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Botschaft des Ridicolas

On Friday 22 April the album ”Botschaft des Ridicolas” will be released. Pianist Kenneth Karlsson and I perform music by Rolf Wallin, Jon Øyvind Ness and Helmut Lachanmann. You can preorder and buy the album here or listen digitally here



Some thoughts from the soprano, the singer, the vocalist. She with texts and subtexts, whims and neuroses.

On this CD (or however you listen to the mu- sic), three works are collected. Three works that both build on and tear down parts of the traditional “song/piano” instrumentation. Three works that are in different ways about what we lost, without getting anything back. Three works that basically challenge me as a singer and as a musician.

In Got Lost Helmut Lachenmann utilizes two poems: one by Fernando Pessoa (“All love letters are ridiculous”), one by Friedrich Nietzsche (“The Wanderer”) and an “angry laundry room” note from an anonymous person who could have been you or me. All three are about something that has disappeared; the desire to write love letters, the desire to go the same way, and a vital laundry basket.

The texts are chopped up into fragments. They are mixed together, into one another, over one another. The words are cut apart and become sound without obvious meaning. After trying to gather loose consonants and vowels into some kind of words and sentences, “I need my laundry basket” becomes the line of text where I finally get to vocally release all of my feelings and at the same time be factual and almost reasonable. It’s like the other thing gets too big and difficult, too existential and mystical. Our despair must instead be projected onto the missing laundry basket. The one that, in a clear and tangible way, makes life so difficult.

Rolf Wallin’s …though what made it has gone was for different reasons a little extra difficult for me to take on. Mainly because I didn’t know if my version could live up to the one that Kenneth did with Hilde Torgersen a little more than twenty years ago. To me, that recording is almost perfect. Hilde is so present when she sings it – she owns that interpretation. I had to find my very own voice in that work, along with Kenneth. Only way to do it: practice, practice, and practice. Forget everything I had heard and just bang it out note by note as if they had never been sung before. In a way, totally forget about its existence before practicing it myself.

Osip Mandelstam’s epic poem, in Wallin’s interpretation, has an easy familiarity to it, even though it was written by a man in a completely different life situation than my own. But, at the same time completely impossible… “What I say now is not said by me” is one of the first lines of the work. That is not said by me. How can I feel recognition in the words of a man who died in Stalin’s labor camps, who fought for the right to speak, write? How am I supposed to say that?

Lost hope, lost love, lost laundry basket, lost words, lost tones. Both Wallin and Lachenmann tear apart the lyrics and words and they do not make it easy for me as a singer, when the consonants and vowels are hacked up, exchange places with each other, repeat, and are stretched. It is clear that I am not just singing about what is lost – the song and words themselves are also lost. Do we find something new? Perhaps. Hopefully, yes. In Ness’ Meditation on Georges de la Tour XVII, the whole work exudes a feeling that someone (me?) has lost or misplaced something. It sounds bleak, but in many ways is appropriate for days when the future, as we had wished it to appear, seems lost. In any case, this is my entrance to the piece: We stand and look at the lost past, while the future appears darker than before. But, it is shimmeringly bright and hazy deep at the same time. For the hope is there. I hope. Baroque artist Georges de La Tour used the light to bring out the darkness and vice versa (chiaroscuro) and some of this is taken further in both the poem by Paal- Helge Haugen and the composition of Jon Øyvind Ness.

The piano part is where most things happen in Jon Øyvind’s melancholic meditation. This is where the colors and the mood lie and ferment. The tonal language is monotonous, hopeless, and a bit scary at the same time. The vocal part and text add light and shadows.

To learn the three works on the CD, I needed to learn to navigate three different musical landscapes, at least three different languages and ways to use my voice. And then, break apart and forget everything I learned. Nowhere in any of the works is it a soprano that is accompanied by the pianist, but the voice and the piano blend together and become one instrument. The process with Kenneth has thus been characterized by collaboration, uncompromising cooperation. We do not each do our own thing and hope to meet in the middle, but every measure is chiseled together. Among other things, that makes this recording mean so much to me.

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