One of Norway’s foremost contemporary composers, Rolf Wallin, heads to the UK in early June for the world premiere of his new production ‘Strange News’. The scene for the work’s premiere is Birmingham’s Integra Festival.
Rolf Wallin (born in Oslo september 7th 1957) is an exceptionally versatile musician, having distinguished himself not only as one of Scandinavia's leading composers today, but also as a performance artist and, early in his career, as a trumpeter in ensembles spanning early music to experimental jazz and rock. As a composer he freely combines computer-generated systems and mathematical formulae with intuitive approaches, and the complex yet very plastic textures of his music are reminiscent of composers such as Xenakis and Ligeti. Wallin’s work list includes both instrumental and electroacoustic works, absolute music and stage music; his continuous crossing of borders between genres and styles has resulted in a number of fruitful cross-fertilizations.
'Strange News’ is a live multi-media performance, where a symphony orchestra, a narrator, video-projection and surround sound system aim to address the atrocities of child soldiers. A ‘chamber version’ of the performance has been written to be premiered at the Integra Festival in Birmingham on 7 June, and will be performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Pierre-André Valade.
Wallin is the recipient of a number of awards, beginning in 1987 with the Norwegian Society of Composers’ "Composition of the Year" award for.. .though what made it has gone for mezzo soprano and piano, a work spun around Osip Mandelstam's modernistic poem Whoever finds a horseshoe. ...though what made it has gone draws upon the vocal works of Luciano Berio as well as upon more harmonically oriented composers like Olivier Messiaen, but it is also a solid testimonial to Wallin’s own, original approach to musical composition - and not least to his ability to combine constructive and intuitive approaches in an aesthetically successful way.
An idea that has proven especially fruitful for Wallin is the use of so-called "fractal" algorithms to generate a musical raw material, which he refines further by means of a continuous dialectic between systematic calculations and his own musical intuition. Among Wallin’s most important fractal-based compositions, we find the works for chamber orchestra Onda di ghiaccio (1989) and Boyl (1995), the orchestral work Chi (1991), and the chamber works Stonewave (1990), ning (1991), and Solve et coagula (1992). Several of these works have received international acclaim and are regularly performed both in Norway and abroad - most notably the percussion work Stonewave, which received the Best Work Award at the 1992 ISCM World Music Days in Warsaw.
In addition to the use of fractal algorithms as an organizing principle for rhythm and melody, Wallin has developed a harmony-generating principle for which he has coined the term "crystal chords". These harmonic crystals are based upon a 3D harmonic model, where three key intervals are constantly repeated, thus defining three dimensions of a crystal. The resulting synthetic scales give Wallin a broad and varied harmonic palette which ranges from "consonant atonality" to sharp dissonances. Wallin has employed crystal chords in a number of recent works: the above- mentioned ning, Solve et coagula and Boyl; the orchestral works Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1996) and Tides (1998); Ground (1997) for chamber orchestra and Appearances (2002) for chamber ensemble.
Wallin’s latest works have consolidated his international reputation, resulting in a number of commissions and performances. In 1998, he received the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize for his Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. This work is representative of Wallin’s recent, more intuitive approach to composition, something which has also led to works such as Twine for xylophone and marimba (1995). Here, Wallin has given the musicians a high degree of freedom and the sound world is minimal.
Rolf Wallin, Composer