Ist gefallen in den Schnee: A piece by Swedish composer-pianist Magnus Granberg, performed with Angharad Davies, Anna Lindal, Leo Svensson Sander, John Eriksson, Erik Carlsson, Henrik Olsson, Petter Wastberg and Toshimaru Nakamura; Despairs: A beautiful extended composition exquisitely played by an ensemble of fine musicians.
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Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at4771
Squidco Product Code: 24083
Format: 2 CDs
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Disc 1 recorded at Atlantis, Stockholm, on November 12th, 2010, by Janne Hansson.
Disc 2 recorded at Atlantis, Stockholm on November 17th, 2012, by Janne Hansson.
Magnus Granberg-piano, clarinet, composition
Leo Svensson Sander-cello
John Eriksson-vibraphone, marimba
Henrik Olsson-bowls, glasses
Petter Wastberg-contact microphones, objects, mixing board
Toshimaru Nakamura-no input mixing board
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1. Ist gefallen in den Schnee 1:01:08
1. Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long 56:46
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"A limited edition re-issue of the first two CDs by Magnus Granberg and his ensemble Skogen has just been released. Both were incredibly well-received, and sold out over a year ago. Now they are combined on a double album and so are available again."-Another Timbre
Ist gefallen in den Schnee:
"On the Another Timbre website, composer/pianist Magnus Granberg is grilled about how Ist Gefallen in den Schnee came out sounding more Feldmanesque than his actual source material: a jazz standard (Granberg can't remember which) and two songs from Schubert's Winterreise. He explains that Schubert's songs provided him with a rhythmic and temporal framework, while the jazz standard lent him the tonal material, the point being "to reconcile musics with different social connotations". Presumably Granberg's mixed ensemble of improvisors (including violinist Angharad Davies and Toshimaru Nakamura on no-input mixing board) and 'straight' players is making much the same point, although everything is buried at such a subterranean structural level that the distinction evaporates in the listening. Granberg has thought through the 'whys' carefully: players are handed 'pools' of material, with suggestions of how to treat it, and his hour long structure balances formal rigidity with an internal energy clearly deriving from musicians listening, working out where to go next."-Philip Clark, The Wire
Interview with Magnus Granberg
First of all where do the ideas for the piece come from? I know that Schubert was important in some way, but don't know how. Could you explain this?
The way the piece relates to Schubert is that the rhythmic material as well some other temporal proportions are derived from two different songs from Schubert's well known (well, that's an obvious understatement!) song cycle Die Winterreise; the title of the piece,
Ist gefallen in den Schnee, is a text fragment derived from one of these songs.
The tonal material, on the other hand, is derived from a jazz song, which one I have actually forgotten. The rhythmic as well as the
tonal material is then transformed by means of different methods, in some cases rather mildly, in other cases rather heavily.
So, why did I choose to do like this when writing the piece? For a couple of different reasons, I think. For me it's a very concrete way of relating to and at the same time transcending musics that have, in one way or the other, been of a certain importance to me. Coming more or less from a working class background as I do, choosing Schubert is a way to approach a music that I haven't really have had access to (but which I somehow have come to like), without giving in to it fully. Jazz, on the other hand, is more or less what I grew up listening to, so partially basing the piece on a jazz song is a simple way to relate to that heritage without reproducing the actual music. It's obviously also a (perhaps both naïve and pretentious) way of trying try to reconcile musics with different social connotations, and a way to reconcile oneself with history and the contemporary world.
That's interesting because listening to it without knowing this, I don't think of either Schubert or jazz. The music it reminds me of most is Feldman - though obviously as a kind of improvised or semi-improvised re-working of Feldman's sound. Can you explain to what extent the piece was composed or improvised, and whether Feldman is in there at all?
Yes, it's more or less impossible to identify the source material, the Schubert songs and the jazz music are very much to be found in the subtexts, but in a very concrete way, though. The musics and ideas of the composers associated with the so called New York School have, among many other things, also been very influential and dear to me. The early music of Morton Feldman was probably the first modern classical music I could thoroughly relate to when I first heard it in my late teens; it seemed informal and at the same time very much open to the outside world, even more so than Cage's music, which I of course still love as well!
Regarding the piece on the record, it is an attempt to thoroughly integrate composition and improvisation. In my role as a composer I provide different pools of material (pitches, rhythms, timbres, melodic fragments, chords etc), suggestions regarding how to treat the material and a temporal structure which regulates which pool of material should be used when. Perhaps one could say that I provide a potential which could be realized in innumerable ways, but the actual realizations are always the result of what decisions the musicians make throughout the piece; formal differentiation occurs spontaneously as a result of an improvisational process.
Duration is another aspect of the piece that reminded me of Feldman. It's unusual to have a single movement piece, whether composed or improvised, that lasts over an hour. And for me there's a similar sense as in Feldman of hearing patterns slowly unfold rather than having dramatic changes or developments across the piece. Is duration a factor that you were consciously addressing?
Well, duration is quite an important factor in our music in that it allows certain things to happen or potentials to be realised that probably wouldn't occur within a shorter time span. The totality of all different factors constituting the music at the particular time when playing and/or listening is to me mainly a sense of spatiality, though: everything which takes place or even that could take place but actually does not during that particular time are all part of that experience. When I first formed Skogen (which is Swedish and translates as "The Forest" or The Woods") I also had a feeling and an idea that the music should be like an environment, perhaps a forest in which inhabitants with different characteristics could move freely in accordance with the environment and their own and each other's properties and abilities; the piece, the time and the space could be the forest and the musicians its inhabitants.
Yes, I was going to ask what Skogen meant. The 'environment' of the group on this occasion involves several Swedish musicians, but also Toshi Nakamura and Angharad Davies. How did this come about - and is the Swedish core of the group consistent, or do different musicians come and go within that as well?
I had known and admired Toshi's work since the beginning of the 2000s, and Erik and Henrik (the two percussionists in Skogen) had also made a tour of Sweden in 2008 together with Toshi and Tetuzi Akiyama, so there was already some sort of connection there. The first time I heard Angharad must have been on the album Endspace together with Tisha Mukarji, which was released on your label. I had also heard some marvellous solo violin pieces that thoroughly convinced me that Angharad's playing would fit very well with the ensemble, so I simply asked her to join us. The core of the ensemble has so far consisted of five Swedish musicians, but on this occasion was enlarged with the addition of another two wonderful Swedish musicians - violinist Anna Lindal and vibraphone player John Eriksson - and will continue as an ensemble of nine in the future.
I listened to the disc again today, and it struck me that although the dominant feel of the piece is one of beauty, at times different players - perhaps especially Toshi Nakamura and Petter Wästberg - are gently pushing against that and playing a subversive role. That tension between an almost static beauty, and an energy that pushes the music along really works for me. As the composer, do you see it like this at all?
I think that's a correct observation, the roles of Petter and Toshi are very free indeed. They were provided with some suggestions and some rather vague materials that they could choose to relate to if they wanted to, but their primary function is one of free improvisation. Apart from that, all players are provided with more or less specified materials and suggestions on how to treat them and are also encouraged to choose how much they would like to adhere to them and how and when to deviate from them. The players all make different choices at different times, all in accordance with their personal inclinations as well as how the music is shaped through the dynamics of group improvisation. I myself, for example, mostly tend to limit the elements of improvisation to what material is played when, how many times the materials are repeated, how notes are accentuated, minor changes in tempo, slight fragmentations and permutations of the materials et cetera. Other players obviously and happily make other choices, which makes the music come alive in ways I wouldn't have been able to come up with myself. To take part in how something rather well known is transcended and transformed into something previously unknown is a blissful and rewarding experience quite central to how and why I choose to make music.
My feeling is that improvising in large groups doesn't generally work
very well, and I usually much prefer small groups. Now Ist gefallen
in den Schnee is largely composed and so avoids the messiness that large group improvisation often involves, but - as you seem to be expanding the Skogen group - I'm interested to know if you generally prefer working with larger ensembles? Or do you work in small group projects as well?
Well, Skogen has up until recently mainly been working as a quintet, but I myself have in the last few years felt an increasing inclination for conceiving and taking part in a musical environment made up of a larger number of independent and interdependent voices. I would very much try to develop these things further, but recently I have also been writing some music for somewhat smaller ensembles in which I will be playing the clarinet. In general, considerations regarding the size of the ensembles in improvised and other non-institutionalised forms of contemporary music are to a large extent also a question of funding, or perhaps rather a lack of funding: it is, quite simply, quite difficult to gather many people in the same place at the same time (let alone go on tour with them!) when there is no economic foundation which allows you to. The working conditions are, generally speaking, obviously very different from, say, operas or symphony orchestras...
Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long:
"Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long is the third disc on Another Timbre by the Swedish-based ensemble Skogen, who have emerged as one of the most compelling groups within contemporary music. Their previous releases - 'Ist gefallen in den Schnee' and 'Rows' both featured in The Wire's reviews of the year in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Like 'Ist gefallen...', 'Desp airs Had Governed Me Too Long' is an extended composition by Skogen's founder, Magnus Granberg. But whereas 'Ist gefallen...' took Schubert's Winterreise as its basis, 'Despairs...' derives its harmonic and rhythmic material from a song by the seventeenth century English composer John Dowland."-Another Timbre
Javier Santafé interviews Magnus Granberg
JS: If I had to explain your music to a friend here in Spain, how should I describe it? Improv, modern composition, EAI, comprovisation....
MG: Well, I guess you would know your friend and his or her previous knowledge about music better than I would, so in that respect I think you would be better suited than I to explain it! But the highly specialized categories that you mention imply that your friend would be quite well acquainted with various branches of contemporary music, and if so I guess that you could say that the music, among many, many other things, is to a certain extent informed by certain musics within all of these categories. But the original idea was, on the one hand, to create a space where there's room for many different ways of working and existing as a musician and a human being, and on the other hand, to try to integrate these ways of working, to create a music and performance practice which draws no clear distinction between such categories as composition and improvisation.
JS: All three of your discs for Another Timbre were recorded in two sessions on Nov 10 and Nov 12.The music on the three CDs is not very different and easily recognisable as Skogen. Are you creating a "musical style of your own", based on an iteration piano, strings, percussions and electronics subtly played?
MG: Well, the discs were all recorded in November, that's true, but our first release on Another Timbre (Ist gefallen in den Schnee) was recorded in November 2010, and the last two were recorded on the same day in November 2012. Our second album on AT is a recording of a piece by Anders Dahl called Rows, whereas the first and third records contain pieces of my own. The instrumentation on all three records is more or less identical, and I guess that instrumentation, timbre, and the general dynamic level and performance practice within the ensemble all definitely contribute to the perception of a certain similarity, even though I don't think that these aspects of the music necessarily set it too much apart from other musics in this field. When it comes to my pieces, I think that other stylistic traits such as tonal and rhythmic modality, as well as certain rules governing the intervallic structures of the chords and the melodic fragments, might be equally important as instrumentation and dynamics when it comes to making the music stylistically concise and easily identifiable.
JS: I generally don't like music played by large ensembles. I always feel that with "many hands in the kitchen", there's no room for everybody's sounds. But Skogen is an exception. It never sounds like there are so many players. What is your secret?
MG: I guess one reason the music doesn't come across as being cluttered (though I guess for some people it still very well might!) is the simple fact that the density of musical events is comparatively low. I myself am very fond of the idea and practice in, for example, Javanese gamelan music, where some of the musicians, depending on their instrument, may just play one, two or perhaps four strokes during musical cycles which sometimes may last for several minutes. Japanese Gagaku music is another East Asian orchestral tradition which partly works in a similar way, I think. Other reasons may perhaps be found in the instrumentation (which is predominantly made up of decaying sounds) or the way the acoustic material is distributed throughout the tonal spectrum. And, if I may say, the sensible and intelligent musicality of the players, of course!
JS: In the last 20 years, improvised music has created its own path, far away from jazz, and it has been in constant evolution. Where do you see this music in 2020?
MG: Yes, the development of improvised music from, say, the mid 90s onwards was quite expansive. Though I do think that in the last eight to ten years or so we have seen improvised music going through stages of consolidation, and some people might even say stagnation. On the other hand I think that during the last decade we've also have seen an increased mixing or breaking up of disciplines within the general field of contemporary music, for example how improvisers have teamed up with composers and interpreters of what one might call the post-Cage or Feldman continuum, or how improvisation has become an important element in certain artistic practices otherwise quite closely related to electro-acoustic composition, musique concrète or text-sound composition. Methods and materials associated with certain disciplines are combined in different ways than before, I think. And I guess these two tendencies, consolidation and classicism on the one hand, and a continuing breaking up, mixing and reassembling of methods and materials from different musical traditions on the other hand, might be something we will still hear a few years from now. And hopefully some surprising new input as well!
JS: The last track on "Rows", which is one of the last tracks recorded by the group, is quite different to the rest of your music. Sparse strings over "white noise", no piano... in my opinion a beautiful way to end the CD. Could that be a new path for Skogen in the future?
MG: Well, that piece is of course Anders Dahl's piece, and a very beautiful one indeed. I think there is a little section on our new record which shares a similar instrumentation as the one you mention. But yes, that is actually one of many possibilities that could be interesting to explore further!
JS: Would you consider recording a solo piano CD? Or an all acoustic "small group", without electronics?
MG: I've never thought about recording a CD of solo piano music, actually! But it would be an interesting challenge, I think. I'll definitely take it into consideration! But I do have plans to record a couple of pieces for a somewhat smaller, all acoustic setting later on this year. I'm very much looking forward to it!
JS: Which music or musicians do you listen to at home?
MG: I listen to quite a lot of music at home actually, and I tend to go through periods where I listen quite intensely to specific musics. Earlier this year for example, I was listening a lot to recordings by Indian rudra veena players such as Asad Ali Khan and Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and his son, Bahauddin Dagar. I also recently had a period where I listened intensely to Sun Ra's early recordings, things from the mid to late fifties. And last month I've actually listened to a lot of piano music: Bach's keyboard music performed by Rosalyn Tureck, Tim Parkinson's piano music performed by Philip Thomas, and a very beautiful recording of Aldo Clementi's music for one or two pianos performed by Mats Persson and Kristine Scholz. Captivating, inspiring and truly wonderful music!
• Show Bio for Magnus Granberg
"Magnus Granberg is a composer and performer working at an intersection between contemporary chamber music and improvisation. He is based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Born in Umeå in 1974, he studied saxophone and improvisation at the University of Gothenburg and in New York in his late teens and early twenties. Self-taught as a composer, he formed his own ensemble Skogen in 2005 trying to integrate experiences, methods and materials from various traditions of improvised and composed musics into a new modus operandi. Now mainly working with the ensemble Skogen and the newly formed Skuggorna och ljuset, while also writing music on commission for different ensembles and projects. He is also active as an improvisor in different contexts, mainly playing the clarinet.
His music has been performed in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, England, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia, broadcast by public radio channels in England (BBC Radio 3 and 6), Germany (SWR 2), Sweden (SR P2), Estonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary and the United States, and has been published by the British record label Another Timbre.
Recent work includes a commission from Another Timbre and Ensemble Grizzana and collaborations with musicians such as David Sylvian, Christoph Schiller and the Swiss duo Diatribes.
He has in the last decade also, more or less regularly, collaborated with musicians such as Angharad Davies, Tisha Mukarji, Tetuzi Akiyama, Toshimaru Nakamura, Anna Lindal, Kristine Scholz, Rhodri Davies, Simon Allen, Christoph Schiller and Ko Ishikawa."-FST (http://fst.se/tonsattare/magnus-granberg)
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• Show Bio for Angharad Davies
"Angharad Davies is a violinist, one at ease in both improvising and composition, with a wide discography as part of varied range of ensembles and groups. She's a specialist in the art of 'preparing' her violin, adding objects or materials to it to extend its sound making properties. Her sensitivity to the sonic possibilities of musical situations and attentiveness to their shape and direction make her one of contemporary music's most fascinating figures. 2015 has seen her being commissioned for a new work at the Counterflows Festival, Glasgow and premiering Eliane Radigue's new solo for violin, Occam XXI at the El Nicho Festival, Mexico.
She's performed at, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, BBC Proms, Music We'd Like to Hear's concert series, is an associate artist at Cafe Oto, is a member of Apartment House, Cranc and Common Objects, been artist in residence at Q-02, and played live with Tony Conrad in the Turbine Room at the Tate Modern. Other collaborations have featured the likes of John Butcher, Daniela Cascella, Rhodri Davies, Julia Eckhardt , Kazuko Hohki, Roberta Jean, Lina Lapelyte, Dominic Lash, Tisha Mukarji, Andrea Neumann, Rie Nakajima, Tim Parkinson, J.G.Thirlwell, Stefan Thut, Paul Whitty, Manfred Werder, Birgit Ulher, Taku Unami and she's released records on Absinth Records, Another Timbre, Potlatch and Confrontrecords."-Angharad Davies Website (http://www.angharaddavies.com/biog.html)
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• Show Bio for Anna Lindal
"Anna Lindal, violin, studied in Sweden and Switzerland. Lived and performed in Switzerland and France for many years, played in the string trio Trio des Lyres specialized in mixed programs with barock and classical music on original instruments as well as contemporary works. During this time the film "Livsstråk" was made which is a musical portrait of Anna Lindal.
From 1983 to 2001 concertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm and from 2002 Professor of violin at the Royal college of Music in Stockholm.
Currently Professor in Music att Stockholm University of the Arts and free lance violinist. Engaged in artistic research on interpretation/improvisation and tradition/convention versus contemporary expressions.
Performs regularly as soloist, as chamber musician, in experimental theatre and in different groups for free improvisation. Collaborates with a large number of contemporary composers and has had many new compositions dedicated to her. Made several recordings, among others two solo records with works by John Cage and Christian Wolff together with related composers. Has also been performing instrumental Argentine Tango in the quintet Tango Libre for several years."-Anna Lindal Website (http://annalindal.se/bio.html)
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• Show Bio for Leo Svensson Sander
"Cellist Leo Svensson Sander is a member of Erlend Viken Trio, Eter (6), Gul 3, Skog Och Dal, Skogen, Skuggorna Och Ljuset, The Tiny, Walrus"-Discogs 9/18/2017
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• Show Bio for Ko Ishikawa
"Ko Ishikawa is a Sho (Japanese bamboo mouth organ) player and is a member of the Gagaku ensemble "Reigakusha". He was born in Tokyo in 1963 and studied Sho and Gagaku music with masters Mayumi Miyata, Hideaki Bunno and Shiba Sukeyasu."-Discogs.com (https://www.discogs.com/artist/372698-Ko-Ishikawa)
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• Show Bio for John Eriksson
"John Eriksson is a member of Peter Bjorn And John, and Skogen"-Discogs 9/18/2017
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• Show Bio for Erik Carlsson
"Erik Carlsson is an improvising percussionist whose blissful sounds resound throughout the world. Apart from performing solo, he is also heard with musicians and ensembles such as Toshimaru Nakamura, Tetuzi Akiyama, Martin Küchen, Chip Shop Music, Skogen and Mats Gustafsson's Swedish Azz."-Bon Bax Bom Bax (http://www.bombaxbombax.com/people/erik-carlsson)
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• Show Bio for Henrik Olsson
"Henrik Olsson was born in 1975 in the village of Kyrkhult, a small industrial community in the south of Sweden. Studied classical percussion and received my MFA in 2001 at The Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg. I move freely between notated music and free improvisation, blending acoustic and amplified sounds with the use of contact microphones."-Henrik Olsson Website (http://bjornbergborg.blogspot.com/p/henrik-olsson.html)
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• Show Bio for Petter Wastberg
"Petter Wastberg is a member of Skog Och Dal, Skogen, Slötakvartetten, Unforgettable H2O"-Squidco 9/18/2017
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• Show Bio for Toshimaru Nakamura
"Toshimaru Nakamura is a Japanese musician, active in free improvisation and Japanese onkyo.
He began his career playing rock and roll guitar, but gradually explored other types of music, even abandoning guitar, and started working on circuit bending. He uses a mixing console as a live, interactive musical instrument: "Nakamura plays the 'no-input mixing board', connecting the input of the board to the output, then manipulating the resultant audio feedback."
Nakamura's music has been described as "sounds ranging from piercing high tones and shimmering whistles to galumphing, crackle-spattered bass patterns."
Nakamura founded the ensemble A Paragon of Beauty in 1992. He has recorded solo albums, worked as a session musician, and collaborated with artists including Sachiko M ("a kindred spirit"), Otomo Yoshihide, Keith Rowe, John Butcher, Nicholas Bussmann, Taku Sugimoto, Tetuzi Akiyama, dancer Kim Ito, and drummer Jason Kahn."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshimaru_Nakamura)
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Skogen / Magnus Granberg
'Ist gefallen in den Schnee' (2010) and 'Despairs had Governed Me Too Long' (2012) [double CD reissue]