute master of Swedish and Breton music and the wildest cellist in Scandinavia together explore and challenge traditions, dynamics and improvisation.
In sum: This ain’t your grandmother’s traditional folk music. Building off the traditional sounds, Skaran takes liberties with breaking the rules while adding modern harmonic and melodic structures. Whether a waltz, folk, or Latin-style Jazz (a la Space Age Bachelor Pad Music) they have impeccable syncopated rhythmic timing and can really get a room dancing.
In Bång’s “Hypertoxic”, three different perspectives of air appear in quick dialogues; communicative air that we use for speaking and whispering; the organic air that we experience as breathing, winds or breezes and finally the mechanical air which is used in several simple tools and machines. In Nilsson’s duo., “Sotto Vuoto” the music found in between the sounds – just before they sound or after the have faded away, the titls refers to the emptiness of vacuum. “Rapidité” by Henrik Strindberg was written for the inauguration of the Museum of Modern Art in Kalmar and is a duo which explores various aspects of velocity.
In sum: I haven’t quite seen a Tenor Sax and a Trombone used the way Ivo and Jörgen use them. It's like they are taking their instruments apart to create unique sounds that, if you didn’t witness live, you would swear you were listening to a synthesizer. For their last piece “Hypertoxic” Malin Bång joined in for a soundpiece that included a bicycle tire pump, hand-held fan, bullhorn, and a giant balloon. If you closed your eyes while listening to this ensemble, you will become absorbed into world they created. Personally I played a game of guess what instrument was making which sound – and I lost. It gave me a similar feeling of listening to Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”…but Vacuum is better and more ‘airy’. Suggested listening.
Cecilia Persson: Pianist & Composer
Pernilla Persson: Arts
Per Texas Johansson: Bass clarinet & clarinet
Felix Martinz: Vibraphone
Acclaimed pianist and composer, awarded the prestigious Stockholm Jazz Fest Prize. “An inventive pianist and an unusually sensitive accompanist who thank to her unique presence makes a mark in all the contexts in which she performs.” Pernilla Persson – renowned and accomplished artist based in Sweden and the US. Her often figurative work has a strong dynamic presence and she takes an obvious delight in her motives.
In sum: A true artistic piece in real time. The performers take you on a journey through time and space with sometimes droney, thematic textures, to the feeling of a real-life chase scene; this produces a marvelous soundscape. During the performance, Pernilla, on her Macbook, started with projections of a blank slate that was filled in during each piece. This created a wonderful anticipation from the audience as to see what she would end up drawing while the music added motion and emotions throughout. It was wonderful combination to see how each drawing came out while enjoying a great musical performance. Also, any performance with the Bass clarinet as a lead instrument is okay in my book.
Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet
Fredrik Kronkvist: Alto & soprano saxaphone
Martin Sjöstedt: Piano
Petter Eldh: Bass
Snorre Kirk: Drums
The powerful and soulful altoman Fredrik Kronkvist is considered one of Europe’s finest alto saxophonists and takes charge whenever he is in the spotlight. Fredrik is an award-winning saxophonist and he has several albums out as a leader. Both his writing and improvisational skills are on display when he gives the audience his experience in drawing the heat from a tune with his big sound. He is leading his own band where he presents a quartet, consisting of musicians from the vanguard of today’s jazz scene. His strong, creative spirit combined with a profound knowledge of the instrument and jazz has made him into one of Sweden’s international jazz stars.
In sum: Even though the Americans are credited with the birth of Jazz, one thing that is wonderful about the genre is that there are no geographic boundaries to it’s sound. Since this was all instrumental, the lack of vocals allowed for the listener to not associate the music with a particular region of the world. They were in the pocket and never bending too far out of the spectrum, making the listener have to think too much, just allowing the audience to soak it all in. In short, good jazz is good jazz... and the Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet was really good jazz!
'Haci' Tekbilek is the internationally well-known master of the ney, mey, oud, saz, surna, bagpipe, kaval and almost any instrument used in traditional Turkish music. Haci was also winner of the prestigious Artist of the Year title at the Swedish Folk and World Music Festival in Gothenburg in 2011.
Haci has lived in Sweden since 1974 but has just released his first CD in his own name and with musicians of his own choice – his favourite Swedish and Syrian musicians living in Sweden. Haci plays with Per Lenner, an experienced Swedish Flamenco guitarist with a deep knowledge of an interest in oriental music.
In sum: As this quartet started their set, the listener is transported into an atmosphere in which you will imagine yourself sitting on a red carpet perhaps with some incense burning, surrounded by an intimate audience. What happens next, over the next 20 minutes, is a journey that touches the most primal percussive rhythms, layered harmonic content that through repetition, while sounding quick, are slowly transforming to an unexpected explosion of emotion. And when Haci stands up and sounded his surna to exuberant cheers from the audience, the music truly transcends.
Midaircondo feat. Michala Østergaard-Nielsen
Lisa Nordström :Voice, bass, flute, zither, calimba, electronics
Lisen Rylander Löve: Voice, tenor sax, bass clarinet, calimba, electronics
Michala Østergaard-Nielsen: Drums, percussion
Midaircondo stems from avant-garde sound art, electronica, jazz and melancholic pop and have created a small miracle of sparkling and evocative music. The duo is known for their visual and improvised concerts with an imaginative mix of acoustic instruments, voice, electronics and video. Midaircondo tours extensively in Sweden and internationally.
Now, Midaircondo meets the percussionist Michala Østergaard-Nielsen in this new and exciting project. Østergaard-Nielsen is a highly interesting musician with a unique voice on the Nordic music scene today. She has her own personal musical expression and explores her instruments both as objects of rhythm and of sound.
In sum: while not sure what to expect from the stage setup, the audience was introduced to a vocal that turned into a loop, which turned into another layer of vocal loops, and then even more loops. While sonically manipulating these loops and drawing listeners in, drums then intertwined into the sonicscape. A baritone flute (a very rare species) then became the forefront sound while more sound layers developed, ending with a tenor sax lead. A truly enjoyable avant-garde experience that meshed man-made (or woman-made, in this case) sounds with electronics for a unique experience outside your everyday listenings.
Josef & Erika
Erika Angell: Vocals, pump organ, autoharp
Josef Kallerdahl: Double-bass, electric bass, vocals
Swedish bass and vocal duo Josef & Erika keep surprising with new perspectives. By peeling off layers, into the core, they reach the essence of great music. In the past decade, this duo has released three albums and toured throughout Sweden and abroad. They have developed and established a unique, minimalistic expression, influenced buy folk, pop and experimental music. It’s a cinematic experience, grand and deeply emotional. The varied bass, powerful, warm and distorted, along with stunning vocals, hauls you close and makes you surrender completely.
In sum: If you read the above description, then that should suffice. Their performance really does showcase the foundational elements in writing good music. With only a bass and pump organ and vocals, they created full-sounded songs that don’t ask for more instrumentation to be added. Erika’s voice is full, warm, and round and she knows just how to place it into the elements. Sometimes less is more, and this is one of those times.
There Are No More Four Seasons
Mattias Petersson: Laptop
George Kentros: Violin
There are no more four seasons is the name of a duo comprised of electronic music Mattias Petersson and violinist George Kentros. They take older pieces of music and recompose them in order to once again become relevant to our time. They are also quite the live band, playing everything from rock festivals to concert halls. They also conduct workshops for conservatories and musically inclined youths. Their self-titled debut CD was named one of the ten best classical recordings of the past decade by Sweden’s biggest daily paper Dagens Nyheter, and Time Out New York called them a must see concert last summer, writing that, “the result fits together more perfectly than any Ikea bookshelf.”
In sum: How to describe this...hmmm…If you took a recording of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and cut up the master tape with a razor blade, stomped all over it, stuck it in a blender, put it back together in haphazard form, ran it through a bunch of filters and then added sounds of someone running back and forth of an old AM radio – you might get something that sounds similar, yet without the immaculate interpretation that would have the listener believing it is still the “Four Seasons.” Purists may start a riot similar to Stravinsky’s premier of “The Rite of Spring” while enthusiasts will welcome this blistering re-imagination of a traditional piece. With a laptop distorting and looping and a violinist handling the instrument like a rock guitar, the listener, at times, may question this sound. But once absorbed you realize it makes absolute sense. Just go to their website and take a listen.
Swedish Folk Music & Dance Association: www.rfod.se / www.stallet.st
Svensk Jazz: www.svenskjazz.se
Statens Musikverk: www.statensmusikverk.se
Musik i Syd: www.musikisyd.com
Kultur i Vast: www.kulturivast.se
On Queue Performing Artists: www.onqueueartists.com