Jon Øivind Ness (b. 1968) grew up in Inderøy in the county of Northern Trøndelag. Throughout his upbringing Ness played tussefløyte (a Norwegian micro-tonal version of the soprano recorder), violin and clarinet, but it was as a guitarist that he was accepted at the Norwegian State Academy of Music in 1987. In 1989 he made the transition to composition studies at the same institution, studying with among others, Olav Anton Thommessen, Lasse Thoresen, Bjørn Kruse and Ragnar Söderlind.
Throughout the 90s, Ness has frequently made references to popular culture, much a result of feeling equally at home with the more progressive elements of this culture as with contemporary music. While these popular music pursuits have previously been connected to more or less obscure quotation techniques, Ness has in later years oriented himself more towards the energy found in prog-rock, but without making use of specific stylistic elements of the genre.
The composer has developed a continuously transposing bi- or poly-tonal harmonic system in which all notes of a chord act as the dominant to the successive chord – a system that through its inherent well arranged structure facilitates improvisation. Over the last few years the composer has also combined this system with micro tonality - a technique that dictates that intervals consisting of uneven numbers of semitones are either halved or saturated with quarter tones. A very characteristic interval is one that is also found in Arab as well as Norwegian folk music; the quarter tone in the middle of a minor third. However, Ness has also used the same approach with other “uneven numbered” intervals; fourths, fifths, major sixths, major sevenths, minor ninths and minor eleventh. This could lead to each chord having two or more spectral centres of gravity, but the micro tonal techniques are also frequently employed to symmetrical chords as tonal colorization or as sonorous grit (these chords are commonly designated “pickled cucumber” by the composer).
Lately, the composer has begun to use chords constructed of interval constellations similar to the ones describe above, that are operating (relatively) independent of each another, or in combination of techniques; parts of a chord could follow spectral principles while other parts are symmetrical etc. Humour has always played a major part in Ness’ music, but as the composer has experienced an increasing hostility towards less accessible forms of cultural expression from the general public in later years, his humour has taken on a meaner and darker character.
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