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Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2014

By Tomas Lauvland Pettersen Posted: 19. Nov, 2014

Premieres of new works from composers Jan Erik Mikalsen and Lars Petter Hagen as well as an asamisimasa festival residency – the hcmf// 2014 programme has plenty to offer in terms of Norwegian content.

For a number of years, hcmf// has worked closely with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London and Music Norway to create a strong programme featuring composers, ensembles and performers that showcase the strength and diversity of Norwegian contemporary music. For the last decade, the festival has featured a long list of Norwegian performers and composers, perhaps most notably accordionist Frode Haltli and composer Rolf Wallin.

This year’s programme mirrors those in the past in terms of Norwegian presence; composers Jan Erik Mikalsen and Lars Petter Hagen are set to premiere new works while premier contemporary six-piece asamisimasa are playing a key role on with their festival residency.

Too much of a good thing is wonderful

Jan Erik Mikalsen

A hcmf// highlight comes on Sat 22 November with the UK premiere of composer Jan Erik Mikalsen’s new work ‘Too much of a good thing is wonderful’ that will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3. Mikalsen is Music Norway’s Intro Composer 2014-16 –Music Norway’s very own MFA-funded launch programme for young composers.

Says Mikalsen on his new work:

– ‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’ was commissioned by the bit20 ensemble and world premiered the 14th of September 2014 in Bergen, Norway. The piece is in a way a homage to the American artist Liberace. I’m very fascinated by Liberace and his artistic outcome and the way people think he is kitsch. I’m fascinated what is good and bad art, and who decide that Liberace is bad art.

For ‘Too much of a good thing is Wonderful’, Mikalsen has employed a number of compositional tools, including microtonality, to expand on the ensemble’s timbre:

– The piece is sort of the opposite of Liberace; repetitive and calm – sometimes building up to big explosions. The piano has a leading role, without being a solo player. The pianist plays both a piano and a quartertone down-tuned piano. The harp has some of its strings tuned down a quarter tone, and with the percussion, they all make up a small ensemble within the ensemble. At the end, you will hear a piano in the distance playing one of Liberace’s favorite pieces that he used to perform.
For the hcmf// performance, Bit20 is led by conductor Baldur Brönnimann.

Repertoire Album

Lars Petter Hagen

We’ve also made a mark in our calendar for Sun 23rd November when one of Norway’s premier contemporary music ensembles, the Cikada Ensemble are set to premiere a new work, ‘Repertoire Album’, penned by composer Lars Petter Hagen.

Says Hagen on his new work: – My development as composer is very closely connected to the history of the Cikada ensemble. I have followed these musicians since I was 15. Saving money for concerts as a teenager, later following recording sessions with my composition teachers, workshops with the musicians as a student, listening to rehearsals at Ny Musikk.

Hagen’s close bond to the Cikada ensemble goes way back in time:

– Cikada was always there, functioning as a musical portal. This piece is a reflection over and sometimes even a re-realisation of some of the repertoire of the ensembles history. A repertoire that is combination of modernistic canon and a very personal approach to the music of our time. Music that for different reasons made a deep impact on me. This music, performed by the Cikada ensemble is part of how I write and think about music today. Whether I like it not.

Fongaard UK premiere


asamisimasa are playing a key role on hcmf//’s Norwegian programme with their 2014 festival residency. Tue 25th November sees the ensemble performing the UK premieres of a set of Norwegian microtonal pioneer Bjørn Fongaard’s key works. Another key asamisimasa performance comes with the rendition of Øyvind Torvund’s savoury chamber work in seven sections ‘Neon Forest Space’.

Says asamisimasa’s Anders Førisdal when asked to introduce Bjørn Fongaard’s works: – Fongaard was one of the most explicitly experimental composers in Norway in the 60s and 70s.’ Having refretted his electric guitar into quarter tones, Fongaard developed his own set of playing techniques using preparations and a bow and experimented with multi-track recordings in his own home. It’s a sound-world that I think is unique for the time, a more Norwegian mix between Harry Partch and Giacinto Scelsi, working with sound rather than traditional melodies and motifs. He was a genuine experimentalist.

Spiral Paths

Representing Norway’s emerging folk-music/contemporary scene, Hardanger fiddle savant Britt Pernille Frøholm bridges Norway’s nature with the Scottish highlands on Fri 28th November through the new, commissioned work ‘Spiral Paths’ that fuses the age-old Norwegian instrument’s resonating strings with electronics and video installations.


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