Four days every year mark especially significant days for the sun: the vernal equinox, the summer solstice, the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. On the summer and winter solstices the sun “turns”, and on the spring and autumn equinoxes the day and night are the same length. The work Tidekverv presents new vocal and instrumental folk music composed for, and dedicated to, the sun’s four important days.
A musical ritual
The work Tidekverv was inspired by the medieval visionary poem “Draumkvedet”, both as a form of poetry and as type of musical ritual, as the ballad was mainly performed on the 13th day of Christmas every year. The two composers wanted to pay homage to an older form of poetry, the Nordic ballad, by writing new folk music, and they perform the work primarily in the periods of the equinoxes and solstices. The melodic material was composed by Opheim and Maurseth, but was adapted and arranged with the valuable help and enthusiasm of their musical colleagues Rolf Lislevand and Håkon Mørch Stene.
Lislevand is well known as a lutenist and performer of early music. He has participated in many of Jordi Savall’s projects, and heads his own group, Ensemble Kapsberger. He has released two recordings on the ECM label. Mørch Stene is a percussionist who has been awarded a number of prizes, and specialises in contemporary music and early music. He has also collaborated with folk musician Nils Økland and electronica artist Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory, among others.
The work was composed using the traditional style, tonalities and form of folk music, but has also clearly been inspired by elements of baroque, contemporary and improvisational music.
Old forms new words
The lyrics were written in two-line and four-line ballad stanza forms, with a refrain. “Today it is unusual for anyone to write new poetry using this form, and we are very grateful to writers Bergsveinn Birgisson and Erlend O. Nødtvedt for accepting this challenge,” write Opheim and Maurseth in their liner notes. Bergsveinn Birgisson, from Iceland, holds a PhD in Norse philology from the University of Bergen. He has been nominated for a number of awards for his poetry collections and novels, including the Brage Prize and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. In 2015 Erlend O. Nødtvedt was named one of Norway’s 10 best writers under the age of 35 by the newspaper Morgenbladet, and he has had three poetry collections and one novel published. These two writers share the ability to imbue their poetry, which features ancient metres and archaic language, with new meaning.
Tidekverv had its world premiere on the vernal equinox, 20 March 2017, in Gamle Aker Church at the Oslo International Church Music Festival. Since then it has been presented several times in connection with the equinoxes and solstices.
The album was recorded at Jar Church in Oslo, taking advantage of its superb acoustics, and was produced by Håkon Mørch Stene.