Monday, January 29, 2007

Ragnar Grippe - Sand , LP,1977, France (NWW list!)

Born 1951 in a family with a singing mother and a radio producer father and a brother.
Since early childhood I’ve been told that I spent late evenings as an infant under a grand piano, thus consuming lots of lieder by Hugo Wolf and Franz Schubert. I would think that this type of immersion into music must some way alter the state of a person.
With this musical coating I was soon presented to the recorder, an instrument that was considered the entrance tool for music exploration. After some years I was given the possibility to play cello, and this instrument was my alternative to a football, even though I never considered football an alternative.
At age 14 I was presented with the possibility to register for the application to enroll as a student at the Royal Music Conservatory. Here is where personal decisions were obsolete, but who at age 14 would take the decision of an adult ? I didn’t, and this is where music suddenly became the object of timing or coincidence. Since I was 14 I had an advantage before the older applicants, undergoing the test exam to be admitted under the utmost stress, while the 14 year old didn’t know which school he was soon attending, and therefore didn’t have time to think about stress. The school didn’t represent anything.
College in Stockholm, at the same time Music Conservatory with cello, playing six stringed bass with a virtuoso guitar player, and finding the cello repertoire the subject of my wishes to transform. You don’t transform Beethoven. Therefore an unknown yet undescribed yearning for composition.
Come the end of college, and I had decided, I can’t become this soloist with an incredible musical future. I don’t know whether it’s reconstruction of the past or not, but I think that my inabilties to render the cello’s inherent qualities ”visible” to an audience was the reason why I didn’t continue.
I went to the south of France to study French and attend some classes at the Université d’Aix-Marseille in History of Architecture. My interests had been divided between diplomat, architect and composer at this time. After some thinking I realized that my ”bred in the bone” music was something that I would have years to spend in order to - if ever - to give as deep an unconscious knowledge of as in my music to for example architecture. So I realized I had a treasure that I had to manage. This is not boasting, because what I’m saying here is not whether my music is good or not, only that there was a ”knowledge” that was ready to be used. Whether it would be well used or not is nothing that I can discuss.
Stockholm University 1971, classes in Musicology. The term paper was to be written, and I had gotten my eyes on the Electronic Music Studio in Stockholm. Why? I had heard some records that were sent to my father, and thought that they were mostly awful. I thought, how can so much money be invested in something that awful!
After the months spent at the studio, under the auspices of former director Knut Wiggen, I learned to like the possibilities that must be inherent in this new medium, and I asked Wiggen where to study the music. His firm answer was; There is only one school, Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris. I applied for a grant, and was off as a cellist studying composition at Group de Recherches Musicales some months later.
Not understanding a word for months, listening to Pierre Schaeffer, morphologie de sons, testing working, trying the blends and mixes of sound, more and more entering a universe that is today a universe that has existed for some 25 years as a professional composer. When you’re new in a new world - that of music - everything’s very important in that world. Maybe that’s what charming, but also alarming. Charming because there is a open-mindedness and curiosity for all related philosophical and creative aspects, alarming because the focus is on the detail, not the function as in a holistic view. You can discuss the interval during a night and probably find 13 good reasons why the composer used it, but maybe you’ve been discussing the interval in a ”bad” piece of music. So in the end everybody’s tired, because you discussed an interval in a piece that nobody would listen to.....
France has good food and wonderful friends, Paris was in the 70’s a cultural center for arts before leaving for New York, Stockhausen, Renaud-Barrault, Centre Beaubourg known as Centre Pompidou, Paris was alive.
GRM had a first year test, some students were ousted, it was quick and without much time to think.
I had met with Luc Ferrari, worked in his studio ALM (Atelier for the Liberation of Music), and composed Situation I on the BIS label and the SAND composition on the Streamline label.
I firmly believe that lack of resources is the mother of invention, SAND was composed with two Revox tape decks, electronic organ, castanets and an electric guitar. Composed to the paintings by Viswanadhan, Indian-born painter living in Paris since 1971. I met with Uno Svensson, Swedish artist now residing in Nice, France, and composed music for his major show in Stockholm 1974 at the Royal Fine Arts Academy, at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and in the Malmöe Konsthall in Sweden. Art critics were stupefied by the strength and violence of Svensson’s paintings picturing tube babies born in factories and painted in 1972 - 74, a long time before in vitro and other cloning aspects were even discussed. This with an alarming music with human voices transposed and processed gave the audience one of the first big exhibitions with sound in Sweden.
Ballet came across since I met through Ferrari with the American choreographer Carolyn Carlson, hailed superstar at the Paris Opera. She used the piece Situation I for a solo ballet with the late Paolo Bortoluzzi, for a long time hailed solo dancer with Maurice Béjart, and later continuing with a solo career. Carlson’s piece was entitled ”SPAR”, and was premiered at Espace Cardin, the designer Pierre Cardin’s theater close to Place de la Concorde in Paris.
One year later Bortoluzzi commissioned a piece for La Scala’s Milan bicentennial, with stage design by Beni Montresor.
My attitude was that instrumental music had a tough time to get performed, I wanted to use as much energy to compose electronic or electro-acoustic music, in order to establish myself as a composer. Through the ballets, later film music since 1979 and radio play in France and Sweden, I got an audience and was in a state of dream, since I had the opportunity to do what I liked most, compose and get paid. Only it did take me a long time to understand that this money was what other people would consider their salary. I’m a slow learner.
In 1975 I left Paris for Montreal, studying electronic music at McGill University. I was offered a Ph.D. grant, but thought at that time that I had studied some 10 years since entering the Conservatory in Stockholm, and I chose at that time to opt for a career as a freelancer. Maybe this is/was my first conscious decision about my music career.
Montreal was a place where I felt at home, it’s very similar in size to Stockholm, my native city, I met composers with different philosophical departures than their European counterparts, life is wonderful when there are so many different approaches, Buckminster Fuller, domes and a wireless society were discussed in 1975. Who said artists are ahead of their time ?
I left Montreal after some 5 months.
San Francisco in spring 1976. A friend goes to the wrong bar after arriving from Paris, gets teeth knocked out his second night in SF I locked my doors to the Dodge when I drove in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood where I stayed one month. Ran to the gate after having circled the block for some 10 - 20 minutes every night in order to avoid any hustlers in the dark. I must have looked stupid. Gave some lectures at UCSD, San Jose State University and other places, played music at KPFK in Berkeley, longed back to University looking at the campuses, got a question from one of the students after one concert at UCSD if it was a religious ceremony. The students had been lying in a dark room on cushions while listening. I said "sure".
Paris in 1976, commission after return to Paris from Groupe de Recherches Musicales. Work with Swedish painter Uno Svensson on a multimedia project ”The Human Confetti”, with music from three compositions; Sine Qua Non II, Situation I and Anagram, shown in the Modern Art Museum in Malmö.
Ballet at the Royal Opera in Stockholm with Oscar Araiz, former Joffrey Ballet choreographer. Short time in Amsterdam, work with a piece in the Utrecht studio, old time feeling, big rooms with big electronic gear like from a futuristic movie from the 40’s or 50’s. Name of piece: ”Where are they” Voices from a woman and a child, always gives me some somber mood listening to it.
Stockholm, movies in the end of the 70’s, my first feature movie, fascinating and a new world opened up. Many films followed after that in the 80’s.
Composed in the 80’s more ballets, performed in Paris in Stockholm with the Cullberg Company worked at IRCAM (l’Institut de Recherche et de Coordination
Acoustique/Musique) at Luciano Berio’s department for Electroacoustic Music. I worked with problems around virtual sound sources, inspired from the beginning by the Aphex Aural Exciter.
Worked with late artist Ron Hays, Los Angeles on a video for Swedish Television, short movies got their music from my hand etc.
In the 80’s my music started 1980 with ”Orchestra”, possibly the first electroacoustic work using 24 tracks in Sweden. The studio I worked in in Stockholm was EMS (Elektronmusikstudion), the one where my interest had started for this type of music. But in the beginning of the 80’s I also bought a Synclavier, a system that enabled me to work from home and then bring the system to the studio for the final mix. Music since 1981 has been composed to a large extent with the Synclavier as sound source, while prior to that the ”Buchla” Synthesizer was the mother to most sounds.
1986 I composed ”The Room” with words by Mark Strand, and sung by Kerstin Johnson-Ståhl. 1985 saw a composition entitled ”Conversation”, composed after a visit to a 40th memorial in Hiroshima of the atomic bomb.
Music for TV, jingles in France and Sweden, records with BIS, CRI and EMI, radio programs from Paris about music.
1987 commission by Swedish radio to compose a ”radio opera” with author Stig Larsson writing the libretto. Swedish Radio Orchestra and Choir blended with electronic sounds in the other parts of this 50 minute composition with four soloists.
1990 I compose ”Musique Pour Orgue” an instrumental piece for the organ player Gunnar Idenstam. Now instrumental music takes over in interest, different notation programs start coming out on the market, one less brilliant than the other. Composition becomes somewhat formed after the limitations of the program. But the Hammerklavier did also form the music.
Piano duo 1993 for Swedish duo Kristine Scholtz/Mats Persson, Piano Concerto for swedish pianist Roland Pöntinen 1993, septett in 1996, first performed during the Gotland Chamber Music Festival on the island Gotland on the east coast of Sweden.
The electronic music also got its share during these years, with l’Arbre Egayé 1991, Suspended Choirs 1993, Le Mécanicien Effrené 1994, l’Archer Coupe l’Air en Deux 1994, La Chambre d’un Rêve 1995, Shifting Spirits 1996.
In 1994 I started with the music that eventually became ”Requiem” with soprano Madeleine Kristoffersson.
Requiem was a new start towards a new blend of music, combining the sound of pop music with the operatic voice. Released on BIS in 1996, it was performed and much talked about in many countries.
The last couple of years have seen the New Year’s music for the city of Stockholm performed at midnight on 1997,1998 and 1999/2000.
Current projects include a new recording with soprano Madeleine Kristoffersson, instrumental music, electronic and in the background an ever tempting opera idea.
(Ragnar Grippe about himself!)
One of the best items in NWW list!


Anonymous said...

I can only endorse Rob Vomit's earlier comment—my ears are sweating in sheer delirium!

musicgnome said...

Oh, come on now!!! It's just getting ridiculous. all means, don't stop ;)

Your Not-So-Secret Admirer

Anonymous said...

this album by Ragnar is such a treat to the ears. It's really beautiful. It's cool that it was released on the Shandar label, which was a great 70s French avant label. Shandar Records was almost like the 70s French version of the ESP-Disk label.


Blacksmith lion said...

just what I was looking for...

thank you very much.

SonceGrib said...

Beautiful Electronical Sounds of Heaven!!! Light&Clear...