Film composers usually lead an anonymous existence, but this doesn't apply to Geir Bøhren and Bent Åserud. The public and fellow musicians have long ago christened them "The Grieg Brothers".
Growth conditions for national mass culture in a country as small as Norway are particularly harsh. All the competition for attention takes place on multinational terms. While the international markets talk of “niche expertise”, professionals in a small community are used where they are needed, i.e. everywhere. So film composers Geir Bøhren and Bent Åserud write music for all types of films, for the stage (Ibsen's “A Doll's House”) and vignettes and jingles for everything from the television news and Olympic broadcasts to the advertising market.
The Grieg Brothers can’t allow themselves the luxury of being pure musicians, pure filmmakers or pure composers; they do it all. The foundation is the same, though: professional expertise and insight into all forms of artistic expression. They use tapes as their score where traditional composers use sheet music. In films, they find undertones that are not necessarily obvious from the script. Before that they spend time. A lot of time.
Film music is their conscious career choice. In the 60s they were musicians influenced by the Paul Butterfield Bluesband, in the 70s and 80s they were involved in experimental rock and had to put up with being called Norway's answer to Pink Floyd! They ended up at the Norwegian State Academy of Music as pupils of contemporary composer Olav Anton Thommessen.
Whether they compose for comedies, action films or drama, you can hear that they base their work on the instrumental technology of rock, but that they also have the necessary background in compositional structure and discipline. And they prefer to play the music themselves. For the fairy-tale film Kvitebjørn Kong Valemon, however, it was the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and solo oboist Brynjar Hoff who played their Ennio Morricone-inspired music; a climax after many awards and years of experience.
Geir Bøhren and Bent Åserud create organic music. It is subjected to the story and mood of the film, but at the same time has a life of its own. The film music for Orions belte (Orion's Belt) an action film located on Svalbard (Spitzbergen), describes all the stages of the action. Today, nine years after the premiere, it is the music that is remembered, lives on and, for the general public, “is” the film experience itself.
The two composers never construct mastodon hit tunes that have no apparent connection with the film. They work closely with the director and the actors, like to go out on location, and see the film thirty or forty times before the music takes shape. It isn't the images worst enemy, it's the seconds. In modem music technology, time codes are just as natural as scores were in the old days. “The right music can make a bad film better,” they say, “but the wrong music can only ruin a film.”
They also maintain that hearing your own music played by a big orchestra is better than sex! In the future they will have plenty of opportunity to wallow in hedonistic pleasures. The most demanding job they have had to date was writing the music for Norwegian Television's documentary Sonja Henie - isens dronning (Sonja Henie - Queen of the Ice), which has created considerable interest on the international marker. They composed over one hour of music, played by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, which covered a whole lifetime and accompanied pictures of variable quality and many different situations.
Now they are looking forward to working with live people again. They have started composing the music for a full ballet based on Knut Hamsun's Sult (Hunger), and in 1995 they must be ready for the premiere of a musical based on Hans Jæger and Christian Krogh's novels of life among artists and bohemians in Norway in the 1800s. The preparations are already under way: now they are reading up on Puccini, Wagner and Verdi operas, these film composers of ours. And jacks of all trades.