From the beginning this project was an attempt to work with dogmas and stay focused on some important topics. One was to make a band with a reversed gender balance as a direct answer to the never-ending discussion about women and non-classical music. At least in Denmark this topic keeps popping up, so I thought I would write music for a band where women are the majority – aware that as long as I am the sole (male) composer, the experiment is not 100% valuable.
Another was to work with vocals and lyrics. This has been the biggest challenge for me in a long time. On top of that – I got inspired when visiting an Edvard Munch exhibition in Norway – the lyrics should be in English and be related to religion. At the museum, they quoted Munch for his personal ambition with his art, and it had a great influence on my construction of the dogmas. The quote is: There will be no more pictures of interiors, of people reading and women knitting. There will be pictures of real people who breathed, suffered, felt, loved… I will paint a series of such pictures. People should understand the significance, the power of it. They should remove their hats like they do in church. This gave me the inspiration to write in English and that religion in one way or the other should be in the centre of it all. This has of course nothing to do with Munch’s ambition, but I was keen on using obstacles and finding some topics that would not be easy.
I’ve never understood why Danish composers/songwriters address their (Danish) audience in a foreign language. By forcing myself to do the same thing I might find out about it. And yes: you can hide yourself behind a language.
I’ve never been a religious person, but I have met some very interesting priests in my life, all of them representing a just, human and surprisingly radical interpretation of faith: Love thy neighbour, turn the other cheek, help the poor, suppress your greed and egoism etc. Nowadays I hardly find it anymore, but I do hear so-called religious people use the same reasoning to harbour exactly the opposite: fear thy neighbour, don’t help those who need it, never turn the other cheek but fight back. If this music could stand up against this I would be happy.
Some of the lyrics are quotes more or less directly from the Bible, others are just related to religion.
In the Beginning, well… Genesis 1; The Angel Came to Mary Luke 1 26-38, The Birth of Jesus Foretold; Blessed are the Poor Luke 6, 20-26, Blessings and Woes; The Gates of Jericho Joshua 2 and 6, Rahab and the Spies and the Conquest of Jericho; The Tower of Babylon Genesis 11; Chasing After the Wind Ecclesiastes 1, 3, 7, Pleasures are Meaningless, A Time for Everything, Wisdom is meaningless. Other lyrics play with the thought of what would happen if Jesus actually returned to the Earth again. Angels are also covered both as messengers and lovers/friends. And the humorous I’m confessing deals with sin and forgiveness and the impossible task to live a perfect life.
When I started on this project I found myself in a field where some of the giants of composition has been before and already has set standards that will be very hard to meet. Knowing that from early times artists had no other choice than to express themselves within the borders of religion (talk about dogmas…)
I somehow felt a great responsibility and also a heavy challenge to move into the realm. So, apart from working with lyrics, the epic element in the music should support the message and somehow be the dynamic force of the sound. In this context I have been in contact with genres that I’ve never worked with before and the vocals and lyrics has a tendency to emphasize it.
You can find elements of musical, marches, tango and even twist. Although the harmonic side of it all has a tendency towards a jazzier and - at times - dissonant expression I still feel that this music shows many new colours of my musical style.
After listening a lot to Henry Threadgill’s music I found that it would be interesting to work with a line-up with cello, tuba and flute. On top of that I would – for the first time – also use the piano in the band. So the first recordings were with a septet with bass and tuba along with the cello in the bottom and flute and vocals on top and with the piano connecting the different voices.
The second recording session was set a time, where the tuba player was in Japan, so I added a French horn as this beautiful instrument covers both the bottom and the midrange. And at the final recordings I could use them both thus having a nice brassy sound. However, it is not an instrumentation that just blends naturally and I have been working with many different colourings and combination of sounds to explore the possibilities. And the question of female musicians? We have never paid attention to it in the band.
It is a somehow irrelevant parameter to use in evaluating the music, but it doesn’t mean that the topic itself is peripheral. I do hope we will hear more female musicians in the future and I also hope that recordings like this will help to encourage young women to play an instrument.
At the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow I saw this astonishing Dali painting and found that it expressed an interesting new angle of a classical theme: the crucifixion. There is no blood, no spikes, no crown of thorns, instead it has a dreamy and utopian thing to it that I find covers my intensions. The cover is a detail from the upper part of the picture.