Norwegian composer Bjørn Fongaard´s works, as they are known through his own recordings, have attained a special place on the international contemporary music scene. Quarter-note scales, unique performance techniques on the electric guitar in combination with overdubs have fascinated composers and musicians alike.
Fongaard’s early works expose rather traditional leanings. Towards the end of the fifties, he stopped composing in order to reorient himself following the recent developments in Western art music. He started exploring microtonality and referred an electric guitar in order to try out quarter-tone systems, that is a division of the octave in 24 tempered intervals. Fongaard was soon to advance deeper into unknown territory, and equipped with a small violin bow, straws, sponges, plastic discs and metal rods he developed a whole range of highly idiosyncratic playing techniques that made it possible to draw sounds from the electric guitar, witch transformed the guitar into an electric orchestra.
Three musical commentaries
In relation to this recording, Anders Førisdal commissioned pieces by three composers who have had a connection to Fongaard either personally or artistically. The three works came to highlight different aspects of Fongaard’s production – Brian Ferneyhough’s ‘Renvoi-Shards’ (2010) refers to Fongaard’s early quarter-tone production; Ole-Henrik Moe’s ‘KRAV’ (2007) is connected to the microscopic transformation of sound; and Øyvind Torvund’s ‘Guitar in the Mud’ (2014) is, like Fongaard’s orchestra microtonalis, the work of a composer who seeks a personal sound world through exploring performance practice, instrument construction and technology.
Anyone who wishes to work on Fongaard’s music for electric guitar faces a range of challenges related to instrumental techniques and notation. Fongaard has described his new practice himself, but since no one directly followed up on his work we lack a tradition of interpretation for the music. As a performer one is therefore forced to start from zero, both with regards to reading the scores and how the music is to be performed on the instrument. The latter is a real challenge, because often several techniques are used simultaneously.