• Get to know the composers behind 2018/19’s Borealis Ung Komponist

This years participants in our mentor programme Borealis Ung Komponist survived the first intense workshop this fall and are ready for the second round this month. This time with mentor Juliana Hodkinson. We had a chat we each of them to get to know them a bit better, and to talk about the expectations and challenges of being part of a mentor programme.

Borealis: How are you and what are you up to these days?

Alexander Fiske Fosse: I’m great! I’m in a good place these days. Lately I’ve been trying to finish a piece for string quartet, el guitar duo, recorder, different feedback instruments and lots of other fun things that I don’t want to reveal quite yet. The piece will be re-composed by a friend and fellow student at the Grieg Academy. I don1t know what he’ll end up doing with it, so that’s kind of exciting. I guess you could ask, but what about BUK? Well, the two pieces, since they’re both written by me, closely interlinked. Working on the one piece is to advantage for the other piece. I’m also doing a lot of singing in my choir these days.

Stephan Meidell: Can’t complain. Just went through a very inspiring period with a commission we wrote with Erlend Apneseth trio + Frode Haltli. We performed it at Bergen Kjøtt in Bergen and Ultima Festival in Oslo and I got to use a new rig with a mechanically controlled zither. We also performed some new music with Tanzmacher for kids last weekend with machines playing drums. There’s a lot of electricity these days.

Rakel Nystabakk

Rakel Nystabakk: Really good, thanks! I was just in Gothenburg playing a concert, so my focus has been on that lately. I’m back home now at the farm, so at the moment life is very much about gathering sheep and harvesting potatoes in addition to working on the pieces I’m writing.

Haral Jordal Johannessen: Hello, I’m good! I’m wearing lot’s of hats these days, running back and forth between projects, I’m working on the piece for Saxifraga Quartet, being a student and tinkering with with electronic objects at home, like for example a home made midi controller built from wood.

Borealis: You’re Young Composer’s now – how does it feel?

Alexander: It’s so great! Everyone I meet through the mentor programme are great people. It’s actually GREAT FUN! I recently managed to loose my self-confidence, but the fact that Borealis chose me to be in this project helped a lot. It’s really nice to have found it again, so thanks a lot for that!

Stephan: It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to do more workshops with the amazing composers! The last workshop with Maja S. K. Ratkje was great.

Rakel: It feels really good. It’s such an honor to be working with such great mentors and musicians and composers.

Harald: It feels like a privileged and it really happened at the right time for me. I’m done with my studies next summer and this is a great opportunity to expand my network in Norway outside of Oslo.

“Composing for others only
is a big leap for me. It’s something
I’ve wanted to do for a long time…”

Borealis: Alexander, you study composition at the Grieg Academy at the University of Bergen, so why did you want to be part of this mentor programme? Isn’t that a bit like buttering your bacon?

Alexander: Mainly there’re two reasons why I wanted to take part. The first being that it gives me new impulses both through the mentors and the other BUK composers, and the other reason is that I get to present a piece to the Borealis audience. As a Vestlending, and a new music lover, Borealis means a lot to me. And the audience at the festival is of the more open and listening kind. I can’t wait!
So, I guess it’s more like butter in the clam soup: the perfect combination.

Borealis: Stephan, at this year’s Borealis you presented your “Metrics” project live, with musicians placed in different rooms with the audience floating around. A lot of people have mentioned this as one of the highlights of Borealis 2018. Why did you as an established musician apply to this mentor programme?

Stephan Meidell

Stephan Meidell: Wow, yeah, it was incredible and I’m very grateful to both the musicians and Borealis for making it happen. I guess that’s exactly it: I’m an established musician. So even though I make most of the music myself, or with others, I always perform it too. So composing for others only is a big leap for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and getting feedback and new points of view from the lovely people in the mentor programme, and four mentors that I respect a lot, is really an ideal way of stepping into the world of composition.

Borealis: Rakel, you just finished your studies in Music Performance at the University of Agder with the somewhat unusual main instrument; laptop – why did you apply for a mentor programme in composition in Bergen?

Rakel: I developed an interest in writing music really early and have written music parallel to all the other things I’ve been doing. The last couple of years I’ve been focusing mostly on performing but I have an urge to write more now. The mentor programme feels like the perfect frame for me right now. Also, I’ve never worked in Bergen before which I find both exciting and inspiring.

“The BUK meetings demand
a lot of concentration, with lots of
opinions and impressions to process
and it’s actually really nice to leave
Oslo to be able to concentrate
properly about this job.”

Borealis: Harald, you study composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) – do you have time to be part of a mentor programme in Bergen in addition to your studies?

Harald: A lot of our time as students at NMH is spent writing music, and the piece I’m doing for Borealis 2019 takes – like all pieces – time to write. I actually chose not to do a similar project arranged by the school so I could to this. The Borealis Ung Komponist meetings demand a lot of concentration, with lots of opinions and impressions to process and it’s actually really nice to leave Oslo to be able to concentrate properly about this job.

Borealis: What is most challenging about being part of Borealis Ung Komponist?

Alexander Fiske Fosse

Alexander: So far it’s been waking up, so I can be at the mentor gatherings and participate… That’s been a bit of a challenge so far. I’ve managed so far though. What challenge lies a head, only time can tell.

Stephan: As I mentioned the role of being a composer it totally new to me – it’s a different process than what I’m used to. I can’t shape things in the course of the concert based on situations in the moment. Even though I open up for a bit of improvisation in the piece, I have to make a more set structure – at least if I want it to sound the way I want it to. It’s a challenge to be clear about my ideas, which I have to be since I’m writing music for musicians with completely different references than me and I have to dig deep to find which fundamental elements are important to me and my expression, which are things that I normally take for granted when I play myself. This can be things like timing, sound textures, dynamics and phrasing.

Rakel: Well, I guess it’s the typical things, like dealing with expectations and ambitions, and keeping calm so I can develop ideas without constantly thinking about the end result.

“The most challenging but also rewarding
is the way we work. We’re all sat around
the same table and all challenges and
break-throughs are out in the open”


Harald: The most challenging but also rewarding is the way we work. We’re all sat around the same table and all challenges and break-throughs are out in the open. You get to show who you are as a human being and a composer. For me it is a new and exciting thing to open up the creative and critical process to colleagues but it ‘s also obvious to me that together we are better versions of ourselves.

Borealis: What’s coming out of your speakers these days?

Alexander: I’m listening a lot to Jean Sibelius, Salvatore Sciarrino, Sergei Prokoviev… I really want to listen more to Catherine Lamb, but haven’t gotten to it. She has one of her pieces performed at Borealis 2018. I miss that piece, and think a lot about it actually. Recently I went to a gig at Bergen Kjøtt i Bergen where I heard Erlend Apneseth trio + Frode Haltli. That was really good. I’ve listening to the both of them quite a lot. Other than that I’ve also been listening to Maja S. K. Ratkje’s music lately. Really, really great what she does. And then there’s Johannes Ockeghem and then Sean Shibe’s album SoftLOUD.

Stephan: I’ve been listening quite a lot to Kraftwerk lately and Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee – recommended to me by composer Ørjan Matre. John Maus’ Screen Memories is fun. And then I always come back to Fever Ray – either the solo album or the one with Knife or Røyksopp.

Harald Jordal Johannessen

Other than that there’re a lot of Norwegian and German children songs on repeat on our worn out cassette player. This makes for quite a cool and sea sick flanger effect so our 2-year-old is exposed to a slightly experimental version of Postman Pat.

Rakel: Lately I’ve been listening a lot to Bartók. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta is a favorite.

Harald: Lately I’ve been putting on MGMT’s latest release. They’ve been making ruthlessly good psychedelic pop for ten years and have really found their core now.

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