NILS HENRIK ASHEIM (b.1960): Singing Stones, Hornflowers, Burning Ice, Scream Soft, Griegs Akkord.
Catalogue Number: 09X053
Label: LAWO Classics
Description: As in the impressive works we offered previously (08W053, and especially the harrowing orchestral monodrama Degrees of White, 02W073) Asheim excels in constructing immersive landscapes that seem somehow to literally describe natural forms and processes, while commenting on humankind’s often alien, unwelcome presence within them. With the addition of the organ to the brass ensemble, Singing Stones is especially imposing. Its source material is a deconstruction of Stephane Mahu’s (c. 1480-1541) five-part version of the Lutheran chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Towards the end some coherent fragments emerge, though mostly the harmonies are divided between the forces, lending a particular tonal coloration to the work. As the piece progresses, it seems to become unclear whether we are among the glacier-carved cliffs or the canyons of some equally impersonal city, with its grinding metal and dissonant hubbub, though at the end we drift back into the winter landscape, accompanied by ethereal sotto voce vocalizations from the players. Burning Ice is another paradoxical confrontation of the permanent and the active, like the fitful, blazing illumination of ice masses during sunrise - one thinks of Frederic Edwin Church’s iceberg paintings. The harmony in the brass evolves slowly, while the percussion glances off the shattered mirroring surfaces in illuminating shards of scattered light. A similar process is at work in Griegs Akkord, based on a chord progression in the harmony of Solveig's Song, not its gorgeous folk-like melody. Here, the harp glitters on the surfaces of the imposing ice masses. Like the other works here, the music is lent a tonal feel by constant reference to chordal basic material. Scream Soft suggests a dark inner monologue, the screaming metaphorical, never literal, through electronically multiplied tuba tones and vocal multiphonics, while the percussion performs a frenetic dance, like a free jazz solo, trying - and temporarily succeeding - to galvanize the tuba into pulsating rhythmic life. Hornflowers is a botanical catalogue of tiny, beautiful and distinctive mountain flora, fragile and threatened, yet resilient. Unusual techniques and timbres meticulously describe forms, colors, and endlessly repeated shapes in their diverse profusion across the landscape. New Norse Brass Quintet, Anders Eidsten Dahl (organ), Jennifer Torrance (percussion), Berger Ever Færder (tuba), Sunniva Rødland (harp), Christian Eggen (conductor).