What it takes

Tracing Arne Nordheim in the digital archives of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK)

First published in a pamphlet published by Arne Nordheim’s Composer’s Prize 2022, Hild Borchgrevink, editor and translation, with support from Arts Council Norway.

The original article in Norwegian

Opus 1

In a TV studio, inside a white pavilion scenography, surrounded by dried twigs and chiffon curtains, composer Arne Nordheim’s opus 1 is performed by The Norwegian String Quartet. The work was composed in 1956, before Nordheim’s music really started to provoke TV presenters and others aiming to rep- resent the voice of the people. And in 1990, when this specific broadcast was recorded, most opposition to his music was to a certain extent already history. By the time of this broadcast, Nordheim was seldom understood as the modernist-agitator of the 1960s. The black frames of his spectacles come over with a softer edge, and Nordheim himself seems softer too, even if conviction still radiates from behind his well-formed utterances. By this time, Nordheim’s role in a Norwegian public space is a natural and obvious one: first and foremost as a composer firmly situated in the tradition of Western art music.

The string quartet, recognized by Nordheim as his opus 1, lingers gently through its three movements. Some parts allow for more drama, but most of the time the music flows slowly and beautifully. Variations anchor the form of the piece and seem thoroughly planned. Manifold motives return regularly, while the free tonality might also point a listener towards early Schönberg: some sections resemble a kind of improvised twelve-tone music. Individual musicians are allowed to excel in long, deflecting, melodic solos. The cello stretches downwards with dark, stable tones contrasted by the violin in the upper register. Between them, the middle voices chop up more rhythmic side themes, while all of a sudden the whole ensemble runs off into homophone gestures stretching widely in register. The work fades out in a compelling way, as always in Nordheim’s music, in this case with recognizable motives in slow motion being forged towards top and bottom registers. The music itself points towards Nordheim’s later works.

The simple staging of the performance of opus 1 in the TV studio frames Nordheim as a modern romantic, and I would say bordering on the esoteric. Did someone aim to construct a utopian dream, to reshape music in the imaginary dimension of its creation, a dimension that, no matter what, does not in any way resemble reality as we know it now or could have known it in 1990? There are of course other reasons for this, and we expect a broadcasting house to have access to competent scenographers, but the fact that this old string quartet is staged this way, without any attempt to moor it to the ground, says something about the spirit of the times and how Nordheim’s music was understood at that point in time. Seen from 2022, the scenography appears somewhat hidebound and outdated, still connecting to other experiences of mine where Nordheim’s music meets visual expressions, as in the contemporary ballet The Tempest from 1979 or in the exhibition No -isms for me, please! at Henie Onstad Art Centre in 2013. The reason why the visuals seem fitting to me, even though I find them a bit daft compared to how highly I value the music, might be how they seem to emphasize that the qualities in Nordheim’s music don’t belong to the everyday.

The space age

Let’s jump back through the archives to the space age, where Nordheim is interviewed in a TV production aimed at a young audience, entitled Falkeklubben (The Falcon Club), June 3, 1969. I include the date for readers, as Nordheim’s name is not included in its metadata. Here, animations seemingly depicting space, shift to images of spinning tape recorders playing electronic music by Nordheim. The programme host opens the dialogue: “To me, this resembles music from space, would you say I am right?”

Nordheim’s development since his opus 1, both as an artist and as a public figure, is closely connected to electronic music. We know the story, about Nordheim who from the 1960s and onwards both took on and was given the role as Norway’s most important modernist composer, in a way that allows a person like me, many years later, to know the name Arne Nordheim long before I had heard any of his music.

The space age and television are, of course, each other’s best friends. But I would say that the modernist stamp put on Nordheim’s music in Norway during this time, differs from the optimism and excitement surrounding scientific experiments. The arts were barely allowed to join the party, Norwegian art music not so much. A colleague of Nordheim, the composer Bjørn Fongaard, ended up constructing his own micro interval guitars and tuning systems, as his musical imaginations could not possibly be realised by the orchestras of the time.

In the space context created by this TV show, Nordheim is presented like a clown or crazy professor: “Why do so many people dislike your music?” The host keeps firing preformulated questions at the composer, one after the other. He does not seem to take Nordheim’s answers into account, at least they seldom influence the “dialogue”. Nordheim answers smartly, perhaps (understandably, if so) slightly sarcastic. As if attempting to buy some time while wondering how to meet the sudden claims, he repeats the question, adding: “Well, that was unusually straightforward…” At the same time, he really strives to answer in a proper and truthful way: “I guess it’s because I work with elements that are not so common or familiar”, then describing how he does not create melodies and rhythms, rather sounds and colours, with the help of both orchestras and electronics. He goes on to teach us how to hoover (Nordheim’s metaphor) all possible sounds coming from a tam-tam. Here, the programme host actually seems a little excited.

Nordheim’s role as a public figure emerges from the interplay between himself as a protagonist (while he was still alive and able to contribute) and society’s image of him. Nordheim cannot devise his role alone. But he can be enthused, and it seems to me that being in the spotlight comes easy to him and makes him uplifted. He gladly plays the roles he is given, possibly twisting them to make the dialogue follow a track more desirable to him. For there is actually a spotlight at work here, a focus that contemporary composers of today are spared from, something that only a public media monopoly was able to offer selected artists of its time. I honour the way Arne Nordheim managed to manoeuvre that role while at the same time maintaining his artistic integrity. There is no doubt that this paved the way for future composers and the entire Norwegian contemporary music scene! Younger colleagues have sometimes felt the necessity to distance themselves from the images of a composer as a magnificent, romantic, tremendous figure that Nordheim has been associated with, as it left little room for other ways of being an artist in music. Such images have given emerging artists new challenges in how to justify their practice in society. If so, nothing could be better, contemporary music and all of its actors benefit from being challenged to set new standards and continually redefine what it might mean to create new music We benefit from having someone and something to hail or to oppose, from the existence of discussion.

“I don’t know what space music is.” Nordheim answers that he believes the association might derive from sounds being distributed with large distances between them, in which timbre is allowed to unfold. “But how it is out there, I don’t know, I believe it is rather silent”, he says, charmingly raising his eyes above his horn-rimmed spectacles. Someone has named an asteroid after Arne Nordheim.


István Korda Kovács’ film from 1974 depicts Nordheim as a composer at his best and it surpasses all I have seen about Nordheim made by NRK. It is extremely vital, placing Nordheim in its centre, confidently and persistently, with strong visual utterances accompanying the music: instruments explode and burn, in recordings from Iceland lava erupts from the ground, enormous patches of fog. The film performs its experiments warmly, allowing music to be in the foreground, folding out long sections of sound without any fear of shooing away listeners. Nordheim is allowed to talk about endless human pain, about how he as a person resembles his music, and about writing first and foremost for himself. The film lets conductor Yuval Zaliouk describe how Nordheim is occupied with death, not only in pieces featuring it explicitly, but in all of his music, as if this is a too important a point for it to be voiced by Nordheim himself, as if there was a risk of diminishing it.

So, a Hungarian (Kovács) was needed to ignite the mediation of Nordheim’s music. I strongly recommend watching this film in the archives! Strangely enough, every time I have clicked on it something has been wrong with the subtitles, they are somehow displaced. It undeniably gives an extra twist. In the middle of a fantastic section in the work Eco, for choir and orchestra, one can read: “I would like to polemicize a little against such filmed portraits. They always arrive at a point where family life is supposed to be exposed. Then the happy artist family is laid out, enjoying themselves in the living room, doing what is expected in a portrait of an artist. And at some point, the wife might declare something about the inner life of the man she is married to”. On the screen soprano Taru Valjakka is singing marvellously, dressed in a Finnish traditional costume. The subtitles continue: “I would have gone crazy if I had a husband who returned home at 4h40 every day expecting boiled potatoes for dinner.”

In general, Kovács’ film is a sharp contrast to how Nordheim was portrayed posthumously in NRK’s series Mitt liv (My Life) from 2012, which is a sentimental mishmash of a programme featuring “atmospheric” muzak between the scenes, while Nordheim talks about nothing but death and is presented with enormous amounts of pathos. Symbolically, his spectacles at the time seem almost unframed.

Another portrait by NRK on the occasion of Nordheim’s 60th birthday in 1991 is considerably stronger. Here the composer appears much more awake, defending the importance of society’s support for creative practices, without which we would be “standing perfectly still”. He accuses Norwegian cultural life for focusing too much on performance, defending creators. His work is allowed to be in the foreground, and the portrait even quotes the film discussed above.

Like the rim of his spectacles became softer through the years, Nordheim’s relation to society also changes with time – towards a more flexible one. By the end of his career he is quoted saying that he had actually been working on one and the same piece of music all along. I interpret him as if his practice, while undergoing many changes, has always been concerned with the same kind of musical form and musical poetics, and that the reasons for any big changes observed in the reception of Nordheim the composer might be found in society more than in himself.


Nordheim did not write another string quartet until 2001: Five Stages. It is a return. (We know the story inbetween). This piece is definitely wilder, it contains more playing techniques, is more varied in terms of dynamics and tempi, but it is still unmistakably Nordheim-esque in the romantic, extraterrestrial way, sounding a very long distance from the everyday and the ordinary. The music is, despite a certain playfulness, filled with longing, melancholy, shimmeringly beautiful timbres, lonely plains and landscapes.

I wanted to look up the word ‘return’, was unsure whether it would suit the paragraph above, wanted to see if I could find a better synonym. I used an online website that contains both official written languages of Norway, and I found, with excitement, that the dictionary of the dialect based on nynorsk, or New Norwegian, gives me an unexpectedly suitable metaphor in the only example sentence featuring the word ‘return’: “Returning to the terrestrial atmosphere after travelling in space”.

There is a story about Nordheim standing in the post office in the city of Larvik, and just before he sealed the envelope that would carry his first string quartet, opus 1, to the jury of UNM, a Nordic festival by and for young composers, he borrowed a pencil and made extensive changes in the score. He rewrote the whole last part of the second movement so that it no longer faded out the way the third movement does.

The history of science and of the arts is full of such inspired moments. Impulses do not necessarily lead to improvements, still the ability to grasp ideas when they appear, sometimes completely by accident, just from stumbling over something, or from a sudden thought, is first and foremost a gift! The potential of the impulse is everyone’s property. If ‘controlling your impulses’ is a composer’s deed, it should include consciously accommodating for their arrival. Arne Nordheim was both obedient and disobedient. What it takes is knowing which impulses lead to necessary changes, just like the young Arne knew on his way to the post office in Larvik.

Nordheim’s public role as a composer from string quartet to string quartet follows the trajectory of a projectile, where an impulse lifts it from the ground, flying. As it eventually lands, so did Nordheim’s life’s work. We can search for it again and again, and choose to pick it up. If we come across it, it is not by chance; we find it because we know it is there.

Posted in Blog, by Maja in English | Comments Off on What it takes

Det som skal til (NO)

Et blikk på Nordheim via NRKs digitale arkiv

Først publisert i en pamfletten utgitt av Arne Nordheims komponistpris 2022, red. Hild Borchgrevink, støttet av Norsk kulturfond.

English translation

Opus 1

I et TV-studio, i en hvit kulisse-paviljong, omgitt av chiffongardiner og tørre kvister blir Nordheims opus 1 framført av Den Norske Strykekvartett. Verket er fra 1956, altså fra tiden før Nordheims musikk for alvor satte seg på tvers i halsen til programledere og andre som på vegne av folk flest ville markere motstand. Og siden denne sendinga er fra 1990, så har dette allerede skjedd, og til en viss grad passert. Nå ser man ikke lenger på Nordheim som en 60-tallets modernist-rabulist. Nå er brilleinnfatningen atskillig mykere i kanten, og Nordheim virker også mykere, selv om han fremdeles utstråler masse tyngde bak sine velformuleringer. I 1990 har Nordheim en naturlig og selvfølgelig plass i offentligheten, først og fremst og trygt og godt som komponist i forlengelsen av klassisk musikktradisjon.

Strykekvartetten, av Nordheim utnevnt som opus 1 – og vi skjønner snart hvorfor – er en stillferdig fabulering i tre satser. Det er tilløp til dramatikk, men det meste er svært langsomt, vakkert. Variasjoner over tema og motiver forankrer form og virker grundig planlagt. Motiver repeteres i mangfold, og fritonaliteten kan også umiddelbart gi assosiasjoner til tidlig Schönberg, flere partier kan minne om improvisert tolvtonemusikk. Enkeltmusikere gis lange, solistiske og melodiske utsving, cello søker seg gjerne ned mot lange, mørke liggetoner, og fiolin kontrasterer i lyst register. Mellomstemmer hakker i vei på mer rytmiske sidetemaer, hele ensemblet stikker av, rett som det er, i homofone utsving fra bunn til topp. Verket dør ut, som alltid i Nordheims musikk, på en helt nydelig måte, her med gjenkjennbare motiver smurt langsomt ut i topp- og bunnregister.

Den enkle iscenesettelsen i TV-studio rundt framføringa av opus 1 gir faktisk en slags fortolkning av Nordheim som en moderne romantiker, og det er noe esoterisk over det. Er det et slags utopisk drømmebilde, et forsøk på å gjenskape musikken i den dimensjonen den blir til i, en dimensjon som i alle fall ikke er virkeligheten slik vi kjenner den, eller kjente den i 1990? Selvsagt er det helt andre årsaker, og man har da kompetente scenografer på huset, men at den gamle strykekvartetten iscenesettes slik uten noe som helst forsøk på å virke jordbundet, og at det faktisk oppleves passende for musikken, sier sitt om både tidsånden og hvordan 1990 betraktet Nordheim, og hvordan også dette tidlige verket er representativt for Nordheims produksjon. Det ser litt forstokket og gammeldags ut fra 2022, men uttrykket virker likevel riktig og føyer seg til andre assosiasjoner jeg har til Nordheim koplet med visuelle uttrykk, som for eksempel i balletten Stormen, eller i mangfold i den storslåtte utstillinga «Ingen -ismer for meg, takk!» på Henie Onstad kunstsenter i 2013. En grunn til at det visuelle virker riktig, selv om jeg syns det ser litt teit ut, er at det liksom understreker at styrken i Nordheims musikk ikke er det hverdagslige.


Vi hopper tilbake til midt i romalderen, der Nordheim blir intervjuet i ungdoms-TV-programmet Falkeklubben 3. juni 1969. Dette finner du ikke om du søker på ‘Nordheim’ i NRK-arkivet, derfor er også datoen med her. Animerte scener fra verdensrommet kuttes til båndspillere med snurrende ruller med Nordheims elektroniske musikk. Programle- deren åpner dialogen: «For meg virker dette som romfartsmusikk, er det det den er?» Både som kunstner og som offentlig person har det skjedd mye med Nordheim siden opus 1, og elektronisk musikk er mye av årsaken til det. Vi kjenner historien, den om Nordheim som fra 60-tallet gis og tar rollen som Norges viktig- ste modernistiske komponist, noe som, mye senere, gjorde at en som jeg hadde hørt om Arne Nordheim lenge før jeg hadde hørt noe av musikken hans.

Romalderen er TV-mediets beste venn, og omvendt, så klart. Men modernist-stempelet som ble påført Nordheim på denne tiden, står litt i kontrast til optimismen og spenningen som var knyttet til vitenskapelig eksperimentering. Kunsten får muligens til nød være med på festen, og i mindre grad norsk kunstmusikk. Tankene går også til komponisten Bjørn Fongaard, som endte med å konstruere sin egen mikrointervallgitar da det ikke lot seg gjøre å realisere et uhørt univers med datidens orkestre.

Midt i romkonteksten i dette programmet framstilles Nordheim mer som en slags klovn eller en kokko professortype. «Hvorfor er det så mange som ikke liker din musikk?» Programlederen fyrer av det ene forhåndsbestemte spørsmålet etter det andre. Det virker ikke som om det Nordheim faktisk svarer er av betydning, og svarene påvirker ikke «dialogen» nevneverdig. Nordheim svarer lurt, og kanskje litt sarkastisk, forståelig nok. Som om han kjøper seg litt tid mens han funderer på hvordan å løse denne barduse påstanden, gjentar han sist nevnte spørsmål og tilføyer: «Vel, det var jo en usedvanlig grei opplysning…» Men han legger seg virkelig i selen for å svare på en ordentlig og sannferdig måte: «Det er vel fordi jeg arbeider med en del elementer som ikke er helt alminnelige», og så beskriver han hvordan han ikke bruker melodier og rytmer på vanlig måte, men lager klanger, farger, i orkesteret eller elektronisk. Vi får en leksjon i å støvsuge (Nordheims metafor) alle klangene fra en tam-tam. Programlederen virker her faktisk en smule begeistret.

Det er hele tiden tidsånden og samfunnets betraktning av Nordheim i samspill med hovedpersonen selv (så lenge han levde og var i stand til det) som former rollen hans i offentligheten. Nordheim alene kan ikke bestemme dette. Men han kan begeistres og det virker også som han har talent for – og glede av rampelyset. Han kan spille med i den rollen som gis, og han kan ta det et skritt videre derfra slik at hele samspillet kommer inn på et ønsket spor. For her snakker vi faktisk om et rampelys, det er noe vi samtidskomponister i dag slipper å forholde oss til, det er noe som kun et statlig styrt mediemonopol var i stand til å gi en samtidskunstner. All ære til Arne Nordheim som klarte å manøvrere i den rollen og samtidig stå støtt som kunstner. Klart at han har banet vei for komponister oghele den norske samtidsmusikkscenen! Det har til og med vært nødvendig for flere av de som kommer etterpå å ta litt avstand, rett og slett fordi det storslåtte, romantiske, litt voldsomme komponistbildet som har manifestert seg med Nordheim ikke har passet til andre måter å være kunstner i musikk på. Dette har gitt nye kunstnere nye forklaringsutfordringer i møte med samfunnet. Det er i så fall det beste som kan skje, og det er bra for samtidsmusikken og alle dens aktører at det hele tiden settes nye standarder og tydeliggjøres underveis hva det kan bety å lage ny musikk, at det eksisterer noe å hylle eller å gjøre opprør mot, at det blir en diskusjon.

«Jeg vet ikke hva romfartsmusikk er». Nordheim svarer at han tror det kan komme av at lydene blir plassert med stor avstand mellom seg, altså med klang. «Men hvordan det er der ute, det vet jeg ikke, jeg tror det er ganske stille», sier han og ser skjelmsk opp over hornbrillekanten. Arne Nordheim har fått en asteroide oppkalt etter seg.


István Korda Kovács film fra 1974 viser Nordheim som komponist på sitt beste og overgår alt annet jeg har sett som NRK har laget om ham. Den er ekstremt vital og viser Nordheim i sentrum, selvsikkert og offensivt med visuelle virkemidler som akkompagnerer musikken med sterke utsagn, det er eksploderende og brennende instrumenter og opptak fra Island med lava som spruter opp fra bakken, enorme tåkeskyer. Filmen er kjærlig eksperimentering, musikken løftes opp og fram og i lange passasjer, totalt uten frykt for å skremme publikum vekk. Nordheim får fortelle om menneskets bunnløse smerte og at han som person er slik musikken hans er, at han skriver for seg selv først og fremst, og så lar filmen dirigenten Yuval Zaliouk si at Nordheim er opptatt av døden, ikke bare i stykkene som har det som uttalt tema, men i all musikken, som om det er for viktig til at filmen kan la Nordheim si det selv og eventuelt diminuere det.

Det måtte en ungarer til for å sette fyr på formidlinga av Nordheim. Det anbefales på det sterkeste se filmen i arkivet! Merkelig nok er det noe krøll med tekstinga alle gangen jeg har kikket på den, teksten kommer på feil sted. Det setter unektelig en ekstra spiss på opplevelsen. Midt i en fantastisk passasje med orkester- og korverket Eco kommer dette: «Jeg har lyst til å polemisere litt mot sånne portrettfilmer. Det kommer alltid til det punkt hvor man skal vise fram familielivet. Da ser du den lykkelige kunstnerfamilien som koser seg i stuen og gjør det man venter av et sånt kunstnerportrett. Og så kommer man til det punkt at hustruen kommer med en erklæring om den mannen hun er gift med sitt indre liv, eventuelt.» På skjermen ser vi sopranen Taru Valjakka som synger fantastisk iført finsk folkedrakt. Tekstinga fortsetter: «Jeg ville gått fra forstanden hvis jeg hadde en mann som kom hjem 16.40 hver dag og forlangte kokte poteter til middag.»

Filmen er i det hele tatt i sterk kontrast til hvordan Nordheim portretteres posthumt i NRK-serien Mitt liv fra 2012, en sentimental suppe med «stemningsskapende» musak mellom scenene, og Nordheim bare prater om døden og gis enorme mengder patos. Brilleinnfatningen er symbolsk nok nesten uten kant på denne tiden.

Et annet NRK-portrett i anledning Nordheims 60-årsdag i 1991 er atskillig bedre, her framstår han mye mer våken, han forsvarer viktigheten av støtte til det nye som skapes, ellers blir vi stående «bom stille». Han beskylder kulturlivet i Norge for å være utøverrettet, og forsvarer opphavere. Det er ellers fokus på verkene, og til og med en del sitater fra overnevnte film.

Lik som brilleinnfatningen endres og blir mykere med årene, er også samspillet med samfunnet i endring ut over karriereløpet, òg til det mykere. Selv sa Nordheim i slutten av karrieren at han i grunnen bare skrev på det samme verket hele tiden. Jeg tolker det som at han gjennom alle disse ytre endringene, alltid var opptatt av den samme typen poetikk og form, og at de store endringene vi ser at komponisten Nordheim gjennomgår mest skyldes samfunnets endring, ikke ham selv.


Først i 2001 komponerte Nordheim sin neste strykekvartett, Five Stages. Det er en tilbakevending – vi kjenner historien imellom. Stykket er definitivt villere, det inneholder flere spilleteknikker, og det er mer variert i dynamikk og tempi, og det er umiskjennelig nordheimsk på den romantiske, utenomjordiske måten, den som minst av alt er hverdagslig. Musikken er, til tross for en viss lekenhet, breddfull av lengsel, melankoli, skimrende vakre klanger og ensomme vidder og landskaper.

Jeg ville slå opp ordet ’tilbakevending’, var usikker på om det traff helt i avsnittet over, ville se om synonymer ga bedre mening. Jeg bruker et nettsted som ivaretar begge målformer, og ser til min store begeistring at Nynorskordboka gir et uventet passende bilde i sitt eneste eksempel på bruk av ordet ’tilbakevending’: «Tilbakevending til jordatmosfæren etter romferda».

Det finnes en historie om Nordheim som står på postkontoret i Larvik og åpner konvolutten adressert juryering for Ung Nordisk Musikk med den første strykekvartetten, opus 1, låner en blyant og gjør store endringer: hele slutten av andre sats skulle forandres, den måtte ikke dø ut slik som tredjesatsen gjør.

Historien er full av inspirerte øyeblikk i både kunst og vitenskap. Impulser trenger slett ikke føre bra ting med seg, men å ta vare på det som oppstår, noen ganger helt tilfeldig, bare fordi man kommer over noe interessant, eller fordi man får en innskytelse, er først og fremst positivt! Alle har et impulspotensial. Hvis impulskontroll er en dyd i komponering, så bør dette bety å bevisst tilrettelegge for å bruke impulser på en bra måte, ikke bare hemme. Arne Nordheim var både lydig og ulydig. Det som skal til er å vite hvilke impulser som skal føre til endring, slik den unge Arne visste på vei til postkontoret i Larvik i 1956.

Nordheims rolle som komponist i offentligheten fra strykekvartett til strykekvartett følger banen til et prosjektil, der en impuls skyter prosjektilet i været. Nordheims komponistgjerning lander til slutt, og der blir den liggende som en annen vårherres klinkekule til vi finner den igjen. Men det skjer ikke på slump. Vi leter fordi vi vet at den finnes.

Posted in Blog, by Maja in Norwegian | Comments Off on Det som skal til (NO)

Etter koronaen (NO)

Tekst skrevet til Da musikken våknet (Absolutt Forlag, 2022)

Leste koronaberetningen min igjen, den fra to år tilbake, rett før siste nedstengning av alle scener. En positivistisk holdning i den, tross alt, med en bakenforliggende visshet og forventning om at alt skulle tilbake til normalt igjen.

Livet går jo videre, verden beveger seg fra unntakstilstand til unntakstilstand, vi fortsetter å søke gjenkjennelse i kunsten og i andre. Kanskje vi flyr mindre? Shopper mindre? Er det lov å håpe? Koronaen er i dag bare en av flere store bølger som truer oss og hele planeten. 

Noe har skjedd med tidsopplevelsen min etter koronaen. På flere plan. Når jeg tenker bakover på ting som har skjedd i livet, er det på en måte som om epidemitiden ikke gjelder i regnskapet, at unntakstilstanden også har gjort et vakuum av denne perioden i hukommelsen. Jeg virker ikke like lett som før i stand til å huske hvor lenge siden det var jeg stod på den eller den scenen eller når jeg skrev et viktig verk. Jeg hopper ofte simpelthen bare over de årene som stoppet opp og ting er egentlig lenger siden enn det jeg trodde. Psykologien her er nok knyttet til strategier som fortrengning og ønske om at alt er normalt samt at jeg ønsker å tenke framover for å ikke bli for tungsindig. Litt mindre kjipt å være fratatt to viktige år, muligheter som aldri kommer igjen. Milepæler som ikke ble. Rett etter jeg skrev sist, så jeg for første gang min kjære feire nærmest sarkastisk over et glass med sterkt i fordi hans store sjanse på hovedscenen i operaen med Avant Folk ble kansellert. Frode er den mest stoiske personen jeg kjenner og evner alltid å holde hodet klart og heve seg over bulker i karrieren. På samme scene ble også en nyoppsetning av Sult for balletten kansellert for min del. Jeg ble forespeilet en arbeidsperiode og sa nei til alt annet i et halvt år. Verket skulle utvides til en helaften, og som sist skulle jeg stå for all musikk og framføring av denne. Kom aldri til kontrakt, og jeg oppdaget med dette en annen erfaring fra kulturlivet under koronaen: som frilanser med institusjonsoppdrag var jeg den eneste som ikke fikk samme lønn uansett når det ble kansellert. Igjen var jeg dypt takknemlig for inneværende kunstnerstipend. Tenke positivt: Jeg fikk igjen «frigjort» tid til andre ting. Men enda vanskeligere å opprettholde motivasjonen enn før. 

En annen tidsforvirring gjelder den mye mer lokale opplevelsen av musikalsk tid. Både når jeg er publikum eller opptrer selv på konserter. I starten av gjenåpninga var dette tydeligst, der jeg før hadde rimelig god kontroll på opplevd musikalsk tid oversatt til klokketid, var jeg støtt ute å kjøre og bommet fullstendig. Jeg måtte ha klokke på scenen på improvkonserter når jeg spilte selv for å være sikker på å ikke spille alt for kort eller lenge. Dette har bedret seg igjen med mer erfaring, men jeg stoler fremdeles ikke på min egen bedømming, og jeg lurer på om den nysådde tvilen gjør at jeg aldri vil klare det naturlig og bra igjen.

I likhet med en slags mistet jomfruelighet hva gjelder å tro på egen opplevd musikalsk tid, er jeg også preget av en viss mistro til om avtalte gjøremål blir noe av. Ting er ikke som før. Jeg opplever oftere enn før manglende tro på at det jeg gjør har kunstnerisk verdi. Det har også blitt uhyre vanskelig å få støtte til egne prosjekter og få utgitt musikken min, selv om jeg legger inn enorme mengder egeninnsats. Gjelder nok mange. På den annen side: Jeg satser på færre, men langsiktige samarbeid, og jeg har også blitt flinkere til å si nei til ting. De samarbeidene jeg har i dag gir meg masse inspirasjon og glede. Jeg har trua, men jeg tar ingenting for gitt. 

Hva gjelder kulturlivet i Norge, så er det jo bevist at det er min aldersgruppe som har resignert mest hva gjelder å komme seg ut av hiet. Jeg tror ikke nødvendigvis at det er skjermen hjemme som frister mer, men at vi har blitt så regelkjørt at vi har fått vondt for å bevege oss. Medisinen ligger da i kunsten selv, vi må løfte fram det frie, regelsprengende og grensesprengende! Selv lener jeg meg mot arbeid som gir dette løftet, og det er da jeg fungerer best, også i dagliglivet. Men slik det ser ut nå, har “det ulønnsomme” dårligere kår enn før koronaen.

photo by Niclas Weber 2021

Posted in Blog, by Maja in Norwegian | Comments Off on Etter koronaen (NO)

Pytheas Travels

2023; dur: 60'30; Audio file and quartet: 
Fl/Bsn, BCl, Vln, Vc 
or Hn, BTbn, Vln, Vc; 
Video by Hypercomf;
Score at Score at nb.no

Four musicians, a video with landscapes of Greece and Norway, a party on board, and AI developers meeting in the belly of a whale. A surrealistic cruise from the Mediterranean to the northern countries, with the journey of Pytheas the Greek — the unassailable explorer of antiquity — in its very center.

Do you find it hard to float through life? Do you feel tangled in the nets of your daily routine and seek escape? Embark on one of the state-of-the-art vessels of Pytheas Travels cruise fleet and become part of the most oceanic experience of your life. A musical cruise with four musicians of the Ergon Ensemble and Tøyen Fil og Klafferi as passengers and a video screening as a backdrop: a compilation of animation, live shootings on board and in various locations in Tinos and Northern Norway, as well as green screen footage, all inspired by the sea element. The immersive experience of “Pytheas Travels” includes furthermore many surrealistic touches that involve opulent parties, a great wildfire, as well as AI developers that meet in the belly of the whale. Shall we hop on board?

Watch teaser here!

The title of the performance refers to the historical journey of Pytheas the Greek—the Columbus of antiquity—where in 325 BC sailed north from Marseilles to a place he called Ultima Thule, the mythical island, to reach the “frozen seas.” Unable to extend the exploration of the mythical lands of Northern Europe, Pytheas returned to the Mediterranean to document his legendary journey in a manuscript titled “On the Ocean” which vanished forever in the great fire of the Library of Alexandria.

Pytheas Travels is a staged audiovisual simulation of the experience of being on board a passenger vessel, traveling from the Mediterranean to the Northern Seas. It is a maritime story, an imaginary journey, and a critical insight into the mass tourism industry and its consequences on environmental, cultural, and societal structures.

Written for a quartet of live musicians in synchronisation with film, light cues and a recorded soundtrack. A click track is provided for the live performing quartet. There are two options in choice of instruments for a live performance of Pytheas Travels:
1. A live quartet of Bass Clarinet, Flute/Bassoon, Violin and Violoncello, and 2. A live quartet of French Horn, Bass Trombone, Violin and Violoncello. The two quartets both appear in the recorded soundtrack, a recording made with musicians from Tøyen Fil og Kafferi and Ergon Ensemble.
Depending on the choice of live quartet in the performance, the soundtrack also exists in two versions. The narrator voice of Pytheas exists also in two versions, in Norwegian or Greek. There is also a version with the Speakerphone narration voice and the AI voices in Norwegian (made for a performance for children at Ultima, Sept. 2023).


The scene is set aboard the grand cruise ship, On the Ocean,  a state-of-the-art vessel in the renowned ‘Pytheas Travels’ fleet. An elderly passenger sitting in one of the cruise ship’s live-music bars, gazes out of the window, observing the ever-changing oceanic landscape and bustling ports. He travels immersed in an internal dialogue that seems to be scored in real time by the music being performed in the bar, compositions derived from data and mapping of moving and living species along the way from the Mediterranean Sea towards the Arctic Ocean.

As the ship leaves the port, the initial muzak continues to set the mood for the journey before real musicians enter the bar, appearing as members of the ship’s crew.

The journey is intermittently interrupted by the ship’s speakerphone and company jingle, relaying announcements for passengers and promoting various onboard events and amenities, courtesy of the front office.

The cruise sails smoothly, unveiling extraordinary ports and captivating sights to its passengers, meanwhile our narrator makes poignant observations and slowly becomes washed over with an eerie sense of nostalgia, as he recounts fragmented memories of visiting the route’s stops in past travels.

The music performed live and onscreen by the ship’s musicians is composed with melodic themes for all types of whales observed in the Norwegian Sea and with gestures corresponding to four different Atlantic plankton and their diel vertical migration shifting between day and night. Mixed with imitations of sounds from Mediterranean underwater creatures and various field recordings, this forms the core of the musical score of the piece. 

The cruise ship pays homage to the burning of the Library of Alexandria, as well as the renowned voyage log penned by Pytheas, titled “On the Ocean” which was lost in the fire along with many other ancient manuscripts.

After the night of revelry the atmosphere onboard shifts drastically as a disagreement between groups of passengers escalates rapidly. Although our protagonist remains within the confines of the bar, he follows the unfolding events through the speakerphone’s announcements, as the ship’s crew endeavors to regain control of the situation.

The chaos resulting from the passengers’ tumultuous riot appears to ignite fires and violence that engulfs the cruise ship, plunging it into darkness akin to being devoured by a colossal whale.

Within the depths of the whale’s belly, our passenger narrator, revealed as “Pytheas” himself, encounters luminous spirit masks that manifest as AI intelligences from the future.

These technological entities, existing within the liquid realm of water, reveal to Pytheas that he is too a nascent AI undergoing the process of upload and memory-training.

He is simultaneously learning about the world and constructing a personal continuous narrative for himself based on the life story of the real personality of Pytheas, the marine explorer. His memories will serve the nascent AI to wake up to a sense of identity, a sense of self originating from memories of the pre-existing, the final necessary element for digital consciousness. Due to a malfunction that manifests as a passenger riot, the AI intelligences temporarily suspend the uploading code, pausing their task to address the issue at hand. 

Accompanied by music combining the sound of Aurora Borealis with mapping of human DNA, the story culminates as the AI intelligences guide Pytheas (and the audience) through a brief meditation exercise and back to “computer-deep-sleep” by describing the inhabiting of a timeless plane in the memory of a moment.

Created by Hypercomf and Maja S. K. Ratkje

Art Direction & Film Direction


Music Composition

Maja S. K. Ratkje

Greek Performing Ensemble for Greek Premiere at Onassis Stegi, Athens, October 2023

Ergon Ensemble: Manos Ventouras (French horn), Andreas-Rolandos Theodorou (bass trombone), Konstantinos Panagiotidis (violin), Dimitris Travlos (cello)

Norwegian Performing Ensemble for Norwegian Premiere at Sentralen, Oslo, September 2023

Tøyen Fil og Klafferi: Hanne Jones Rekdal (flute/bassoon), Elena Perales Andreu (bass clarinet), Eira Bjørnstad Foss (violin), Tove Margrethe Erikstad (cello)

Live Sound, Video & Light Synchronization at both premieres Oslo/Athens 2023

Trond Kjelsås

Stage Light Design

Eliza Alexandropoulou

Costume Design

Lita Kokkonari

Musicians in Recording and Video

Manos Ventouras, Andreas-Rolandos Theodorou, Konstantinos Panagiotidis, Dimitris Travlos, Hanne Jones Rekdal, Elena Perales Andreu, Eira Bjørnstad Foss, Marianne Baudouin Lie

Other Musicians in Recording

Maja S. K. Ratkje, Amund Sjølie Sveen, Craig Snowden, Richard Burrows

Speakerphone Narrator Voice

Guri Glans

Norwegian Pytheas Narrator Voice (Norwegian version)

Torbjørn Davidsen

Greek Pytheas Narrator Voice (Greek version)

Kostas Berikopoulos

Recording of Tøyen Fil og Klafferi and Ergon Ensemble, Athens

Jacopo Fokas at Antart Studios

Recording of Greek Narrator, Athens

Bounce Music Productions / Nasos Stergiou

Young Pytheas

Iasonas Laios

Animation, Modelmaking & VFX

Out . There

Animation Direction

Fokion Xenos

VFX Direction & Production Design

Stefanos Pletsis

Lead VFX Art & Model Making

Christos Panagiotou

VFX Assistance

Yiannis Rallis

Shrimp Puppet Making

Stathis Markopoulos

Art Department Assistance

Christos Fousekis, Nikos Mpourloukas & Dimitra Chasiaki

Director of Photography

Alexandros Tiniakos


Dimitris Karteris


Sissi Petropoulou

All Other Work Not Mentioned

Maja S. K. Ratkje and Hypercomf

Onassis Stegi Credits

Christos Carras, Senior Consultant

Theodora Vougiouka, Vera Petmeza, Transmissions Program general coordination

Vassilis Panagiotakopoulos, Head of Productions

Despoina Sifniadou, Producer

Ultima Festival Credits

Christel Forsberg, Producer

Heloisa Amaral, Director of Ultima

Pytheas Travels is a co-production of Onassis Stegi and Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (Norway), in the framework of the TRANSMISSIONS project, funded by the EEA Grants and the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014-2021.

Posted in Blog, Chamber music with live electronics, Multimedia/Installations, Music for children, Staged work | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Pytheas Travels

Music for Saxophones

Music written by Christopher Fox, Maja S. K. Ratkje, David Lang, Christian Wolff, Simon Holt, Howard Skempton and Giacinto Scelsi for solo saxophone and saxophone and electronics, performed by Carl Raven.

Releases 01 May 2023 | Recorded, mixed and mastered by Carl Raven in Padfield, Derbyshire, 2022 | Artwork by Carl Raven.

Released by Turquoise Coconut, TCO022

On this album: ØX

Link to album on Turquoise Coconut.

Posted in Recorded compositions | Comments Off on Music for Saxophones

ANTITHESIS: Contemporary Saxophone Music

Michele Bianchini – saxophone

Composers: Andrea Nicoli, Anna Clyne, Antonio Agostini, Maja S. K. Ratkje, Malin Bång, Mark Andre, Olga Neuwirth, Salvatore Sciarrino.

On this album: ØX

Published by Da Vinci Classics 2023

Posted in Blog, Recorded compositions | Comments Off on ANTITHESIS: Contemporary Saxophone Music

Motorpsycho Tribute Series Volume 1

Volume 1 double LP version out spring 2023.
Volume 2 double LP version out autumn 2023.
Volumes 1 & 2 double CD version out autumn 2023.

released February 13, 2023

On this album:

Blueberry Daydream, performed by Blåbærtoppen Spelemannslag

Link to album on Bandcamp

Side A:

MONOLITE – Heartattack Mac (Gebhardt/Ryan/Sæther) 6:22
Jonas Stålhammar – guitars, Mellotron, vocals. Per Stålberg – bass, vocals. Kalle Lilja – drums. Recorded and mixed by Per Stålberg and Kalle Lilja at Welfare Sounds, Gothenburg.

SILJE HULEBOER – Serpentine (Ryan) 5:53
Performed, arranged, produced, recorded and mixed by Silje Huleboer at Chaka Khan Studio, Oslo. Noises by Sten Ove Toft. Beats by Emile The Duke.

TUSMØRKE – Starmelt/Lovelight (Gebhardt/Ryan/Sæther) 4:03
Benediktator – bass, vocals, chimes, glockenspiel, Moog Minitaur, MoogerFooger MF-102 & MF-104Z and Ibanez AD-220. Krizla – flute and backing vocals. Haugebonden Gode Gullstein – Crumar Mojo XT, Yamaha P-515, Mellotron M4000D, Minimoog Model D and Roland RE-201. HlewagastiR – drums. Arranged by Tusmørke. Recorded and produced by Benediktator in Det Ytre Rommet.

SISTER RAIN – The One Who Went Away (Sæther) 3:33
Ivar Berge – bass. Eystein Hopland – acoustic and electric guitar, piano, backing vocals. Ulf Knudsen – acoustic and electric guitar, synth. Aslak Nygren – lead and backing vocals. Emil Northcreek – backing vocals. Herr Stonal Tap – drums and percussion. Greven Ling – additional drums, backing vocals in the tunnel. Produced and mixed by Eystein Hopland. Recorded at Studio Tæppa. Vocals and overdubs recorded at Sunberry Hill Studio.

Side B:

ELECTROND – Feedtime (Gebhardt/Ryan/Sæther) 4:53
Arranged, performed, recorded, mixed and produced by Electrond at Electrond HQ, Oslo. Instruments: Make Noise 0-Coast, Behringer Model D, Arturia Microfreak, Arp Axxe, Korg Prodigy, Rakit Drum, Rakit Metal, Roland TR09, Chase Bliss Mood.

ASTROBURGER – Feel (Sæther) 3:24
Don Bingo – vocals, guitar, synth. Andreas Mastrup – bass, backing vocals. Jan H. Sørensen – drums. Jørgen Kramer-Johansen – trombones. Extra thanks for his jolly trombones. Recorded and mixed at Studio Zeb, Oslo.

DNA? AND? – Timothy’s Third Monster (DNA? AND?) 3:21
Vilde Erikstad – vocals and synth. Jostein Hylin – vocals, guitar and drums. Ola Skarsæterhagen – vocals and saxophone. Sambou Samateh – vocals and guitar. Thore Warland – bass. Recorded by Harald Fetveit in his living room.

SWEETHEART – Waiting For The One (Sæther) 3:25
John-Arne Ø. Gundersen – vocal, acoustic guitar. Anne Mette Hårdnes – vocal, piano. Stian Jørgen Sveen – pedal steel guitar. Produced by Sweetheart and Anders Møller. Recorded and mixed by Anders Møller at Subsonic Society, Oslo.

ANLA COURTIS – The Visitant (Sæther) 4:05
Anla Courtis – vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Recorded at Yaguareté Studios, Buenos Aires. Thanks to Motorpsycho, Marcelo O’Reilly and Saldias.

Side C:

BLÅBÆRTOPPEN SPELEMANNSLAG – Blueberry Daydream (Sæther) 5:13
Marte Ingeborg Haltli – guitar and backing vocals. Frida Helene Haltli – fiddle and backing vocals. Frode Haltli – accordion and backing vocals. Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje – vocals. Recorded by Trond Kjelsås and Maja S. K. Ratkje. Mixed by Maja S. K. Ratkje.

GEIR SUNDSTØL – Nothing To Say ~ Lacuna/Sunrise (Sæther) 5:53
Runa Cecilie Waterloo Hovstein – euphonium. Geir Sundstøl – National guitar, MiniMoog, Logan String Melody, Singh tabla box, bass guitar,
percussion, celeste, electric guitars and Optigan. Recorded and mixed by Geir Sundstøl at Studio Intim, Oslo.

STINA STJERN – In The Family (Sæther) 5:54
Arranged, performed, recorded and mixed by Stina Stjern on a Yamaha MT8X 8-track multitrack cassette tape recorder.

Side D:

SHERIFFS OF NOTHINGNESS – Quaestor per µεταξυρεῖον ϋδωρ (30%) 11:00
Comprovisation of Kvæstor (Kapstad/Ryan/Sæther), Stalemate (Sæther) and 30/30 (Sæther) by Sheriffs of Nothingness. Kari Rønnekleiv – violin. Ole-Henrik Moe – viola. Recorded and mixed by André Bratten at Small Landscapes.

KOSMOGON – Lacuna/Sunrise (Sæther) 6:59
Sophie Linder – piano, organ, Mellotron and Rhodes. Nicklas Barker – Mellotron. Recorded and mixed at Magic City Studio, Stockholm.

All tracks published by Motorpsychodelic Tunes, except Timothy’s Third Monster published by DNA? AND?. Used with kind permission.
Originally released 2021-2023 as individual tracks, as part of the Motorpsycho Tribute Series on Bandcamp.

Curated by Petter Flaten Eilertsen. Mastered by Lasse Marhaug. Design and layout by Bjørn Kjetil Johansen.

Petter would like to thank: The artists for their excellent contributions, Motorpsycho members past and present for writing and playing the fantastic songs, Ingrid & Kristian Kallevik for production and mail order assistance, Christer Falck for marketing help and endless enthusiasm, Ole Jacob Solberg and Bjørn Hatterud for good suggestions and valuable input, Lasse for making it sound right, BK for making it look right, and last but not least all psychonauts for supporting this project.

℗ 2023 Motorpsycho Tribute Series and the contributing artists
© 2023 Motorpsychodelic Tunes

Posted in Blog, Compilations | Tagged | Comments Off on Motorpsycho Tribute Series Volume 1

Eadni /Mother

photo: Wajstedt

2022; dur: 7:30′; Film by Liselotte Wajstedt

Wajstedt: “The Háldi is a forest creature that may lure children into the woods. Is it only a part of Sámi mythology or is it as real as you and I?

Who is she? Why would she want to lure children out into the woods? Is she evil or egotistical? Or is she maybe just lonely …?

EADNI, which means mother, is a multi-layered visual saga that provokes thought. Focusing on Háldi, the whole story is a creation story with the hope that we will protect nature and ensure that the eternal cycle continues.”

Eadni was presented at The Sámi Pavillion in Venice 2022. International Sámi Film Institute (ISFI) announced in 2022 the world premiere of ÁRRAN 360° as part of ´The Sámi Pavilion´ project at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia on 26 August 2022. A new initiative realised by International Sámi Film Institute (ISFI) in collaboration with Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) and Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), ÁRRAN 360° is part of the extended programme for the historic transformation of the Nordic Pavilion by ´The Sámi Pavilion´ project at the Biennale Arte 2022 in Venice.

Posted in Multimedia/Installations | Comments Off on Eadni /Mother

Various Artists: “The Border”

“Bocian Records presents a compilation with recordings from few of his favorite artists who were kind enough to agree to make their work available to support the Border Group.
For almost a year, the whole responsibility for helping refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border lies on the shoulders of local residents, volunteers and a few non-governmental organizations.
Border Group is an informal coalition that brings many of them together and actively supports providing humanitarian aid.

Refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border are cheated, beaten and robbed, and often find themselves on the verge of physical and mental endurance. Many of them get sick, and at the same time – for a good reason – they are afraid to reveal themselves to the services and ask for help.
They are afraid of the violence that they can experience from the side of Belarusian services, but also from the Polish Border Guards, who keep on committing illegal push-backs.

Since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis, more than 11,000 people have reached out to Border Group asking for help. They managed to support more than 8,000 of them, including at least 1,000 children. The Border Group still needs support.”

Link to album on Bandcamp.

Contributing artists: Anton Lukoszevieze, Maja S. K. Ratkje, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Burkhard Stangl, Mark Wastell, Reinhold Friedl, Tony Elieh & Burkhard Beins, Norbert Möslang, Anton Ponomarev / Li Xing, Nikos Veliotis, Olli Aarni, Mike Majk, Beam Splitter, Anna Zaradny, Robert Piotrowicz, C Spencer Yeh, Anla Courtis, Sult, Mats Gustafsson, Katarzyna Podpora / Max Kohyt / Maja Miro, Organ of Corti, Carl Michael von Hausswolf, Kasper Toeplitz, Martin Brandlmayr / Martin Siewert, Ben Vida  /  Lucio Capece, ILIOS, Robert Curgenven, Daniel Menche, Jérôme Noetinger

On this album: Desibel.

Released December 24, 2022.

Artwork: Marta Tymińska

Posted in Blog, Compilations, Mixed media/Vinyl/Other shapes, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Various Artists: “The Border”

Music Unlimited Festival 36

Posted in Free Jazz Blog, Nov 19, 2022

SPUNK. Photo (c) Eckhart Derschmidt

“(…) The next performance was by the long-standing outfit in this year’s program. The Norwegian quartet SPUNK (the name comes from Astrid Lindgren’s character Pippi Longstocking who invented the word “spunk” and then spent the day looking for a meaning for the word) – electronics player and vocalist Maja S. K. Ratkje, trumpeter and flutist Kristin Andersen Høvin, French horn and electronics player Hild Sofie Tafjord and cellist Lene Grenager – was founded in 1995 as a free improvising unit where each member’s individual expression matters equally, and as an ensemble that sees the concert space almost as a fifth member. The extensive experience of playing and improvising together as a collective, with the highly idiosyncratic voices of these four musicians led to a magnificent, inventive and exciting set. The chaotic, weird, noisy and nonsensical ideas were structured playfully and made perfect sense. The urgent dynamics gently shifted into almost refined chamber electroacoustic ones, still sounding strange but totally captivating with its free, wild imagination, and Ratkje’s whistling at the end of the set added a chilling Ennio Morricone-tinged touch. The attentive, appreciative audience clearly played its part in the best set of the festival. (…)

Eyal Hareuveni

Posted in Blog, SPUNK | Comments Off on Music Unlimited Festival 36

MM∞XX Vol.1 & 2m

21 tracks based on recordings by 33 artists, among them Maja S. K. Ratkje.

Released November 2022. Label: Cellule 75

Music and Art Direction by Marc Richter
Mastering by Rashad Becker
Paintings by Bora Baskan

Link to album on Bandcamp

Posted in Blog, Guest appearances | Comments Off on MM∞XX Vol.1 & 2m


Music for the film with the same title. Sound track to the great animation movie Titina by Kåre Chr. Vestrheim. “Je Cherche Après Tititine (Titina in the Street)” and “Je Cherche Après Tititine (Titina´s Musical Trip Version)” featuring Ratkje as a vocal soloist. Released by Propeller Recordings Oct 2022 and available at streaming services.

Posted in Blog, Guest appearances | Comments Off on Titina

A Whisper, or a Prayer, or a Song

2022; dur: 16'30; Orch.;
Score at Wise Music Classical

Starting from open strings like an intense whisper, or is it a prayer? The wide open intervals emerge and spread throughout the orchestra, land like lengthy, contrived sentences eventually falling to the ground, but start anew, rising like a song, more songs, lacking voice, but still… There is yet hope, fragile, but moving.

The title is a quotation from Aasne Linnestå’s libretto for Revelations (This Early Song), published at EWH 2017, a work for string quartet and mezzo which A Whisper, or a Prayer or a Song relates to. 

Posted in Blog, Large ensembles | Tagged | Comments Off on A Whisper, or a Prayer, or a Song

Villa Parafina

Album by Hasse Farmen. Released 2022.

Maja contributes on theremin to the track Spøkelsesby and on title track, Villa Parafina (del 2).

Link to album on Bandcamp.

Posted in Blog, Guest appearances | Comments Off on Villa Parafina

Danse Macabre (CD)

Released August 26, 2022, on Bandcamp and CD.


Free improvised chaos at Podium, Oslo, 16 June 2009.
Recorded by Kjetil Hanssen.
Editing, mastering and artwork by Lasse Marhaug.
Executive producer: Petter Flaten Eilertsen.

Maja wishes to thank Per Gisle and Harald from Dans For Voksne for organizing the event, Kjetil and Petter for getting the idea to record and release this, and Lasse for making the cover and mastering the recording.

Originally released on 7 February 2010 as a cassette (Danse Macabre) limited to 100 numbered copies by Kassettkultur (KULT 004).

Review in Musikk fra Norge:

Kassettens to sider utgjør de to komposisjonene på denne CD og digitalutgivelsen på Sanntidsmusikk (Som er Eilertsens selskap). Begge klokker inn på ca 18 minutter og må høres etter hverandre for å få en helhetsfølelse av verket. Første del er mer rytmisk preget med flere vokalinnslag og med mer minimalistisk tilnærming. Denne delen er klart mer eksperimenterende og legger på mange måter grunnlaget for del to. 

På andre del får vi korte innslag av noe som ligger nært opp til dronestøy, som utgjør en mer kompakt komposisjon. Hun bygger opp temaer og glir over i nye temaer på en kontrollert og sømløs måte. En teknisk øvelse som virkelig er krevende, og som Ratkje behersker til det fulle. Det oser av kreativitet og samtidig en klar linje i verket. Det er heldigvis ikke noe som er fremført for å vise sin tekniske dyktighet. Nei dette er basert på en faglighet få er forunt, og verket viser en kunstner i sitt ess. Det sluker lytteren og slipper ikke taket før avspillingen er fullbyrdet.

Musikken som serveres er nøye avbalansert og utgjør en harmonisk, likefullt støyende, flom av lyder som er balsam for øret. Dette er vakkert rett og slett, slik som kun støymusikk kan være. Er man ikke familiær med sjangeren er dette en perfekt døråpner inn i et univers av utøvere og stilretninger. Er man allerede inne i hva dette dreier seg om vil albumet være en selvfølgelighet i enhver samling.

Posted in Blog, Full length album features, Recorded improvisation | Comments Off on Danse Macabre (CD)

Focus Foucault Foccacia / Malleus Maleficarum Maximum

by Solveig Kjelstrup & Maskinanlegg / Maja Ratkje & Bjørn Hatterud

Released August 26, 2022 on Bandcamp and CD.


All music composed and performed by Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje & Bjørn Hatterud.
Cover concept by Helene Rickhard.
Photography by Fin Serck-Hanssen.
Layout by Lasse Marhaug.
Executive producers: Petter Flaten Eilertsen & Kjetil Hanssen.

Originally released on 29 May 2016 as two cassettes (Focus Foucault Foccacia and Malleus Maleficarum Maximum) limited to 30 numbered copies each by Kassettkultur (KULT 014 / KULT 015).

Posted in Blog, Full length album features | Comments Off on Focus Foucault Foccacia / Malleus Maleficarum Maximum


Alpha Classics: “Forty years have passed since Gidon Kremer created a little musical oasis in the Austrian town of Lockenhaus in 1981. The violinist’s open-minded attitude has left its mark on this event, which has become a must in the concert calendar, and the cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, who took up the torch in 2012, continues the same philosophy. For this fortieth anniversary, he has decided to call on composers who have come to Lockenhaus or had works performed there in the past ten years. Hence the programme contains two premieres – the cello concertos of Raphaël Merlin and Helena Winkelman – but also short pieces by Erkki-Sven Tüür, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Lera Auerbach, Patkop, Maja S. K. Ratkje, Matan Porat, Kurt Schwertsik and Johannes Fischer. Musical postcards that celebrate the anniversary while foreshadowing the next forty years!”

Released by Alpha Classics 8 July 2022. Duration: 72 min

On this album: Hymne für Lockenhaus, performed by Nicolas Altstaedt, Ilya Gringolts, Timothy Ridout, Nicholas Rimmer and Johannes Julius Fischer.

Order album here!

Posted in Blog, Compilations, Recorded compositions | Comments Off on Creation

Music For River Crossing

2022; dur: 10'; 2 voices, 2 loud wind instruments, 
2 Medieval percussion; Score on request from Ratkje

Created for an outdoor performance at Altes Krematorium, Lucerne. Lyrics by Ratkje, based upon Shakespeare’s Titus, Ovid Matamorphoses, Book XV and Garuda Purana.

Posted in Blog, Chamber music with voice/Vocal music | Tagged | Comments Off on Music For River Crossing

Thökk Will Weep

2022; dur: 10'; Mixed choir;
Score at Wise Music Classical

The lyrics and their background

Three fundamental rivers, all being barriers between life and death, suffering and rebirth, is the starting point for Thökk will weep. Human sorrow and longing for consolidation when facing one’s own or one’s loved ones crossing over is reflected in religious and philosophical texts as well as ancient myths. The rivers Gjöll, Vaitaraṇī and Styx, never unite in history, nor do they in Thökk will weep, but their role is in many ways similar, and one can imagine a possible influence. Purposely not highlighting their similarities, I have chosen three different entrances, three very different sources that give divergent roles in the composition. The aspect of unresolved destined death as shown in the old Norse tale of Baldr meets the words of Pythagoras’ invitation to reconciliation, the latter shared with Hindu religion’s cycle of death and rebirth. However, faced with the River, a righteous state of mind and body is needed in order to avoid its horrors. I let the Hindi scriptures voice the latter here.

The three text sources and the lyrics used in the piece:

  • In old Norse mythology, the river Gjöll («noisy») flows at the gates of the underworld, Hel, ruled over by the mighty and frightening female figure with the same name, Hel. The river has a bridge, Gjallarbrú, which the dead must cross. I have used text from the famous tale of Baldr’s death, as written in the old Norse scripture Gylfaginning. Baldr («brave») was the invulnerable and much loved male god, who was tricked to death by the jealous «Lucifer» of Norse mythology, Loki. Baldr’s brother crosses Gjallarbrú in an attempt to retrieve the fallen god from the land of the dead. The bridge’s female guardian Mó∂gu∂r asking: «Why ridest thou hither on Hel-way»? Meeting Hel on the other side, she shows some sympathy, suggesting Baldr’s return «if all things in the world, living and dead, weep for him», «but he shall remain with Hel if any gainsay it or will not weep.» Upon this, everyone cries for Baldr, except the old woman Thökk who will not weep. It seems that it is the shape shifter Loki who has taken her appearance.

Módgudr: Why ridest thou hither on Hel-way? // Hví ríðr þú hér á helveg?

Hel: If all things in the world, living and dead, weep for him, then he shall go back to the Æsir; but he shall remain with Hel if any gainsay it or will not weep. // Ok ef allir hlutir í heiminum, kykvir ok dauðir, gráta hann, þá skal hann fara til ása aftr, en haldast með Helju, ef nakkvarr mælir við eða vill eigi gráta.

Thökk: Thökk will weep | waterless tears
For Baldr’s bale-fare;
Living or dead, | I loved not the churl’s son; Let Hel hold to that she hath!
Þökk mun gráta | þurrum tárum
Baldrs bálfarar;
kyks né dauðs | nautk-a ek Karls sonar, haldi Hel því, er hefir

  • In Hindu religious texts the Vaitaraṇī River lies between the earth and the infernal realm of Yama, the powerful god of death and justice. For the sinful, this river is the most fearsome pit of blood and suffering and but must be crossed in order for the soul to move on. In the scripture Garuda Purana, Keśava (Vishnu) explains how dreadful the Vaitaraṇī River can be. My lyrics contains a few selected lines from the elaborate text:


There is no shade of trees
Lakes filled with blood
No water is to be seen Burnt by fire
Torn by thorns
Stung venomous serpents Rocks difficult to climb
Treads on razor-edges
In the awful black darkness

Showers of charcoal
Showers of stones and thunderbolts
Showers of weapons
Showers of boiling water
In one place a plain of hot sand
In another a mound of embers
In another a great cloud of smoke
In one place he stumbles in the darkness

Heaps of bones, mud of flesh and blood
This river, overspread with flames and smoke

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book XV, Numa, the second king of Rome, celebrated for his wisdom and piety, encounters Pythagoras to learn about the nature of the universe. Pythagoras encourages to accept the flux that for ever transforms us, and give less attention to earthly goods such as meat, prescribing a doctrine of metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul after death into a new form). One should not fear Styx – name of both the river that forms the border between earth and the underworld, and its goddess. The lyrics derived from the words of Pythagoras’ teaching are meant to function as a consolation in the composition.


Since I am launched into the open sea and I have given my full sails to the wind, nothing in all world remains unchanged.
All things are in flux, all shapes receive a changing nature.
Time itself glides on with constant motion.

Neither river nor the fleeting hour can stop its constant course.
As each wave drives on a wave, so the moments fly, and others follow, so they are renewed.
The moment which moved on before is past, now exists in Time. Every one comes, goes, and is replaced.

O sad humanity! Why do you fear
alarms of icy death, afraid of Styx,
of moving shadows and empty names— of subjects harped on by the poets’ tales, the fabled perils of a fancied life?

Souls are exempt from power of death.
When they have left their first corporeal home, they always find new homes.

Maja S. K. Ratkje, Svartskog, March 2022

Posted in Blog, Chamber music with voice/Vocal music | Tagged | Comments Off on Thökk Will Weep

Maja S. K. Ratkje in conversation with Ragnhild Eskeland Wesenberg

A Norwegian composer and musician, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, has a highly productive career to look back on. Not that it’s over any time soon; it has still only just begun. In this episode she gives us a glimpse into her world, accompanied by excerpts from a recent project with Katarina Barruk: ‘Avant Joik’.

Link to podcast

Posted in Blog, Interviews in English | Comments Off on Maja S. K. Ratkje in conversation with Ragnhild Eskeland Wesenberg