Vannstand

Motvind records: ’Vannstand’ (Sea Level) is a tribute to the slowly pulsating tidal shifts along the length of the Norwegian coastline. In Vannstand children are given the opportunity to reflect and respond musically to their relationship with the coast, the water and the sea. The composer, Maja S. K. Ratkje states: What could be more natural than kids making sounds as part of a composition that’s about our own future? Ratkje has been an outspoken voice on environmental issues for years. Vannstand is a continuation of this commitment where she unites new music and the inheritors of our planet. She uses local sea level measurements to create scores, which in turn are interpreted musically by children. She has done a tremendous job editing their contributions into a multidimensional piece that balances tension, clearity, beauty and playfulness.

Vannstand, commisioned by nyMusikk, started in 2015 and was in the years that followed set up as sound installations in different versions in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Harstad and Bodø. This album is a mix of excerpts from those installations. One would imagine a piece regarding such enormous concepts as tidal waves (generated by the Moon’s gravitational pulls) and changes in sea levels (affected by weather systems and climate changes) being a rather loud and harsh affair. Maybe this insinuation is connected to the impressive body of work she has done with noise music. Vannstand is in any case filled with subtle and precise fragments of grand dramas and sweet melodies. Over eight movements, the music is growing with close interplay and sudden shifts. The sound mix, based on the 8 channel sound installations, is exquisite, obviously done by the composer.

The life-giving sea has been the basis for growth and development, and now human influence is changing the seemingly eternal cycle along the Norwegian coast. Ratkje: Sometimes you find yourself playing something that grows stronger and stronger, or sounds bigger and bigger. Sea levels may rise significantly, or just a bit, but they WILL rise.
Motvind Records has until now released mostly debut albums of young and talented musicans based in Scandinavia. For our 10th album release we wanted to celebrate our first years 3 years as a record company. So, with Maja S. K. Ratkje approaching us about a possible release of her seminal work Vannstand, we thought the timing was perfect. Ratkje, putting the musical piece in a larger context, has been a huge source of inspiration for everyone being concerned and oriented towards how the music scene in Norway is handling the recent development of the enormous oil and weapon capital, especially in terms of sponsorships.

Record reviews

Release date 12 March 2021, Motvind Records.

Buy album (LP/digital) on Bandcamp or Tiger Record Store.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Maja S. K. Ratkje, Oslo, Bergen, Harstad, Stavanger, Svartskog. Cover art by Frida Helene Haltli: “Verden og alt vi har hviler på barna våre”. Sleeve design by Egil Kalman.

“All which is heard on the record was also used in the installations. As the installations were about 20 minutes long each, I had more than enough to choose from when I wanted to make a record. And I had already chosen all the good parts for the installations, so I didn’t need to go through all the original recordings again. I have no longer an overview of how much recorded material I have, but that must be hours and hours. 
The kids were recorded in small groups or as soloists, but mostly two-three of them playing together, as far as I can recall. Then I have composed with all the files, making ensemble music out from what ideas I had for putting it all together. The sound files comprising the work session looks like tons of small fragments, but the music sounds like a continuity. I am also mixing in field recordings of the shore, but that isn’t necessarily from the cities that the kids were recorded, it is something I had in my archive from before, and those files are mixed differently for each installation too, so they are unique for each version of Vannstand. The idea was to make transitions between the wind and water sounds on the instruments and the sound of the shore. It’s also in the sounds from the shore that the kids use their voices saying “water” in the languages that they are familiar with. In Norway we have other mother tongues than Norwegian:-) For example, the Sami word for water is found in the installation in Harstad, which is in the north. And in the Oslo version, most of them had mother tongues from other places, which was really cool. The school that most of them were from (Tøyen) has a lot of children coming from immigrant background. When the premiere of the Oslo installation was in the foyer of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, many of them had never been near that house before. You can hear some sections with whispering, others with saying “water” playfully or even making some riddles with the word.”

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