Rh’zoma

Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Innova 810

 

 

Rh’zoma, composer Anna

ThorvaldsdottirÕs

debut album of recorded works, is steeped

in the beautiful strangeness and exhilaration

of that which is simultaneously

familiar and unfamiliar. The uncanny

blurring of ÒselfÓ and ÒotherÓ we find in

nature, in people, in art, runs through the

collection like a current, confronting us

at every turn with both glacial inevitability

and brilliant surprise, both overwhelming

power and inviting intimacy.

Gathered together here are three works

for larger forces—the two smaller peaks

of Hr’m and Streaming Arhythmia for

chamber ensemble framing the larger

summit of Dreaming for orchestra—embraced

by the gentler immediacy of

Hidden for solo percussed piano, which

streams through and around the larger

works but springs from the same source,

the same roots – roots of delicate sounds,

of coalescence, of memory.

 

The collection opens with Hr’m, in which independent minutia are carefully woven

together into rich textures, whirling around one another as unique entities and

occasionally flowing together to create larger gestural shapes. The Icelandic title refers

to the gradual growth of ice crystals, a notion paralleled in this piece not only by the

frosty shimmer of individual sounds, but also in the ways these sounds cling together: as

clusters of activity outlining moments of greater structural importance and as threads of

memory echoing throughout the workÕs duration. Listening is rooted in the discovery of

these details while attending to their immediate and inevitable reverberations across the

sonic field of the ensemble and throughout the internal field of our own recollection

– a kind of diffusion beautiful not only for its elegance but also for its palpability.

Similar trends are present in Hidden, the first two movements of which—ÒInwardsÓ

and ÒOurÓ—serve as delicate echoes to the more powerful currents of Hr’m. Here

the phantom resonances of memory give way to the real resonances of reverberating

piano strings, which remain undampened throughout the work. Some of the gestures

that arise from this gentle, murmuring ocean are more urgent than others, such as

the singular attacks that instigate a series of brushings and scrapings approaching the

halfway point of ÒInwards.Ó Some create further-reaching trajectories, such as the slow,

steady glissandi of ÒOur.Ó Yet even while the energy and continuity of unfolding moments might suggest a strong sense of motion, the overall sensation of listening has much to do with the timelessness of resonance, in which we might move back and forth between relating moments to one another—and to ourselves—and simply being swept along by the intricacies and richness of the sounds.

 

This is true in a different way in Dreaming: here the abundance of lush sonorities

and vast array of textural variation both provide a comfortable stasis as well as offer

a compelling trajectory of experience. Even though the landscape is vast, the diverse and

engaging palette of sonic potential frames the workÕs gradual accumulations of energy

and momentum in ways that are direct, even tangible. This is especially true in the

workÕs extended opening and the incessant takeover of ÒnoiseÓ materials beginning in

the eleventh minute. (Both of these examples function as types of experiential summits,

albeit with drastically different character.) Yet the consistency of sound—both in regard

to its timbral richness as well as its slow yet seemingly steady transformations—is also

an invitation to take the workÕs development for granted, to assign larger changes in

the sound world a kind of inevitability. This seeming familiarity, however, might be

misleading, because the piece—like a dream—is equally capable of floating endlessly

amidst a single thought as it is of changing quite suddenly – perhaps blooming into

a radiant moment of harmonic congruence, or giving way without warning to an

interchange of percussion streams, or settling unexpectedly into the thematic stasis of its

hauntingly beautiful central valley. Such moments of ÒothernessÓ remind us that—as with

any landscape—the beauty of this sonic environment is in a constant shifting of focus

between discovering the richness of detail and marveling at the splendor of the whole.

The interplays between stasis and surprise, between power and intimacy, between the

familiar and Òthe other,Ó also play out as we return to the more confined sound world

of Hidden in the movements ÒStayÓ and ÒRain.Ó The materials here present a divide

between conventional pitch-based gestures and those which are rooted in explorations of

timbre—of noise, even—except that the tables are turned somewhat in our perception of

normal and abnormal. The resounding fifths of ÒStayÓ easily stand apart from the wash of

percussive attacks on the strings, frame, and soundboard of the piano, and the interplay

between single notes and glissandi in ÒRainÓ casts itself as a kind of counterpoint, as

though emulating the music of some foreign past. Rather than acting as beacons of

familiarity, however, these and similar moments seem lost in this watery landscape,

their capacity as musical tokens stemming not from their current surroundings but from

distant memory. Meanwhile, the array of unconventional sounds provides a bedrock of

experiential stability, constancy, power, even in the pieceÕs closeness and delicacy. The

fragments of pitch materials—a mirror revealing the strangeness of our own projections

of meaning—reach out from this foundation to whisper gently, yet forcefully, in our ears.

Streaming Arhythmia returns from the grand sweep of Dreaming and the personal

caress of Hidden to a middle-ground that—like Hr’m—blurs qualities of the two,

though perhaps here the processes of transformation are buried deeper, coursing with less speed but not necessarily less urgency beneath the beguiling surface of drifting

gestures. Here moments of larger coincidence—such as the gradual accumulation of

energy leading to the percussion duo, the luscious harmonic language of the middle

section, or the advent of recurring fragments running together into a stream of

disorientation—function less as surprises than as inevitable shapes on the horizon,

blooming slowly and carefully into the familiar and leaving us subject to the perception

of time. Ultimately, the workÕs strikingly dramatic qualities might be experienced not as

a range of activity between coalescence and separation, but rather a range of tangibility

in our perception of time over timelessness. In this sense, the experiential peaks of the

work both rise successively from a plain of established material and solidify from blurred

memories – once-disparate instrumental sounds swirling into strange and beautiful new

shapes before dissipating back into the mist.

 

The final movement of Hidden, ÒPast and Present,Ó also arises from the familiar yet

unfamiliar depths of memory – both in its reverberation of the delicate sound world

of the internal piano as heard throughout Rh’zoma, and also in its resonance with the

true nature of listening: a simultaneous recognition and discovery deeply rooted in the

essence of being.

Daniel Tacke

 

Credits:

Dreaming (2008)

for orchestra

Performed by

the Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Conductor Dan’el Bjarnason

Concertmaster Sif Tulinius

Cello solo Brynd’s Halla Gylfad—ttir

Recorded at H‡sk—lab’—, Reykjav’k,

by the Icelandic National

Broadcasting Service (RòV)

Tonmeister Bjarni Rœnar Bjarnason

Recording engineer Georg Magnœsson

Hr’m (2010) and

Streaming Arhythmia (2007)

for chamber orchestra

Performed by the CAPUT Ensemble

Conductor Snorri Sigfœs Birgisson

Recorded at Gu<eth>r’<eth>arkirkja, Reykjav’k

Tonmeister Gu<eth>ni Franzson

Recording engineer Georg Magnœsson

Hidden (2009)

for percussionist on grand piano

Performed by Justin DeHart

Recorded at Warren Music Studios,

San Diego

Tonmeister Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Recording engineer Martin Hiendl

Editing and mixing:

Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Sound engineering and mastering:

Tom Erbe

Graphic design:

çrmann Agnarsson

Liner notes by Daniel Tacke

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment

from the McKnight Foundation.

 

CAPUT Ensemble

Flute & Bass flute: Kolbeinn Bjarnason Oboe & Cor Angles: Eyd’s Franzd—ttir

Clarinet: çrmann Helgason Bass Clarinet: Rœnar îskarsson Contra Bassoon:

Snorri Heimisson Horn: Emil Fri<eth>finnsson Trombone: Sigur<eth>ur ?orbergsson

Percussion: Frank Aarnink, Steef van Oosterhout Piano: Valger<eth>ur AndrŽsd—ttir Violin:

Zbigniew Dubik, Hildigunnur Halld—rsd—ttir Viola: Gu<eth>mundur Kristmundsson, ?—runn

îsk Marin—sd—ttir Cello: MargrŽt çrnad—ttir, Sigur<eth>ur Halld—rsson

Double Bass: H‡var<eth>ur Tryggvason, Richard Korn.

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

1st Violin: Sif Tulinius, Andrzej Kleina, Zbigniew Dubik, Jœl’ana El’n Kjartansd—ttir,

R—sa Gu<eth>mundsd—ttir, Una Sveinbjarnard—ttir, Martin Frewer, P‡l’na çrnad—ttir,

Mark Reedman, Greta Sal—me Stef‡nsd—ttir, çgœsta Mar’a J—nsd—ttir

2nd Violin: Hildigunnur Halld—rsd—ttir, ?—rd’s Stross, Kristj‡n Matth’asson,

Roland Hartwell, Sigurlaug E<eth>valdsd—ttir, îlšf ?orvar<eth>sd—ttir, Christian Diethard,

MargrŽt ?orsteinsd—ttir, D—ra Bjšrgvinsd—ttir, Helga Steinunn Torfad—ttir

Viola: Helga ?—rarinsd—ttir, Gu<eth>rœn ?—rarinsd—ttir, Gu<eth>rœn Hrund Har<eth>ard—ttir,

Kathryn Harrison, Svava Bernhar<eth>sd—ttir, Sesselja Halld—rsd—ttir

Cello: Brynd’s Halla Gylfad—ttir, Sigur<eth>ur Bjarki Gunnarsson, îlšf Sesselja îskarsd—ttir,

Brynd’s Bjšrgvinsd—ttir, MargrŽt çrnad—ttir, Hrafnkell Orri Egilsson,

Inga R—s Ing—lfsd—ttir Double Bass: H‡var<eth>ur Tryggvason, P‡ll Hannesson,

Gunnlaugur Torfi Stef‡nsson, J—hannes Georgsson, Richard Korn, ?—rir J—hannsson

Flute: Hallfr’<eth>ur îlafsd—ttir, çshildur Haraldsd—ttir, Martial Nardeau Oboe: Matth’as

Nardeau, Peter Tompkins Clarinet: çrmann Helgason, Sigur<eth>ur I. Snorrason, Rœnar

îskarsson Bassoon: Rœnar Vilbergsson, Hafsteinn Gu<eth>mundsson, Brj‡nn Ingason Horn:

Emil Fri<eth>finnsson, ?orkell J—elsson, Lilja Valdimarsd—ttir, Anna Sigurbjšrnsd—ttir

Trompet: Einar J—nsson, Eir’kur …rn P‡lsson Trombone: Sigur<eth>ur ?orbergsson

Bass Trombone: David Bobroff Tuba: Lai Tak Chun Harp: Katie Buckley

Celesta: Anna Gu<eth>ný Gu<eth>mundsd—ttir Timpani: Eggert P‡lsson Percussion: Steef van

Oosterhout, Frank Aarnink, çrni çskelsson, Kjartan Gu<eth>nason.

 

1. Hr’m 8:03

2. Hidden – Inwards 3:58

3. Hidden – Our 2:00

4. Dreaming 17:25

5. Hidden – Stay 3:50

6. Hidden – Rain 2:40

7. Streaming Arhythmia 19:32

8. Hidden – Past and Present 1:50

Total duration 60 minutes

www.annathorvalds.com

 

Thanks

Kolbeinn Bjarnason, Gu<eth>ni Franzson, Snorri Sigfœs Birgisson, CAPUT,

Justin DeHart, Dan’el Bjarnason, everyone in the Iceland Symphony Orchestra,

çrmann Agnarsson, Daniel Tacke, Georg Magnœsson, Tom Erbe, Berglind Mar’a

T—masd—ttir, Daniel Shapira, Nicholas Deyoe, Sigfr’<eth>ur Bjšrnsd—ttir, Berglj—t

Haraldsd—ttir, çrni Heimir Ing—lfsson, V’kingur Hei<eth>ar îlafsson, Flemming Madsen,

J—hann çgœst J—hannsson, Kraumur Music Fund, the Icelandic Broadcasting Services

RòV, Hla<eth>varpinn Cultural Fund, Iceland Music Information Centre

Philip Blackburn and everyone at Innova Recordings

Everyone who were part of this release in one way or another

My family

My friends

Hrafn, for more than I can express