Colliding the worlds of live coding and ancient Nordic literature, Thor Magnusson presents a new work featuring old Norse kveding from author Bergsveinn Birgisson, free improvisation from vocalist Sofia Jernberg and guitarist Michal Matejka, and spatialised microtonal drones from Thor’s unique instrument the Threnoscope, for a late night immersion in sound.

The Threnoscope is notated through live coding, with sounds represented on a large projected graphical score. Its visual appearance illustrates the harmonics of a fundamental tone, as well as speaker locations, and musical notes move around the spectral and physical space, long in duration, and sculptable by the performer.

For Borealis, Thor’s new work will combine the drones of the Threnoscope with a reading of the Völuspá – an Old Norse poem from the Poetic Edda, an anonymous collection that underpins Nordic heritage that is performed in a style that falls somewhere between reading and singing. On top of this there will be interventions on the Nykirken organ and the textural and guttural improvisation of Sofia and Michal, bringing ancient musical traditions together with the wild energy of free improvisation.


The project is part of ‘Fresh Air: Current trends in music, cinema, theatre and media art’.
Presented in collaboration with A4 og NEXT festival.
Supported by EEA funds, and funds from the Slovakian Government budget.


Thor Magnusson is a worker in rhythm, frequencies and intensities. His research interests include musical improvisation, new technologies for musical expression, live coding, musical notation and digital scores, artificial intelligence and computational creativity, programming education, and the philosophy of technology. These topics have come together in the Threnoscope live coding system he will play on at Borealis 2017. As well as performing and writing about music, he lectures in music at the University of Sussex, Brighton.

Michal Matejka is experimenting. With life, with building a house, with having children, as a teacher, with not having time at all… At one point he started experimenting with sounds and started exploring possibilities of free improvisation, which resulted in his participation in bands and projects like Ankramu, Škvíry&Spoje, Námestie republiky and Prague improvisation orchestra. He also cooperates with composer Miro Tóth on his crazy projects Dunkeltherapie and Funeral Marching Band, and also plays contemporary music with VEN ensemble and Cluster ensemble. Michal teaches music in a 150% position, and would like to have more time to spend with his family.

Bergsveinn Birgisson is a writer based in Bergen. He has published three books of poetry, four novels and a doctoral thesis focused on the cognitive and aesthetic aspects of Skaldic poetry from pre-Christian times. Bergsveinn has also been nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize and the high-ranking Brage Prize. He writes in Icelandic and Norwegian and has studied different traditional chanting techniques in Scandinavia. In his doctoral thesis he developed a method for analysing poetry based on cognitive linguistics and psychology. Bergsveinn is currently working on a novel focusing on feelings.

The Swedish singer and composer Sofia Jernberg grew up in Sweden, Ethiopia and Vietnam, and is currently based in Oslo. One of her primary interests as a singer is to develop the “instrumental” possibilities of the voice. Her vocabulary includes sounds and techniques that often contradict a conventional singing style such as split tone singing, pitch-less singing and distorted singing. She has performed in several chamber operas, amongst others Salvatore Sciarrinos’ Lohengrin.


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