Song at the Edge of the Ocean was recorded live during the premiere at Festiviteten in Haugesund on April 27, 2022, as a commissioned work for the Fartein Valen Festival. Bjørnstad talks about the background for the performance:
When Fartein Valen composed The Churchyard by the Sea he created a unique orchestral work in the serial tradition. I grew up listening to Valen, and played his Two Preludes, Op. 29 before I reached the age of 14. I also played a great deal of other serial or atonal music, by Finn Mortensen among others.
In the years that followed I turned my attention to other periods of music history, but when I was asked by the Fartein Valen Festival to compose a new work based on the same poem Valen had used as his inspiration, I had to rediscover Valen’s work and also familiarise myself with the poem itself, Paul Valéry’s Le Cimetière marin. Ole Jørgen Furdal introduced me to Pelle Christensen’s superb translation, and I realised at once that the entire poem had to be set to music if I were to be able to even think about entering a room that was already marked so clearly by Fartein Valen’s presence.
The title Songs At Edge Of The Ocean expressed my wish to incorporate a tribute to Valen’s atonal composition while, at the same time, paying homage to the more melodic and harmonic sources of inspiration that I have reached towards during all my years as a musician and composer.
In this context I could mention Schubert, Theodorakis, Borodin, Scriabin and Prokofiev. But most of all, I thought of the people I would be writing the work for. First, Solveig Andsnes, who I had collaborated with both in Amanda at the Haugesund Teater in 2011 and in the Kilden Teater’s production of Terje Vigen at Fjæreheia in Grimstad, in 2017. The thought of her richly expressive register helped me shape the melodies while I was composing. Second, I had to think of Nils Økland and the very distinctive resonance he always creates with his instruments. The choice of percussionist Rune Arnesen, who I had worked with for over 30 years, also made it possible for me to think in a large format, which the poem in many ways called for, while the rhythm and simplicity of the expression also had to be maintained. In addition, I thought about sound designer Sven Persson, who had created the sea and the sky for me on the largest and smallest of stages for nearly 50 years.
Songs At The Edge Of The Ocean had its world premiere at Festiviteten concert hall in Haugesund on April 27th, two days after my 70th birthday. Setting Le Cimetière marin to music was the most meaningful way of celebrating my 70th birthday that I can imagine. A tribute to life in the spirit of Pindar’s third Pythian ode: “So do not, my soul, be eager for immortal life, but drain to the dregs the arts within your power.”
Oslo, November 19th 2022 Ketil Bjørnstad
Solveig Andsnes (actress, singer, dancer) is educated at the Faculty of Performing Arts at the University in Stavanger. Additionally, she has completed international studies at Steps on Broadway in New York and has spent the last few years working extensively with the Chubbuck technique through various courses and private coaching. Solveig has a deep interest in combining singing and acting as a shared expression and has a unique ability to convey messages and tell stories through song. Solveig has been employed by the Actor and Dancer Alliance since 2017.
As a performer, Solveig works across genres in singing, dancing, and acting, which has made musical theatre an artistic area in which she has distinguished herself on several occasions. During her time as a performer, she has worked at a number of theaters, including Trøndelag Theater, Agder Theater, and in recent years, she has had several roles at Oslo Nye Theater. For example, she played Anita in the critically acclaimed production of West Side Story at Kilden Theater, the lead role in Evita at Lørenskog Hus, the role of Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables at Kilden, Anette in Blodig Alvor at Haugesund Theater, and Mrs. Corry in Mary Poppins, which was produced at Folketeateret. At Oslo Nye Theater, Solveig has appeared in Cabaret, Snøfall, Hair, and Sporvogn til Begjær, to name a few. In 2021, Solveig was nominated for the Music Theatre Prize for her interpretation of the role of Diana in the musical Next to Normal. In the spring of 2023, she will play the role of Gabriella in Så som i himmelen at Oslo Nye Theater.
Nils Økland (hardanger fiddle/violin/viola d’amore) is an innovative violinist and hardanger fiddle specialist who has been active as a musician and composer since the mid 80´s. He mainly plays concerts with his own music with his band Nils Økland Band (Rolf-Erik Nystrøm, Håkon Mørch Stene, Mats Eilertsen, Sigbjørn Apeland) in addition to duo concerts with Sigbjørn Apeland and solo concerts. He also collaborate with a brode range of musicians, from Per Steinar Lie and Ørjan Haaland in Lumen Drones, the Engegaard Quartet and Linus+Okland/Van Heertum/Zach. Økland also write music for theatre, ballet and film. Økland has published four albums on the label ECM: Monograph, Lysøen, together with Sigbjørn Apeland, Lumen Drones, with Per Steinar Lie and Ørjan Haaland, and Kjølvatn with Nils Økland Band. He has also published severeal albums at Hubro with the impro trio called 1982, which was active from 2007-2018. Nils Økland’s bands last recording Lysning was also released by Hubro, and has been given good reviews and won a Norwegian grammy in open class. Lumen Drones last album Umbra was also published at Hubro and got good reviews both in Norway and internationally. Before this he released two albums on Rune Grammofon and his debut album, Blå harding, on his own label Morild.
Rune Arnesen is one of the most busy drummers / percussionists in Norway for all types of music due to his ability to create sounds and grooves in a very musical way. He is very creative and intuitive in his musical approach and his grooves are deep and floating and always becomes a natural part of any song or musical styles. He started his career in the late 80s and has since played with artists such as Ole Paus, Jonas Fjeld, Bjørn Eidsvåg, Rick Danko, Eric Andersen, Frode Alnæs, Øystein Sunde, Annbjørg Lien, Sigmund Groven, and Anneli Drecker. He has played with Carola, The Band, and Secret Garden, and is also internationally known for his collaborations with jazz musicians such as Nils Petter Molvær, Bendik Hofseth, Dhafer Yossef, Rebecca Bakken, Beady Belle, and many more. Today he appears on more than 300 albums.