Frode Haltli: Vagabonde Blu

In 1926, artist Emanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) built a studio in his garden at Slemdal in Oslo. He originally intended it to serve as a future museum for his sculptures and paintings, but later he bricked up all the windows and decided that the building would also eventually become his own mausoleum.

Emanuel Vigeland’s urn rests above the low entrance door to Tomba Emmanuelle. When your eyes get used to the darkness, you can see the fantastic and grotesque fresco of life that covers the walls and ceiling in the vast, cold room: there are people and skeletons; they are conceived and born, they live and they die. The massive acoustics produce a long and lively delay covering the entire register of sounds, and as a result it is nearly impossible to conduct a normal conversation. Silence usually prevails, and a person who wants to say something here will instinctively whisper.

As a performer of acoustic music, I always work together with the room. There are big differences between concert halls, churches, clubs and community centres, and a performer always needs to adjust to the venue. Tomba Emmanuelle is an extreme variant; here the room is such an active partner that it changes my music and my playing radically. I listen and wait, or I play offensively so that it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether a sound is coming from the instrument, the echo, a combination of the two, or a member of the audience who accidentally touched his jacket. The acoustic performance is re-mixed live by a room.

The two Italian composers Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947) and Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) were both born on Sicily. It seems reasonable to believe that these composers, both interested in art and music history, shared a number of sources of inspiration with Emanuel Vigeland. In Vagabonde blu (1998), Sciarrino undertakes a close study of tiny air and noise sounds, of notes, chords and glissandi in pianissimo. In the encounter with Vigeland’s room an extra dimension is added to the composition when the small, isolated events in the music are magnified by the acoustics. The title refers to a stellar phenomenon far beyond the reach of man, and the perspective of infinity that is inherent in the music is heightened by the long, lingering echo in the mausoleum.

Aldo Clementi writes, with reference to Ein kleines… (1998), that the music should be played like a lullaby. Simple, two-voiced variations of a modal theme are repeated again and again, while the dynamics and tempo are gradually reduced, like a long lullaby that accompanies a child into sleep.

I have played Flashing (1985) by Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) since I was a teenager, and recorded the piece on Arne Nordheim: Complete Accordion Works (Simax 2012). One of my principal intentions with that recording was to demonstrate the vast room for interpretation that lies in Nordheim’s music. In Tomba Emmanuelle, Nordheim’s solo work Flashing is transformed into a nearly electronic-sounding piece of music. This is accomplished without the use of the electronic sounds we are familiar with from Nordheim’s oeuvre, but with the accordion as the source of a universe of frequencies that are flung back and forth, encircling one another sonorously, attacking each other or waiting politely for the next development. The dramaturgy of the work is thus experienced in a different way; it is as though the form itself changes, although the sequence of notes is otherwise exactly the same. Surrounded by frescos of life and death, this becomes my homage to Nordheim: his music is hurled out into space, into the universe, into eternity.

Frode Haltli, translation Shari Nilsen

This album was nominated to Spellemannsprisen 2014, the ‘Norwegian Grammy’

Release details:

Released September 26th 2014


Frode Haltli, solo accordion
Recorded live in concert at Tomba Emmanuelle, Oslo, September 16th 2009 by Gyrid Nordal Kaldestad
Mixed and mastered by Maja S.K. Ratkje at Svartskog 2014
Produced by Frode Haltli

1. Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947): Vagabonde blu (1998)
2. Arne Nordheim (1931-2010): Flashing (1985)
3. Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) : Ein kleines… (1998)
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