Andre Bratten/Ole-Henrik Moe: New work (WP)
Arvo Pärt: Te Deum
Oslo Domkor and Ensemble Allegria
19.09.15, 8 pm
NOK 350/250 (NB: Early Bird price on Ultima tickets until 1 July!)
Arvo Pärt and a new work by Andre Bratten and Ole-Henrik Moe at Ultima’s closing concert
Andre Bratten has attracted considerable attention both in Norway and abroad for his elegant music, which lies somewhere between space disco and micro house. His debut album from 2013 received critical acclaim for its pure, well-rounded sounds and melodic synth lines. Bratten has a passion for contemporary music, and cites Giacinto Scelsi as his prime source of inspiration. Now, in collaboration with composer Ole-Henrik Moe, he has taken on the task of writing the music for Ultima’s closing concert.
The sustained, simple and meditative qualities of Arvo Pärt’s mystical, minimalist masterpiece Te Deum mark Pärt’s distinctiveness as a composer. The work is written for choir, strings, piano and wind harp. Te Deum, also known as the Ambrosian Hymn, is one of Christianity’s oldest and best-known hymns.
Robert Ashley: Perfect Lives
Matmos + ensemble
12.09.15, 10 pm
Electronic veterans to Ultima with opera by Robert Ashley
Robert Ashley’s television opera about bank robbery, cocktail lounges, geriatric love and adolescent elopement in the American Midwest has been called “nothing less than the first American opera” and a comic opera about reincarnation. It has also been described as one of the definitive text-sound compositions of the late 20th century. A distinguished figure in American contemporary music, Robert Ashley holds an international reputation for his work in new forms of opera and multi-disciplinary projects.
San Fransisco based electronic music duo Matmos, with core members Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt, has through a long career been known for their creative samplings and sound experiments. The duo gained notoriety for their use of samples including “freshly cut hair” and “the amplified neural activity of crayfish” and squelches of various surgical procedures, made into remarkably accessible, melodic pieces of experimental techno. Matmos is also well known for their collaboration with Icelandic artist Björk. At Ultima Matmos will present the first and final acts from Robert Ashley’s groundbreaking television-opera.
“The operatic works of Robert Ashley are distinctly original in style, and distinctly American in their subject matter and in their use of American language. A prolific composer and writer, Ashley’s operas are “so vast in their vision that they are comparable only to Wagner’s Ring cycle or Stockhausen’s seven-evening Licht cycle. In form and content, in musical, vocal, literary and media technique, they are, however, comparable to nothing else.”
- The Los Angeles Times
Nils Petter Molvær: LUCID DREAM
Norwegian premiere at Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival 10 September. A part of Oslo Culture Night 11 September. The installation is open to the public from 10 – 12 September.
Into the woods: Ultima welcomes all to a nightly walk of wonder, music and beauty in Ekebergparken
With LUCID DREAM, trumpeter, composer and producer Nils Petter Molvær enters an entirely new artistic field. He leaves the stage behind and takes dense atmospheric sounds out into nature. LUCID DREAM is an audiovisual installation whose very special character is constituted by its unique location and the cultural history of the forest. Sound, light and images merge together in a walk-in installation, where atmosphere changes between pure and true beauty and beauty’s dangerous, destructive side.
Venue for this project under Ultima is Ekebergparken – a sculpture and national heritage park located at the roof of Oslo. Visitors to the park are offered a unique art experience in close proximity with Ekeberg’s rich natural landscape and diverse cultural history. In addition to the art visitors will enjoy the added value of fantastic views over the city as well as beautiful forested parkland steeped in cultural history.
In this extraordinary concert environment the perception of time and space expands. Encountering music and visuals at your own pace and in your own space, the forest will allow for a very different and individual experience of music and art. In the history of art and literature the forest has always been a popular motif, especially in the romantic period where the forest became one of the most important topics of a whole era. In fairy-tales, sagas and myths the forest stands for uncertainty and danger but also for beauty and shelter.
Artistic directors — Nils Petter Molvær and Beate Schüler. Music — Nils Petter Molvær. Sound design — Jørgen Larsson. Visuals & Light — Pekka Stokke/Jan Martin Vågen. Technical directors — Hans Jürgen Müller/Christian Hierhammmer. Produced by LUCID DREAM ug.
Video from the project in Düsseldorf/Schumannfest May 2014 here
In collaboration with Ekebergparken.
LUCID DREAM is kindly supported by Kunststiftung NRW (Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia).
Gérard Grisey: Le Noir de l’Etoile
Pinquins and SISU
16.09.15, 7 pm
At this year’s Ultima the percussion trio Pinquins and the SISU percussion ensemble will perform Gérard Grisey’s spectacular Le Noir de l’Etoile. The concert offers a rare opportunity to experience this magnificent work, which has never before been performed in Norway. Grisey derived the inspiration for this work in his fascination for the stars and outer space. The work, in which six percussionists are positioned in different places among the audience, is based on radio signals generated by rotating neutron stars called pulsars.
Grisey studied with names like Olivier Messiaen, Henri Dutilleux and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and was one of the leading composers of spectral music, a compositional technique developed in the 1970s that uses computers to analyse the quality of timbre in music.
16.09.15, 9 pm
Since its establishment in Paris in 1958, the GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) has driven developments in musique concrète and electroacoustic music, expanding outwards from the radical vinyl and tape manipulations of its founder Pierre Schaeffer. The GRM has become an international magnet for composers seeking new expressiveness in electronic music and transformed sound. In tribute to GRM’s achievements, Ultima presents an evening mixing French musique concrète classics by Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani and Luc Ferrari with new work by a younger generation of sonic explorers including Régis Renouard Larivière and Kassel Jaeger.
Ultima at The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet in September. Programme for next season launched today.
Henrik Hellstenius: Ørets teater III (WP)
Oslo Sinfonietta / Dans les arbes
11.09.15, 7.30 pm
Den Norske Opera & Ballett, Scene 2
Also 12 and 13 September, 6.30 pm
Classical works by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Edvard Grieg meet contemporary works by Henrik Hellstenius, Salvatore Sciarrino, the Norwegian-French quartet Dans les arbres, and improvisations in Ørets teater: Om naturen. A collaboration between composer Henrik Hellstenius, instructor and dramaturg Kai Johnsen and video artist Boya Bøckman.
Nature – the romantic, the tedious, the unpredictable, the tiny, the vast, the dangerous and cruel; the underlying idea for the performance is to use nature as material for a concert of music, texts and video. Nature is form, motion and sound. Sounds that change during the course of the day and the seasons of the year. Or could it be that the days and the seasons transform the sounds of nature, just as they also transform the sounds of people?
The solo vocalists are Njål Sparboe, Silje Aker Johnsen and Stine Janvin Motland. Also performing will be two of Norway’s leading music ensembles, Oslo Sinfonietta and the critically acclaimed jazz quartet Dans les arbres.
Ørets teater III is a continuation of Henrik Hellstenius’ four-concert series performed at the Bergen International Festival in 2011.
Concept: Henrik Hellstenius
Dramaturgy: Kai Johnsen
Video: Boya Bøckman
Soloists: Njål Sparbo, Silje Aker Johnsen, Stine Janvin Motland
Conductor: Andrea Pestalozza
Dans les arbres
Plus Minus Ensemble
11.09.15, 5 pm
Den Norske Opera & Ballett, Prøvesalen
NOK 200 / 100
Matthew Shlomowitz: Lecture About Bad Music (WP)
Alexander Schubert: Sensate Focus
Matthew Shlomowitz’s Lecture About Bad Music, drawing on scholarship from a range of fields and employing musical demonstrations and recreations of psychological experiments, asks us to consider if a piece of music can be inherently bad, or whether such judgements are purely subjective.
Alexander Schubert’s Sensate Focus (2014) on the other hand, is concerned with the interplay between sound and image, and adds light as a fifth performer to a quartet of musicians. Using strobing effects, Schubert explores issues of sampling and sensorial experience in both the audio and visual domains, and our ability to form continuities from discrete objects.
Plus Minus is an Anglo/Belgium ensemble presenting a concert of two genre-stretching pieces especially written for the group. Formed in 2003 by Joanna Bailie and Matthew Shlomowitz, Plus Minus is distinguished by its interest in avant-garde, conceptual, and experimental open instrumentation pieces such as Stockhausen’s 1963 classic, from which the group takes its name.
Tickets to these events will be available from 22 May.
This year’s Ultima is offering an Early Bird Deal to those who want to make sure they book their tickets in good time. Until 1 July, all tickets can be bought at student rates. The final programme will be announced in June.
We will be publishing newsletters giving programme updates throughout the spring on ultima.no and in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram og Underskog) – so follow us!
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: UR_
some kind of opera
The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Scene 2
Friday 18.09.15 at 7.30 pm + Saturday19.09.15 at 6.30 pm
Director: Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson
Visual artist: Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir
Text: Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Mette Karlsvik
Performers: Sofia Jernberg, Mike Philip Fencker Thomsen, Melis Jaatinen, Joa Helgesson, Tinna Thorsteinsdottir, BIT20 Ensemble
“The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small…
We have invented happiness, say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth. One still loves one’s neighbor and rubs
against him, for one needs warmth…”
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Oblivious of the impending doom, humanity is struggling to find meaning and assembling it’s fractured identities. While the last man is tired of life, takes no risks, and seeks only comfort and security, an unsung primal scream resonates from the melting Glaciers of Greenland to the decadent core of civilization. In the vicinity of the enormous Great Greenland Ice Cap, in which the history of the earth is conserved, frozen in time, humanity is small. And yet man is destructive when he forgets his roots and origin. It is exactly this blind spot, this connection and this dangerous forgetfulness that UR_draws on.
UR_features three voices, one actor, a grand piano and an ensemble of twelve performers. UR_ is the first major project to be carried out by members of the Far North Artist Network. The new work has been created over a period of two years in sessions in Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Germany. The Ethos of Far North is founded on exchange of ideas and art between artists from across boarders of countries – and cultures.
Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdóttir has become a star within the contemporary music field. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere. In 2012 she received the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize. Her latest album Aerial (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Classics November 2014) and was featured as “Best music of 2014” in The New Yorker.
“Thorvaldsdottir’s music isn’t about straightforward narratives; it creates landscapes that linger, summoning phantom sounds and imaginative possibilities. Nothing I’ve heard this year has sparked my mind like Aerial.” Chicago Reader
“This is a big spinning planet of a work that contains multitudes of ideas within itself, pregnant with promise from the opening whipcrack of percussion and major-key chord that keeps reasserting itself as tendrils of other sounds curl off it like smoke.” Washington Post
The development of the work is done in collaboration with Theater Trier, Germany, Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, Dark Music Days Reykjavík, The National Theatre of Greenland, Sound of Stockholm and The International Vadstena Academy.
The commission of the work was enabled through kind support from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.
“Thorvaldsdottir’s music has a natural beauty to it in the way it reveals itself patiently, and in its unpredictable but organic-seeming instances of rhythmic quickening.” New York Times
“Thorvaldsdottir has a notable compositional voice: her unique ability to manipulate her material so that the passage of time is made beautiful.” New York Classical Review
“A significant compositional voice.” The Wire Magazine
David Toop: Of Leonardo da Vinci – Quills/a Black Giant/Deluge (WP)
Elaine Mitchener/David Toop
15.09.15, 9 pm
Of Leonardo da Vinci is a result of a collaboration between improv legend, sound artist and author David Toop (score and libretto based on Leonardo da Vinci’s accounts of his dreams), acclaimed photographer/film maker Barry Lewis, renowned vocalist Elaine Mitchener, and making his operatic directorial debut, award-winning choreographer, Dam Van Huynh. Together they have created a work – an innovative contemporary music theatre piece that intricately melds music, sound art, image and movement to transform space, inviting audiences into a unique and intimate realm of disturbing beauty.
Photo credit: Barry Lewis
“Absorbed in the visions, memories, prophesies and observations recorded in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, a woman dwells on the writing of a life. As oracle, scholar, acolyte, medium and innocent she voices the spirit of Leonardo, reflecting the nature of life as it moves closer to its end, its teeming presence, the meaning we divine from marks and signs, the flight of the voice, living and dying.”
Music and libretto: David Toop
Voices: Elaine Mitchener
Film: Barry Lewis
Choreography/Director: Dam Van Huynh
2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival. The celebrations kick off with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra on 10 September.
Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Vasily Petrenko
Steven Osborne – piano
Cynthia Millar – ondes Martenot
Date/time: 10 September 2015, 7pm
Venue: Oslo Konserthus
NOK 450 /150
The Ultima Festival will open with Turangalîla-Symphonie, a large-scale piece of exhilarating, intoxicating orchestral music and a modern classic by Olivier Messiaen (1908–92). The piece will be performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of principal conductor Vasily Petrenko.
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Oslo Philharmonic on this large-scale project for the opening concert at this year’s Ultima Festival. Olivier Messiaen’s music touches on life’s big questions, such as human beings’ relationship with God and nature. It is music that appeals to a wide audience and which has meant a lot to many of today’s composers. An interesting and spectacular way to mark the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Festival.”
Lars Petter Hagen, Director and Artistic Director
The theme for this year’s Ultima is ‘On Nature’.
Music – both how it originates and how we understand it – is closely connected to science. Ever since the Stone Age, physics, psychology, astronomy and biology have inspired people to create music – and they continue to do so today. Nature is also a key source of inspiration for Messiaen. He was a keen ornithologist, and many of his compositions, like Turangalîla-Symphonie, are based on notations of birdsong.
Tickets: The Thursday 10 and Friday 11 September performances of Turangalîla-Symphonie are included in the Oslo Philharmonic’s subscription series. Subscription sales start immediately after Easter. Non-subscription sales start on 4 May.
This year the Ultima festival will run from 10–19 September in Oslo. Until 1 July, all tickets can be bought at student rates, so make sure to book your tickets in good time. The final programme will be announced in June.
NOK 450 /150
Koka Nikoladze: Sound Stencil 0.1
Time: 12.09.15, 12 pm
Venue: City Center of Oslo
Oslo as a musical instrument
Sound Stencil is a concept that can be realised with mechanical robots or human performers, and turns objects in any given environment into integrated musical instruments. The first implementation Sound Stencil 0.1 will be premiered at Oslo Ultima Contemporary Music Festival 2015, and is made of human percussionists who use smartphones for synchronisation. All of them listen to a synchronised audio score, which dictates various rhythmical patterns and gives them directions. Percussionists move around the city, stay on an audible distance from one another and hit various things on their way. They move or freeze, move fast or slow, they spread or collapse and audience can follow them freely.
Koka Nikoladze is a Georgian violinist, composer and sound artist based in Norway. As an instrumentalist Nikoladze has performed as a solo violinist, chamber musician, and orchestra musician on various stages in Europe and the United States. Later as a composer he has composed acoustic and electroacoustic music for various ensembles, vocal music, including two premiered chamber operas and also actively investigated the field of computer-human interaction.
Sound Stencil 0.1 is produced by Notam in collaboration with Norwegian Academy of Music.
Harry Partch: Pitch 43_Tuning the Cosmos
Helge Sten / Ensemble Musikfabrik
Time: 12.09.15. 6 pm
NOK: 350 / 250
Ensemble Musikfabrik, Harry Partch and Deathprod with new commissioned work to Ultima
For one night only there will be a rare opportunity to experience the result of the new music by Norwegian producer and musician Helge ‘Deathprod’ Sten for German Ensemble Musikfabrik. The ensemble’s interpretations of Harry Partch’s work is included in The Guardian’s “Unmissable arts events for 2015”.
The entire collection of Partch’s microtonal instruments was built for Ensemble Musikfabrik in 2012. With more than 40 instruments – string, percussive, bell and keyboard instruments as well as smaller hand-held instruments, the ensemble has been able to realize the conditions under which the fascinating and exotic Harry Partch Œuvre. Ensemble Musikfabrik has since its formation in 1990 had the reputation of being one of the World’s leading ensembles for contemporary music. The ensemble is particularly dedicated to artistic innovation – new, unknown, and often personally commissioned works in an unusual media are typical of their productions.
For this project Norwegian musician and producer Helge Sten, best known by his Deathprod alias, has written new music for the ensemble. Sten is a renowned musician and producer with connections to various band projects including Motorpsycho and Supersilent. He makes music which falls at the intersection of noise, jazz, modern composition, electronica and rock, but he is most often described as a noise artist. He is also a big fan of Harry Partch.
“Writing new music for Harry Partch’s instruments has been a dream come true. I was first introduced to Partch’s music in the early 80s, when his name was mentioned as a source of inspiration for The Residents. His life and work as a composer, musician, hands-on manager of a recording company, instrument maker, philosopher and outsider have given composers new and wider scope in which to practice their craft. Working on such a wide spectrum of microtonal acoustic instruments forces you to think in new ways about yourself and your music.”
The Pitch 43_Tuning the Cosmos project is a collaboration between ensemble and composer in which they exchange ideas and knowledge of instruments that can be used to develop new compositions and new techniques.
They will also perform Partch’s And on the Seventh Day Petals Fell in Petaluma (1963–66).
The last time Ensemble Musikfabrik visited Oslo was during Ultima 2013. Their version of Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury under the direction of Heiner Goebbels received glowing reviews and ranked high on many lists for best stage performance of the year.
The Godfather of the American Just-Intonation movement, the composer, theorist, visionary and instrument-builder, Harry Partch (1901-1974), developed a highly complex tuning system that made the realisation of his music impossible on conventional instruments. Partch developed and built an extensive collection of instruments: resonating sound-sculptures of idiosyncratic beauty and remarkable stage presence.
Tickets sales will start in the spring. This year’s Ultima is offering an Early Bird Deal to those who want to make sure they book their tickets in good time. Until 1 July, all tickets can be bought at student rates!
The Guardian’s “Unmissable arts events for 2015
Harry Partch with Musikfabrik : Ensemble Musikfabrik present music by the American visionary and musical original Harry Partch. It’s music that revels in the unique sounds, sights, and sensualities of Partch’s invented instrumentarium. Don’t miss the chance to hear them live if you can.
“Music that seemed totally unclassifiable but which was performed with coruscating brilliance, combined with a ravishing, mysteriously magical staging.”
Best stage experiences in 2013: Delusion of the Fury, Ultima Festival/National Theatre
“A multitude of peculiar, custom-made instruments from the eccentric American composer Harry Partch has been made accessible to the world by International Ibsen Award winner Heiner Goebbels. A rare concert to which people from all over the country came to hear.”
Dagsavisen‘s Best Stage Experience 2013.
“It’s howling, wild, almost ecstatic. This feast of a performance was one of many triumphs during this year’s Ultima. The festival, which most associate with weird contemporary music, has broadened its scope. This year it succeeded in showing us why we need musical outsiders like Harry Partch. “
Haakon Flemmen, Klassekampen
“It’s reminiscent of the infinite richness of detail in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Inside this vast, delicate invention, the performers in Ensemble Musikfabrik navigate masterfully between organs, glass bells, bottles, gongs, and peculiar harps to create its own unique, pulsating universe.”
Id Habbestad, Aftenposten
2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival, and this year the festival will run from 10 to 19 September – so mark off those dates in your diary now!
The theme for this year’s Ultima is “On Nature”.
Music – both how it originates and how we understand it – is closely connected to science. Ever since the Stone Age, physics, psychology, astronomy and biology have inspired people to create music – and they continue to do so today.
We will be publishing newsletters giving programme updates throughout the spring on www.ultima.no and in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Underskog) – so follow us! The final programme will be announced in June.
Prelude to Camille Norment’s ‘Rapture’ - Norway’s contribution to the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2015
‘Rapture’ is a multisensory sonic and sculptural installation that immerses the viewer in a space between harmony and dissonance. It includes original compositions and performances by Camille Norment on the Glass Armonica, an 18th century instrument that was first lauded and then banned for its ability to transport listeners into states of ecstasy. Camille Norment is an American artist, based in Oslo for over a decade, who works with sound, sculpture and drawing.
Prelude to the Biennale in New York in March
Friday 6 March there will be a prelude of ‘Rapture’ at the New Museum, New York. The prelude will be a panel discussion between Camille Norment, curator Barbara London, critic Greg Tate and Katya García-Antón, Director of OCA and Commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion. Music by Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. This initiates the cooperation between the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) and Ultima.
Camille Norment will also contribute to this year’s Ultima festival in Oslo in September.
Norway is the sole commissioner of the Nordic Pavillon in the Giardini for the 56th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, for the first time in its history. The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) has selected artist Camille Norment’s ´Rapture´. The project is commissioned and curated by Katya García-Antón in collaboration with Antonio Cataldo, Senior Programmer, OCA. Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival is one of the contributors to this project.
“Camille Norment is one of the most exciting artists working in Norway today, creating work to be experienced viscerally and poetically. Her practice is unusual in that it crosses the fields of art and music, mining historical and sonic dichotomies to trace unresolved social dialogues that continue today.”
Curator Katya García-Antón
2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival, and this year the festival will run from 10 to 19 September – so mark off those dates in your diary now!
Our opening concert will be performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of chief conductor Vasily Petrenko in Oslo Concert Hall on Thursday 10 September.
More details on the concert programme will be announced shortly.
We hope you will come and join us in celebrating Ultima’s 25th anniversary!
The theme for this year’s Ultima is “On Nature”.
Music – both how it originates and how we understand it – is closely connected to science. Ever since the Stone Age, physics, psychology, astronomy and biology have inspired people to create music – and they continue to do so today. Whether it be technological advances that enable us to explore acoustic principles, psychoacoustic research, the overwhelming outer space, theories about the place and role of mankind in the cosmos, or simply the sight of a majestic elk against a beautiful sunset; mankind’s encounters with nature provide a basis for reflection and wonder – and a place where art plays a vital role.
Ultima 2015 will offer a varied and comprehensive programme. We will be publishing newsletters giving programme updates throughout the spring on www.ultima.no and in social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Underskog) – so follow us!
The final programme will be announced in June.
Tickets sales will start in the spring. This year’s Ultima is offering an Early Bird Deal to those who want to make sure they book their tickets in good time. Until 1 July, all tickets can be bought at student rates (that’s half of regular ticket prices)! Tickets will go on sale at the same time as our programme updates are published.
will be arranged in Oslo from 10 – 19 September.
Hope to see you there!
Philosopher Alain Badiou’s planned visit to Oslo and Ultima Academy on 30-31 January 2015 has unfortunately been cancelled due to family concerns.
We apologize any inconvenience this might cause.
A big warm THANK YOU to all the musicians, composers, artists, guests, collaborators, staff and audience for helping us make Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival 2014 such a wonderful experience! See you next year!
Photo credit: Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival / Henrik Beck
Norwegian music history follows the development of Norway as a nation. In his book Med spark i gulvet og quinter i bassen, Harald Herresthal describes how music was used as a national and political tool in the years between 1770 and 1870. Music, art, and language were key elements in the discussion about how Norway could distinguish itself as an independent nation.
Since then, being a composer in Norway has also meant taking a position on the meaning of ‘Norwegian’. Discussions about national versus international and about tradition versus modernity were highly relevant in the years after World War II, and although this may at first seem as out dated as local issues, I would argue to the contrary: a universal issue that touches the core of making music and of being an artist today is an attempt to understand who we are. It’s far from being a distinctly Norwegian project.
According to the African Ubuntu philosophy, ‘You are who you are because of others.’ Music is strengthened through its dependency on its environment. This perspective is the starting point for the theme of this year’s Ultima. Reflections on identity, the function of music in a digitised, globalised, and individualised world; reflections on tradition and modernity, on borders and infinity. The Ultima Festival is a forum for ideas in music across disciplinary boundaries. We are a meeting place, an arena for dialogue. Through our subsidiary programme Ultima Academy, we highlight the ideas behind the music, and this year Antonio Negri, Laibach and Alain Badiou among others will discuss topics such as power, ideology, and cultural identity and how they are related to artistic practice.
We are delighted to be hosting Nordic Music Days in cooperation with the Norwegian Society of Composers. Nordic Music Days has been organised through cooperation be- tween Nordic composers since 1888, and is one of the world’s oldest music festivals. At the very first festival, which took place in Copenhagen, Johan Svendsen conducted a work by Edvard Grieg — with the composer himself in the audience. Eighty years after the festival was arranged for the first time, we are grateful that we, together with the Norwegian Society of Composers, can once again make Oslo a focal point of what is currently a truly exciting Nordic contemporary music scene.
On the opening day, the Norwegian Academy of Music will launch its essay collection Musikk etter 22. juli (Music after 22 July). As the editors write, it is a book ‘about powerful experiences related to music — experiences that move us and nourish us, that unite or perturb us. It’s about music as a form of survival, in some cases quite literally: of young people fleeing from Utøya, singing together to find the strength to keep on swimming; it’s about acting through music as part of individual and collective efforts to deal with the grief and to move on; it’s about acknowledgement, faith in the future, and about existential dimensions of the interaction between music and human beings; it’s about how music conveys the values and ideals of society, but also about the place of music within the destructive ideological ideas that formed the basis for the attacks that took place on that dark Friday in Norway’s history.’ The launch will be followed by a performance in Oslo Cathedral of Luciano Berio’s Coro, a work in which forty individual voices and instruments fuse together a work inspired by folk music and text fragments from around the world.
A serious backdrop for this year’s Ultima Festival, because that’s how important music is.
Luciano Berio Coro, Laibach Olav Tryggvason, Mauricio Kagel Exotica, Scelsi Revisited, Schumann/Friedl/Schütz Dichterliebe, Karin Krog, Ben Frost A U R O R A live, TCF, Ultima’s Children’s Day, Avanti! Ensemblet ++
New work by Verdensteatret, Jenny Hval & Susanna, David Brynjar Franzson, Simon Steen-Andersen, Eivind Buene, Arve Henriksen & Eirik Raude, Maja S. K. Ratkje ++
Ultima Academy: Talks with Laibach, Antonio Negri, Alain Badiou, Esteban Buch ++
DR UnderholdningsOrkestret, Denmark’s beloved equivalent to Norway’s KORK (Norwegian Radio Orchestra), is coming to Ultima on the festival’s last day 20 September where they will perform amongst other works Eivind Buene’s new work Blue Mountain. Tickets available now.
Eivind Buene has been interviewed for the new programme book which is available from this Friday.
The Magic Mountain
Eivind Buene’s Blue Mountain dramatizes the musical significance of fragmented memories.
By Audun Vinger
Many artists today seek to cross the borders between art genres, though few manage it as elegantly as composer Eivind Buene. His orchestral works, ideas, and commissioned works all display a distinct musical intuition, whether it be contemporary, orchestral or pop.
He recently added ‘writer’ to his already extensive list of talents, thanks to the well-received novels Enmannsorkester and Allsang and the collection of essays, Dobbeltliv, published earlier this year, which makes a closer study of the crossing paths between music and literature. Where the one begins and the other ends is no longer easy to see; nor is it important. He problematises the significance of music in lyrics, though he does the same when composing music. After Blue Mountain, which premieres in the Great Hall, University of Oslo on the final day of this year’s Ultima, he can now add ‘playwright’ to his resumé. This work seems to be a continuation of the explorative aspect of his texts. Questions about the significance of memory when experiencing music, the death motifs that seem so alive for us, the idea of the orchestra performing bygone music, Marcel Proust, Mahler, Tor Ulven …
How did this come about? Is it an old idea you rediscovered and decided to develop?
— No, not at all. Quite the opposite, actually. The festival asked if I would like to compose a work for which I wrote both lyrics and music. And I did. That method is quite common for songwriters, but contemporary composers rarely write their own lyrics. In the old days, it was quite common. For example, Wagner wrote his own librettos. The preference today is for canonised and ‘patinated’ lyrics, particularly in opera. I thinks that’s a rather defensive attitude to take. Then of course I discovered how incredibly difficult it is to juggle between lyrics and music. When I immerse myself in the lyrics, the music fades to the back of my consciousness, and vice versa. Both elements have an inherent desire to comply with their own natural laws, if you get what I mean. But when lyrics and music are to work in unison on stage, they have to balance. We’re used to dealing with this balance in the song format. But I soon decided that I wanted a dialogue and that it should not be sung. This gave rise to other problems and, well, I had to try and learn a whole new way of thinking.
“A concert is a bit like being in a haunted house: all that dead music coming alive.” is a line from the work. Are you mostly interested in memories and artistic events from bygone days?
— Keep in mind that it’s the character in the piece that says it, not me. And memories constitute the elements on which a lot of art, whether it be music, literature or film, is based. But I often find that old music living a life of its own on the sheet music shelves can suddenly seem to come to life in the concert ritual. Music that was dead yesterday can come to life tomorrow. And I think that orchestras have their own memories, their own experiences, and that entering into a dialogue with them can produce good results when one is writing new music. Naturally, there is a danger of appearing sealed off, like a universe that is open only to the initiated, but an orchestra is also like a massive sensuality machine, with an abundance of colours and textures. You must always try to harness that energy and avoid composing your way into a musical mausoleum.
The music in the work is mainly based on fragments of the past greatness of others …
— Well … I would say that I have composed a new work which only I could have written, because the quotations and fragments that flow out in the form of text and music originate in my personal reservoir of memories. And it is the pressure of this flow of memories that has given rise to the new music and to the way in which I combined the memory material. It must be said that long sections of the music are also brand new compositions, and frictions clearly arise between the old and the new when listeners suddenly hear fragments of music they recognize without quite knowing why. But when I compose, I derive as much pleasure from making up surprising combinations of textual and musical events as from writing hundreds of bars of completely new music. Assigning new meanings to old music by creating an interesting context is also part of the composition process.
You call it a radio play; how do you characterise that genre?
— By radio play, I mean a radio genre, a play for the ears. When combined with the genre ‘orchestral concert’, something which — hopefully — transcends the radio theatre format evolves by assigning the music a much stronger function. The music should not just serve as background sounds for the text; it must also carry part of the narrative development. And hearing a radio play unfold live on stage makes a big difference. I’ve been very conscious of basing Blue Mountain on the situation in which we as musicians, actors and listeners find ourselves: we are attending an orchestral concert, and that is the setting for the story being told. That’s why I used the term ‘orchestral radio play’, as it points beyond the traditional radio play. We haven’t seen much of this in Norway, but Germany has a long tradition in creating musically ambitious radio plays. For example, Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek and composer Olga Neuwirth wrote a radio play for German radio.
Andrea Bræin Hovig and Mattis Herman Nyquist, two of Norway’s foremost young actors, are taking part in this production. What’s so special about them?
— I was looking for someone with specific musical qualities, actors who could become part of the orchestra’s time flow. I already knew Mattis Herman, and I knew that he was good. In fact, we’ve even sung together on a few occasions, in a very low-threshold male quartet! Fortunately, he had time to squeeze in this project between performances of Peer Gynt at the National Theatre. I found Andrea after doing some research in actors’ circles, and I realised that she was a real find already at the first reading audition. She is highly responsive to and enthusiastic about this approach to interaction between stage, text, and music.
Could you say a few words about the orchestra and the conductor performing Blue Mountain?
— I hadn’t heard of the orchestra before, it’s one of the Danish Radio orchestras. Meeting a new orchestra is always associated with a mixture of dread and anticipation: it’s like meeting an organism with thirty, fifty or a hundred heads that can eat you alive if you don’t get it right. The conductor takes care of the practicalities; the composer should preferably sit in the auditorium and listen, then have close dialogue with the conductor and let him or her take care of the dialogue with the musicians. In this instance, we have a conductor with whom I have already collaborated on several occasions. Baldur Brönnimann has that rare ability to be both extremely alert and relaxed at the same time. And he possesses an intuitive understanding of what I’m trying to achieve with an orchestra. Composers often have no say in the choice of conductor; they just have to cross their fingers and hope for the best. When I heard that Baldur would conduct Blue Mountain, it was a huge relief. It meant I had one thing less to worry about in what is a rather complex project.
Will Blue Mountain and this method be a one-off event?
— I hope not. I hope that other orchestras will see this format as something which their audiences might enjoy. But it is in the nature of new music that a first performance may be the last, especially when one is trying to find new ways of staging an orchestra. Working with actors who must interweave with the orchestra rather than just talk alongside it requires other working methods than those used when working on a traditional orchestral concert. But I like the idea of working experimentally in the sense of testing a hypothesis and not being able to predict the outcome. That’s the essence of trying again, failing again, and failing better, as Beckett once put it.
Remake is Ultima’s secondary schools outreach project. Remake presents a piece of music considered a ‘contemporary classic’, and through a mixture of careful listening, reflection and creative analysis, explores how the social, political and artistic context in which the work was composed relates to students’ own present day experience and their artistic understanding.
Supported by Sparebankstiftelsen DNB.
Ultima’s Children’s Day at The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet will be jam-packed with concerts, installations, workshops and lots of other fun activities: Lar Vaular rapping to the sound of trees, the Improvisation trio Parallax, POING giving a ‘poop performance’, the sound of a guy bored to tears on a chair, a self-playing chest of drawers, and a self-playing orchestra, ‘on-site choreography’ with Panta Rei Dance Theatre, a children’s workshop in creating graphic scores and lots more!
Hosted by Berit Nermoen with Knotten Løvekylling (creator of Fantorangen) and Aslag Guttormsgaard (NRK Super, Black Debbath, Duplex).
TRE & Lars Vaular
Hip hop meets nature in new music that you’ll want to dance to when rapper Lars Vaular accompanied by the sound of trees. The instruments, played by Bjarne Kvinnsland, Eirik Raude and Markus Hernes, have been carved out of centuries-old basswood felled in Eidsvoll in conjunction with the Norwegian Constitution bicentenary celebrations. Maybe you’ll even get the chance to play them yourself?
Parallax and the room of sounds
Let yourself be wrapped in sound and light in the room of sounds! Improvisation trio Parallax (Are Lothe Kolbeinsen on guitar, Stian Omenås on trumpet and Ulrik Ibsen Thorsrud on percussion) and light designer Evelina Dembacke make music and visual expressions in a performance that will sharpen your senses.
What does it sound like when a guy is bored to tears on a chair? What does it sound like when a fly gets stuck on fly paper or when an old lady must fight her way through a big crowd? And can it be sung? This internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble’s repertoire ranges from medieval to contemporary music, combining song with humour and theatrical performance.
POING with Julian Skar and Guri Glans
POING (Frode Haltli on accordion, Rolf Erik Nystrøm on saxophone and Håkon Thelin on contrabass) is a group that combines instrumental mastery with a fearless approach to music. On Ultima’s Children’s Day, the trio will perform something they call a ‘poop-performance’, developed in collaboration with composer Julian Skar. With actress Guri Glans.
Duo Skrap has been playing together for six years and consists of Heida Karine Johannesdottir Mobeck on tuba and effects and Anja Lauvdal on Korg MS10. Together they work with sound experiments.
Everybody’s a composer
Everybody’s a composer (Nasjonalmuseet, Apparatjik & Audiokolor) is an open room into which you can enter. Motion sensors in the room transform the public’s movements into music. What does it sound like when one person moves in the room? Does it sound different when more people move? Is it possible to choreograph the movements and in doing so compose a piece of music?
Peter Baden – Dirigentstasjon
Ultima has commissioned interactive sound installations by drummer and sound artist Peter Baden (known from Rhythms from Space, among others). Sound, film and conducting. Exactly what it is remains to be seen, but it will be exciting!
What happens when chess pieces make music? What does checkmate sound like? NOTAM’s interactive chessboard provides the answer.
AJNA – Jens Peterson Berger
A chest of drawers by Jens Peterson Berger plays all by itself! It hides a number of secrets that will give you a good laugh.
Al Khowarizmi’s Mechanical Orchestra –Christian Blom
A self-playing orchestra: the orchestra plays random music when a computer connected to small motors calculates the occurrence and balance of the orchestra’s instruments.
Thunder and lightning with Drivhuset
A practical music and imagery workshop on how what we see and what we hear are related: images are turned into music! Under the direction of Isak Anderssen and students from the Norwegian Academy of Music, participants will design their own graphic scores and then perform them. The scores are created in the workshop will be interpreted and performed by artists on Ultima’s Children’s Day. Suitable for children, for adults, and for adults together with children. Bring mum along and compose something!
Make your own dance with Panta Rei Danseteater and Intuitive People
Panta Rei Dance Theatre creates ‘on-site choreographies’ for playful people of all ages. The music accompanying the choreographies is created in real time by Intuitive People (students from NMH), in parallel with the participants’ suggestions for movements. Suitable for children, for adults, and for adults together with children. Bring dad along and get dancing!
Ultima’s Children’s Day will be rounded off with a viewing of Vårt visuelle verk (Our visual works), the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra’s concert workshop with a focus on music note pictures and pictures as notes. Pupils from cultural arts schools interacting with musicians from the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra, opera singer Hege Høisæter, visual artist Helle Kaarem, composer Ole Henrik Moe and workshop manager Jon Halvor Bjørnseth will be finding out if it’s possible play and compose music using symbols other than normal notes. They work together to invent new symbols, new sounds, and new pictures for the concert to be held on Sunday at 15.00 in Hall 2 of the Opera House. During this project we will see examples of other composers who have mixed images and notes together in exciting ways to make graphic scores. Hege Høisæther will sing Stripsody by Cathy Berberian.
Rooms for concerts, rooms for work, and nooks and crannies both inside and outside will be filled to the brim with exciting concerts, installations, and drop-in workshops for children and adults of all ages. 11 am – 4 pm. Free.
In cooperation with the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet.
Supported by Sparebankstiftelsen DNB.
Ultima is the premiere contemporary music festival in the Nordic region. The festival became a designated “knutepunkt” (cultural hub) in 2006 and is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs and Oslo City Council. Ultima is a foundation with 17 members, all of them professional cultural institutions or organisations.
The festival takes place during September and is staged at venues all around Oslo. Our events are staged both in large, established venues such as the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Oslo Concert Hall and the University of Oslo’s Great Hall as well as in small clubs, shop premises, industrial premises, museums, schools and outdoors.
The Ultima Festival aims to promote artistic distinctiveness, trends and innovation and to make music of a high artistic standard accessible by everyone.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon is the patron of Ultima.
The Ultima Foundation has a council comprising 17 members. Their efforts and contributions make it possible to arrange Ultima and to make it such a successful festival of contemporary music year after year.
The upcoming festival happens 10–19 September 2015.
LARS PETTER HAGEN
M +47 90 60 66 81
TRUDE DOMBESTEIN ELDE
M +47 97 58 43 21
Head of Information
M +47 93 00 93 42
Educational Projects Coordinator
M +47 45 66 78 73
M +47 46 42 55 07
Ultima’s board of directors in 2015:
Odd Gullberg, Chairman of the Board
Henrik Hellstenius, Vice chairman
Svanhild Sørensen, Member
Janne Stang Dahl, Member
Audun Hasti, Member
Svein Ingvoll Pedersen, Substitute
Marianne Beate Kielland, Substitutt
Bente Leiknes Thorsen, Substitute
Lars Mørch Finborud, Substitute
|Visit:||Ultima, Skippergata 22, N-0154 Oslo|
|Post:||c/o Sentralen, Postboks 183 Sentrum, 0102 Oslo, Norway|
Buy your tickets to concerts at www.billettservice.no
Ordered tickets can be picked up at the post office, ‘Post i butikk’, Narvesen, and 7Eleven.
Single tickets: Please view information about each specific performance.
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