Knut Vaage (1961) is one of the Norwegian composers who have received a commission from the French Ministry of Culture. The piece, Transit, was first performed by the Ensemble Court-Circuit at the 1998 Ultima Festival. "I practice the aesthetic of the break", says Vaage.
The term means constant shifts between stylistic elements and compositional techniques within the same piece; one part may be “absolute music” while another may be inspired by non-musical elements such as literature. The music should preferably sound free, unencumbered by programmatic content. Vaage’s own commentary on his work is basic: “This work was commissioned by NN”. That’s it. His techniques and the sources of inspiration for his work are not the audience’s business. This type of information can as often be misleading as informative. The audience should be free to experience the music. The unique characteristic of music is its wordlessness.
Vaage believes that the main reason why there is so little focus on new music in the media is that it is difficult to verbalise music. His dream is to be in the same situation as authors who benefit from constant debate about new publications. He wants journalists to be more deeply involved in new music and he wants living composers to be subjected to the same analysis and discussion as living authors. The situation would have been different if people other than the composers themselves were able to pass on knowledge of contemporary music to the general public.
Despite his academic background, Vaage regards himself as an autodidactic composer. He lives in Bergen and is therefore distanced from the main group of composers, who are based in Oslo. In this situation, it is important to seek inspiration elsewhere. That is why he has participated in master classes and taken private lessons at home and abroad. On the other hand, he understands the advantage of being on the periphery. The information society is battering us with a steady flow of undigested data. The noise of the media can sometimes be overwhelming and chaotic. Modern man may therefore need to filter information in order to retain his creative ability. Vaage occasionally finds the necessary peace and quiet in his west-country holiday cabin.
He is the grandson of farmer-poet Ragnvald Vaage. The farmer-poet phenomenon originated at the turn of the century when Norway achieved independence. At that time, culture flourished in the provinces and many rural artists made their voices heard. Since then, urbanisation has increased, artists and intellectuals have gathered in the towns, and the rural areas have been spiritually depleted.
Vaage is normally to be found in a derelict weaving factory in Bergen, where he wants to establish a community working across the borders of artistic genres. In addition to being a many-faceted composer, he is an active musician and engaged in a variety of organisational activities. He has been chairman of ISCM Bergen and organiser of the Autunnale. He tours with Rikskonsertene – the Norwegian Concert Institute – every year. As a musician, he cultivates free improvisation, which he believes may be one of our era’s contributions to the development of the music aesthetic. He is a capable jazz pianist but found the limitations of jazz improvisation restricting. Through free improvisation, sound organises itself and may sometimes even surprise the performer.
Vaage seeks to integrate a wide range of inputs into his activities. The broader view is a prerequisite for his composition. In his opinion contemporary composers should take active part in the national debate and be a driving force in a vibrant cultural life.