Photo: Lisbeth Risnes

Identity Hard to Escape from

When the recent Arne Nordheim Composers Prize laureate, Øyvind Torvund, has his work Forest Construction premiered at the Donaueschingen Festival, the tape part is made from field-recordings in Schwarzwald with the Ascolta ensemble.

Forest Construction is a series of short compositions for ensemble and tape. On the recording, made by Experimentalstudio des SWR, the ensemble performs parts of the compositions in the forest; and live in the Donauhall on October 21 the ensemble responds to and imitates the structures on tape.
The musical material is derived from two main sources: rhythmic patterns from Norwegian folk music and the imitation of various animal sounds (howls and calling signals from lynx, wolves, dogs, deer, camels, zebras and hyenas).
Says the composer: “I listened to recordings of these animals with the instrumentalists, and together we looked for ways to imitate these sounds on their respective instruments. The sounds and playing techniques form the sonic palette of the piece, then combined, patterned and layered. I wanted to make a sounding structure which is foreign to the environment of the forest, but at the same time a music which could belong there: an abstract construction in the forest.”
Øyvind Torvund (born 1976) has made a name for himself as an original voice in the Norwegian contemporary soundscape. During his recent years he has been occupied with recordings from the nature, and musicians responding to the musical expressions at the recording during the concert. The music critic Paul Griffiths made the following presentation of him for a recent Los Angeles concert:

Neon Forest Space by Øyvind Torvund, Ensemble Offspring. Sydney Opera House 2012:

Alongside regular musical studies in Oslo and Berlin, the Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund played guitar in rock and improvising groups, and his music assembles disparate materials, inconsistent attitude: sounds from rock or from everyday life (or nature) occurring in chamber music, simplicity in a complex context, improvisation coexisting with exact notation, music combined with film or projections, seriousness in counterpoint with humor. Raw melodic schemes may come from Purcell, the infill from the detritus of electronic distortion or street noise. Categories are split open or blurred, habits unbent. To quote Iggy Pop: “The neon forest is my home.” Torvund himself puts it like this:
“My chief concern is keeping an open approach as to what may function as the constitutive parts of a work of music, and trying to combine several kinds and levels of elements. … Contrasts, juxtapositions and completely opposite perspectives interest me because I believe that there is a lot happening around and beneath the ordinary musical framework, and a lot of unconscious forces to be explored.”

Torvund has been met with particular interest in Germany. He studied in Berlin and has attended the Darmstadt Music Courses. From June 2013 he holds the DAAD (Deutsche Akademische Austausch Dienst) Scholarship, which means a one year residency in Berlin. Among his predecessors for this scholarship could be mentioned Xenakis, Feldman and Ligeti. Before the Donaueschingen premiere Falling Constallations has its world premiere on October 12, with the quartet SF Sound at the Faithful! Festival for interpretation in Berlin.

Right now Torvund takes on profound studies on langeleik, a dulcimer type of Norwegian folk music instrument. “I find it interesting to utilize the musical traditions and try to force myself to work with it in constantly new perspectives. To challenge both myself and the music. One of the reasons why I like to use the Norwegian folk music is that it has a sounding identity which is hard to escape from, even when it is turned inside out”


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