With a solid foundation in traditional Norwegian folk music, fiddler and composer Gjermund Larsen explores other genres and styles through playful and convincing improvisation. His tunes range far and wide, spanning the spectrum from blistering fast passages to songs that almost come to an introspective standstill. At the interception between tradition and innovation, Larsen and his companions represent a veritable cornucopia of genuine musicality.
Gjermund Larsen enjoys a position as one of the most respected and active performers and composers on the contemporary Norwegian folk music scene. The Norwegian State Academy educated fiddler and composer is a member of ensembles Majorstuen, Frigg, Brødrene Larsen, Ragnhild Furebotten trio and Christian Wallumrød ensemble.
MIC talked to a busy Larsen earlier this year: - The past few months have been really hectic; I’ve toured with my own trio as well as with Majorstuen and jazz outfit Christian Wallumrød Ensemble. I’m busy as ever composing new music, both for own use as well as commissions from festivals and ensembles. It’s hectic but I won’t have it any other way, I like to roam wide and far, covering lots of styles, genres and settings as a composer as well as a fiddler.
Larsen’s proper debut as a composer came in the form of the work ‘Brytningstid’ which was commissioned by the Telemark Festival nearly three years ago. The majority of the work is devoted to new, contemporary and original folk music which draws inspiration from the local dance music traditions of the Verdal area in the Trøndelag region. Double bassist Sondre Meisfjord and pianist/organist Andreas Utnem were featured at the premiere of ‘Brytningstid’ and the three have continued the fruitful collaboration to date. The pieces featured in ‘Brytningstid’ still constitute the base of the trio’s repertoire, a repertoire that has continued to grow in magnitude and diversity during the last two years. The three band members represent a wide range of genres ranging from classical and contemporary to jazz and pop as well as traditional folk music – a diverse background that results in a highly aesthetic and rewarding sonic landscape.
- The interest for Scandinavian folk music in general seems have picked up lately. Particularly the French and German audiences seem really receptive, but we’ve also received growing feedback from the UK scene as well. The whole folk music scene in Norway has gone through a major transformation over the last decade; there’s a new generation of Conservatory trained performers, more professional artist managements, stronger organizations, more funding and a growing domestic audience. Currently, it’s a really positive spirit on the folk music circuit with lots of drive and a bunch of people intent on establishing themselves on the international stage.
Following the successful release of their debut album ‘Ankomst’ (which won a Spellemannspris Award, The Norwegian Equivalent to the Grammy), the Gjermund Larsen Trio returns with a sophomore album in 2010: - We’re currently working on the follow-up to our debut album which will see its release later this year. I’ve composed the main bulk of the repertoire which will follow in the same vein as the material on ‘Ankomst’. The musical landscape is much the same; lyrical and melodic pieces – perhaps a bit more solemn and quiet than the tunes on our debut. I’ve also been exploring some new musical territories– baroque has become something of a fascination for me lately. I’ve also worked with music for children and I’ve received a commission for a work to be performed at a major domestic festival later this year. It’s a real challenge to balance the role of the composer with the role of the performer, but I feel that I’m currently mastering the juggling act – it’s really rewarding.
Critics call Gjermund a uniquely poetic folk musician distinguished by the gentle warmth of his tone, the natural lure of his melodies and the broad range of his poetic sensibility: from catchy dance tunes to tranquil meditations. Even amidst the brilliant revival of Norwegian folk music, Larsen and his Trio stand out; their repertoire of songs so rich and diverse in emotion and so beautiful and well tempered in execution that the whole horizon of Norwegian folk music seemed to have been broadened.