Free Electro-acustic Improvisation

The Norway music scene has, ever since the mid-nineties, become more and more interesting in a global sense, full of fresh names and first-rate surprises, in areas as different as "classical" composition, improvisational daring, metal pretensions, electrophonics, experimental and free jazz. We have had opportunities to get to know some of these names in Slovenia, through performances at Satchmo in Maribor or at Gromka and Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana-Frode Haltli, Ingar Zach, Ivar Grydeland, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, the creative ensemble No Spaghetti Edition, veteran Frode Gjerstad, Paal Nilssen Love, and so on. It looks like young seekers and unselfish mentors have managed through exceptionally determined zeal to avoid the once-fashionable brand of the mellow "ECM sounds from Scandinavia". And this is quite a paradox, at least at first sight, since nowadays, the gigantic ECM is the main distributor for the dynamic Norwegian record label Rune Grammofon (available in Slovenia at Statera), which was where many of these young performers got their start, including our two guests. It should be stressed that the Norwegian state decided at the highest levels to promote equally the widest possible musical practices, including marginal ones.

Not yet thirty, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje has, under these conditions, achieved in music a lot more than one might expect of someone her age. Her work is extremely heterogeneous, ranging from organisation to composition, from improvisation to hardcore. It is no exaggeration to say that Maja S. K. Ratkje is one of the most integral musical personalities of our time: she is recognised as a prominent composer, both in Norway and internationally; she has been an opera singer (just a few weeks ago her first opera, No Title Performance and Sparkling Water, was performed in Oslo); she is a university professor and carries on the bright tradition of Pippi Longstocking; at the same time, "her" women's band, the SPUNK quartet, enjoys cult status and has been getting euphoric reviews in the avant-garde scene over the past few years. Topping everything, Maja S. K. Ratkje has recently been involved in electro-acoustic research, where she combines her strong, superb and extremely recognisable voice with various electronic machines and without using any pre-recorded material. Through these machines, Maja and her colleague, Hild Sofie Tafjord, SPUNK's horn player, sample live sounds and modulate their own acoustic sounds, as well as a variety of field sounds. Their music is characterised by the use of "old-fashioned" analogue electrophones and such instruments as the panpipes, harmonica and other undervalued sounds. Characteristically, cultivated acoustic material is hardly ever recognised later, leaving us with the impression of carefully guarded secrets and the humorous treatment of unknown and overlooked sounds. The two musicians decided to join in the Fe-mail project in Tokyo in 2000. Using a computer, they revisit the material again and again with integrity and without pretension, yet manage to incorporate skilfully their "first" disciplines: a superior, multi-level voice and conservatory-like clean yet open and searching horn. The duo years for creative collaboration, beginning with its very formal foundation, and for this reason, Slovene dancer and choreographer Maja Delak will join them in one of their performances in Ljubljana. The sold-out vinyl edition of Fe-mail1s Syklubb fra Halvete has become a much-sought-after item on the music scene, and will soon be released as a CD on the American label Important Records. Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) observed, in an enthusiastic review in December 2002, right after the vinyl was released, "There is a most exciting sound LP coming from Norway, the best I have heard in a long time."
Miha Zadnikar

Vocals, electronics: Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje
French horn, electronics: Hild Sofie Tafjord

Organisation: City of Women
In co-operation with: Klub Gromka


Date and time of event: 
Oct 14th 23:00
Place of event: 
Klub Gromka, AKC Metelkova mesto