We are interviewing him in conjunction with the Intro Composer Program for which he was selected along with Emil Bernhardt in 2007. Intro is a program set up by Concerts Norway to support young musicians, and now, composers. The main financial partner is The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which provides the funding for activities aboard while MIC is the managing body.
Our long talk with Øyvind Torvund reveals a fascination with Joycean darkness in the sense of subconscious semantics, and of primal idioms where rites, animism and a cry of the wild flare up and touch the musical situation from below.
-I believe that the notion of pre-musical entities, i.e. things going on before, beneath and around the established parameters of music, is a perspective that one should keep in mind also when focusing on conventional forms. It has been a general goal of mine to include elements that cannot be written down, which means that the issue of transcription comes to the forefront. I am very fascinated by trying to control musical situations that are beyond the control of the composer in the normal sense.
Some of your works include not only elements from the twilight zone of what is normally called music, but even explicitly non-musical elements like animal masks and forest surroundings. What is the conceptual difference between the works and contexts that deal with sound alone, and those that include other factors and experiences?
-There is a difference between what I conceive of as conscious installations and situations that are more undetermined and open. On the one hand I am interested in creating very distinct listening experiences, which implies sharp contrasts and exaggerated characters, e.g. combining over-elaborate micro-variations with full boost of volume and dynamic. The music then becomes an installation. This notion of exaggeration makes me a bit Kitschy as suppose, like a musical Jeff Koons.
On the other hand I am really interested in the point where music, by its simplicity, is on the verge of withdrawing into pre-music, which means that other elements and experiences come into play. When this happens it is not a firm installation, but more of a large, open-ended situation.
Sample some of Torvund's music and projects here
Music interspersed with pre-musical and non-musical characters; what kind of artistic situation is this really, and how does it inform us?
-My chief concern is keeping an open approach as to what may function as the constitutive parts of a work of music, and trying to combine several kinds and levels of elements. I am interested in creating a unity of a complex amalgam of components and characters and exploring the potential and limits of control I may have as composer. It is not only about the musical and aural palette itself but about transcribing the different ingredients in order to gain some degree of control.
Interview part two
Øyvind Torvund, Composer