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Ensemble Adapter

Gamla bíó

Program:

The Clavis Metrica of Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson (2022) (WP)

Performers:

Ensemble Adapter (IS/DE):
Kristjana Helgadóttir, flute
Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson, clarinet
Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir, harp
Matthias Engler, percussion 

About the work:

As the scaldic meter would merge with rhyme, an age of olympic virtuosity in poetry started in Iceland. Meters that can go backwards and forwards, where a whole couplet rhymes with the next one entirely - all this and much more, keeping a strict number of syllables and meanwhile adhering to strict rules of alliterations.

Every variant of every meter has a name and a style. Music, poetry and storytelling were one and the same. Various significant poets would write a Háttatal or a Háttalykill or in latin: Clavis Metrica. A clavis metrica would usually consist of a catalog of meters with poems written by the author. They teach and explain each meter but also display the poet's virtuosity.

Despite the elaborate and somewhat strict rules of these types of poetic meters the musical rhythm can be very fleeting and elastic in performance. The clear patterns of color and emphasis generated by the rules of the meter make for a flexible canvas for live performance as the meter can withstand a lot of variation as regards to rhythm and melody and still be recognizable by the trained poetic ear.

In the Clavis Metrica of Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson, the author follows in the footsteps of the poets of old. A string of poems with all the embellishments and variations is written for instruments only without any text.  Various sounds made by instruments signify different vowels and consonants, emphasis and articulation. Out comes a long rosary of many beads with each being only slightly different than the previous one.

The composition of the piece was generously supported by the Artist Salary Fund of Iceland Ministry of Culture and Education. The piece is dedicated to Ensemble Adapter, Svend Nielsen and Atli Ingólfsson.