Towards the end of a rainy day in Bergen Eline Rafteseth comes to the Borealis office for a chat. Eline is a bass player and composer from Vestnes in Møre and Romsdal and one of four composers taking part in Borealis’ mentor programme Borealis Ung Komponist. Last autumn she moved to Bergen with her dog. “It‘s taken a while to get things going in a new place” she says, but she already has lots of projects happening in her new home town.
“I’m studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the Grieg Academy, and have four bands that I run myself or together with others, as well as other individual projects and scattered freelance jobs” she says, laughing modestly.
Among other things, Eline runs Playdate – a well-established concert series for improvised music at Bergen Kunsthall, Landmark. In addition she is currently preparing the release of a record with her improv trio NH3, who play what she calls “composed improvised music”, together with lyrics or poems written by vocalist Guro Kverndokk.
“And of course there’s also my darling Shakai, the band in which I’m a songwriter and bass player. This is a very different world to Borealis Ung Komponist, both sonically and in process. Shakai’s music has a more direct form – although there’s still lots of improvisation and freedom. We are going on tour soon, and after the tour we we’ll do a recording to be released in May 2023. So there is a lot to look forward to!”
Borealis Ung Komponist
In addition to all this she has accepted the spot as one of four composers in the mentoring program Borealis Ung Komponist. The first workshop happened early September.
“Borealis Ung Komponist started in 100% chaos for me. My head is always filled with a thousand ideas at once. I actually had a sketch thought out in advance, which was very inspired by the soundscape of the album Lanzarote by Jo Berger Myhre and Olafur Björn Ólafsson. A soundscape that I feel very much at ease with. But the sketches went straight out of the window once we had talked for a few hours, and a whole new wave of inspiration and ideas came to me. So I ended up having to prepare new sketches in-between the workshop days.”
During the first workshop, lasting three days, they were to kick-start the process. One thing they did was to build a sound bank by testing different sounds and techniques, and learning the possibilities of the ensemble YrrY and the musicians instruments.
“This is already how I mostly work. I have an incredible number of audio clips on my phone with small snippets that I have sung or recorded on the go – often while travelling or after attending concerts. From these clips I can start assembling them together like a sort of jigsaw puzzle. I used to ruthlessly delete such snippets once they started to get old, but now I keep everything – you never know what might suddenly fit into a new song.”
For each gathering the composers are guided through the programme by a mentor. First up was visual artist, composer, musician and performance artist Camille Norment.
“Camille made us compose an entire piece which would be performed that same afternoon, so she really helped us kick-start the process! It’s good to be pushed to see how much can actually be done in a short time span. The ensemble is also so easy to work with, and incredibly fun! And I’m really grateful to be working alongside other great composers who are also working with very personal themes.”
Even before the end of the first gathering the framework for Eline’s project was set.
To lose oneself
“It was being in this very special environment of the mentor programme that made me see that I had found the right moment to work with something which up until now had remained as a bad chapter of my life… I was trapped in a cult as an adult, which I am fortunate to have escaped from now.”
What was sold in as a wonderful meditation retreat abroad turned out to be a scheme for systematic brainwashing, where Eline slowly got disconnected from herself, and was trained to stop listening to her own thoughts. When she returned home to Norway she was transferred to the Norwegian branch of the cult, and was further advised to drop contact with parents and old friends, so as not to spoil the process of being ‘uplifted’.
“There were many extreme alternative views that encouraged doubt in the public system and our own thoughts and feelings. We even had to wear uniforms, and were given new names in Sanskrit. Many people can probably relate to similar narcissistic and psychopathic mechanisms from other experiences – from bullying, manipulative friends or physically or psychologically abusive relationships. Similar to these situations I was subject to a systematic breakdown of who I was as a person.”
“That’s what I’m left with from this experience, and that’s what I want to express through my piece. My working title is How to Lose Oneself. The main part of the process going forward will probably be to intuitively find the sonic expression of my experience, together with the ensemble.”
Eline bases her piece in a puja – a song in Sanskrit which the cult members had to chant every morning. Together with YrrY vocalist Mari she has been working on pulling apart the Sanskrit lyrics as if they were sheet music, thus deconstructing and almost destroying the original song.
“To emphasise: I am doing well now that I’m on the other side of it! But this piece marks a sort of final to this chapter in my life. This makes it extra special to see what a nice group I’m surrounded by in this year’s Borealis Ung Komponist! It’s incredible to be able to play ball with and sort of borrow from each other’s ideas throughout the process. Everyone is so creative and open, and that matters a lot when you have to work so closely and personally together over time.”