Magnar Åm - Biography

Magnar Aam, 2003

Magnar Åm (1952) was born in Trondheim. He received his education as an organist at the Bergen Conservatory of Music, and studied composition with Ketil Hvoslef in Bergen as well as with Ingvar Lidholm at the National College of Music in Stockholm.

Magnar Åm had his debut as an organist in 1971, and his breakthrough as a composer came with the work Prayer (1972) for strings, choir and soprano soloists. He is now a full-time composer and lives in Volda (Western Norway), where he also teaches “Intuitive Composistion/Improvisation and Music Philosophy”, a subject that could be included in the Bachelor study in music at the College in Volda, or as a free post-graduate course.

Magnar Åm receives the State Guaranteed Income for Artists. His music is frequently characterized by a polyphonic, freely dissonant or free-tonal style with a condensed expressive, yet ascetic introspective tone language - where melodic and experimental work coexist, and where the movements of the musical elements in the concrete, three-dimensional room play an increasingly important role. In recent years, in his search for a more ideal mediation of musical energy, he has often allowed the works to contain elements that exceed the conventional rituals of the concert hall. An example of this is here, in the resurrection – a string quartet that exists in five versions, where one of them is performed through under-water loudspeakers in a hot water pool and where the audience is supposed to fleet on their back, with the ears underneath the water surface. Another example is Tone Bath – an experience room for one person at time, where the music moves three dimensionally around the listener. The room is an art installation by Astri Eidseth Rygh, and the sung text by the Norwegian poet Liv Holtskog.

Åm says:

"Time and space structured as music is a formidable tool for one who seeks to make conscious his deepest essence and meaning, whether one creates, performs, or listens. But the pleasure of allowing things become habit is a tempting veil and a hindrance for all searching, also here. This is why I undertake the task of delving into old ways of mediating music quite frequently - partly to awaken, partly to develop new rituals that can better strengthen the deeper functions of music."

Magnar Åm's production ranges from vocal and chamber music via installations to large orchestral works. From his recent production, one can mention the oratorio tree of tenderness (1999), the bassoon concerto lonely / embraced (2004), the harp concertos be cause (2005) for harp and string sextet and this our virgin now (2005) for harp and girl's choir, the violin concerto stalagmite time (2004) with parts of the Norwegian composer Fartein Valen’s schetches to a fifth symphony exposed in the work and the oratorio/opera God’s I’s – arias of innocence asn growth (2007). The orchestral work it sn't the snow falling, it's us leaving the ground (2006/2007) was awarded ”Der Europäische Komponistenpreis” by an audience jury during the festival Young Euro Classics in Berlin in 2007.

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