Rolf Wallin is widely regarded the most important living Norwegian composer along with Arne Nordheim. Though intensely progressive and avant-garde he is still a craftsman in the positive denotation, meaning that he writes works for orchestra and also has a “popular” approach.
|Listen to and download works by Rolf Wallin|
Still voices have claimed that he is not sufficiently exposed in Norway and that studying him is not satisfyingly facilitated by Norwegian cultural institutions. If this is so, it will most likely be remedied by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra’s massive focus on Wallin in the 2006-7 season. The Orchestra expresses content that they are able to display contemporary conceptions of music through focus on a domestic composer, and that Wallin is a gratifying composer in this respect. The Wallin Festival is a clear sign that the emphasis on contemporary music in Norway is being stepped up.
Wallin himself hints at a possible paradigm-change:
“Contemporary music is increasingly getting its share of attention. By offering it to the public regularly contemporary music becomes something people can acquire for themselves. Like all acquired tastes contemporary music seems difficult at first. Therefore it is important that focus on it is sustained. The feedback to the increase in performances has been very positive.”
One example is his unforgettable piece played on a balloon. He was certain it would by rejected as too weird, but people loved it.
The Oslo Philharmonic orchestra’s special focus on Wallin will entail performing ten oeuvres throughout the season, including two first performances. One of them Das war Schön, is a co-commission from the Mozart-year in Vienna (Weiner Mozartjahr) and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. It is inspired by Mozart and the title pertains to the master’s reaction to his caged bird being able to sing the finale of his 17th piano concerto. As with the balloon Wallin is interested in everything that produces noise, from screeching trams to birds.
This approach, to search for music in the non-musical universe of sound, and to find “unmusical” ways of producing it, is at the essence of his artistic thinking. He is doubtlessly among the Norwegian artists to have to the deepest and widest reaching interest in scientific theory, i.e. in different abstract fields and scientific methods. This he has exhibited and developed through a series of lectures and theoretical articles, and of course in his music. The logico-mathematical approach to art has been of special interest, as he explains:
"The last few years I have become increasingly involved in some peculiar mathematical formulas called fractals. These formulas, used in the fast growing field of Chaos theory, are relatively simple, but they generate fascinating and surprisingly "organic" patterns when shown graphically on a computer screen, or played as music.
And he uses this mathematical approach actively in his work. One example is his piece CHI which is thus described by a critic:
“At the root of CHI, one will find the same mathematical formulas, framed in a remarkably well formed formal structure. The work may also well be an indicator of Wallin's further development, pursuing the transformation of science in an artistic direction, without oversimplification, in order to comment on and continue the modernist tradition.
The interest in a scientific and mathematical approach to music -and his ability to wield the computer tools that make it possible- Wallin has from his studies in San Diego, where he learned to program computers to process his ideas, (and not the other way around).
He has also studied in Norway, with another important contemporary composer Olav Anton Thommessen. Before his formal studies he had background in experimental rock and jazz.
His first work “Id” dates from 1982. Since then he has written several major orchestral works, a plenitude of oeuvres for chamber orchestra and many, many others for a variety of formats, including the aforementioned piece “Duo Balloons.” In 1997 he was awarded the prestigious Nordic Council’s Music Prize. He is regularly awarded high-status commissions and is widely played in Europe and America.
The fist chance to experience Wallin’s music is the upcoming Norwegian premiere of his piece “Concerning King” at the Ultima festival. The date is October 4th. And then, immediately after that, his work “Act” will be performed by the Oslo Philharmonic on October 5th and 6th.