Frej Wedlund is a Swedish composer from Östersund. He is coming to Bodø with the piece Plasticity, perfomed by Cikada. It’s a Norwegian Premiere.
After some high school years playing in bands of various genres, Frej slowly started to realize that he preferred writing songs over performing them. After some consideration, it dawned on him that perhaps it made more sense to become a composer. In his current work, he is largely concerned with quiet tension, exposedness, and the simultaneous grandiosity and intimacy that a “small” music can create. A recent interest of his is incomplete, unbalanced or unfulfilled form, an attempt to make his music approach some sort of “sublime imperfection”, in turn a step in the search for an intimate music.
Frey received his bachelor’s degree from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Outside of his degree programmes, he has participated in masterclasses with Chaya Czernowin, Kaija Saariaho, and many more. Frej’s music has been performed by, among others, Ensemble Recherche, the Arditti Quartet, the Keuris Quartet, New Danish Saxophone Quartet and Musica Vitae in the Nordic countries, Europe and the USA. Some recent highlights include Plasticity being selected for festival mise-en 2019 and long-listed for the Ivan Juritz Prize 2019, and Isolated strands of reflection being selected in the 113 Collective 2018 call for scores and the MusArt Kaleidoscope 2019 call for scores, respectively.
You were the chairman and host of this year’s UNM! What do you think is the most important thing about UNM?
I think it’s important for us young music-makers to get a snapshot of what’s going on in our respective neighbouring countries, and to form personal connections that last long into the professional life. UNM isn’t, of course, necessarily completely representative of what’s going in the young contemporary music scene, but it does provide a glimpse of it. However, I also think that UNM can increasingly act as a platform for change – I believe it was just 5 years ago that a festival edition had something like 6-7 non-male (and 28-29 male) participants, whereas this year saw 16 non-male (21 male) participants. This is a direct result of conscious work and policy.
Your string quartet Plasticity is much about focusing on quiet tension. Is this a recurring theme in your work?
Definitely. Quietness, tension and the exposedness of the performance situation, along with related subjects, is the primary concern in my music since perhaps 4-5 years back. I’m continuously looking for an intimacy that I believe one cannot find in many other places than the collective concert experience. That said, I believe I’ve been a bit of a slow learner in approaching the matter, but I’m starting to get to a place where I might almost have an idea what I am (possibly) doing.
Where do you find the ideas that get you started? What inspires you?
I think I, not unlike many other composers, treat my creative practice as a series of closely related works, slowly developing over time. Each piece takes a small step forward in a constant search for some hidden goal. For this reason, and since I deal with relatively quiet music, my materials tend to be vaguely similar. Instead, I’m often looking for something to do with form and timing, or perhaps rather, expectations, something to cast this intimate situation I’m looking for in my music in a new light.
Recently, I have been obsessed with two ideas, in particular, that naturally have to do with each other; “bad” timing, and things that happen only once. These subjects point toward what may possibly be my current source of inspiration: imperfection. I think of myself as a rather flawed person, not in a very dramatic fashion or anything, and I think that I enjoy writing music that somehow reflects, and reflects upon, this. I’m not too interested in “effective” music, in a music that is confident and works well. I can definitely enjoy it as a listener, but not as a composer. This definitely puts a lot of pressure on the performers of my music, however, and sometimes I have to ask myself, “am I doing this because I want to or just because I suck”?
Ironically, of course, in my search for imperfection, I do usually present a quite polished take on it. Just the other week (at the time of writing) I spent an absolutely inordinate amount of time on finding just the right amount of awkwardness in the timing between a series of chords. And who knows – perhaps no one hears my music as I do, so I’m not even sure what it all leads to, if anything, either way.
What is Truth, in art? Are the wordless expressions, freer than other art forms? Any thoughts on this?
I don’t know that I believe in a Truth in art. Rather, the concept feels somewhat like a quasi-spiritual idea of some hidden otherness to life. To me personally, art is instead largely humans reflecting upon what it is to be human. However, considering the latter part of the question – if wordless expressions are freer than others – I come to realize that to some degree, as I mention above, I am indeed continuously searching for something unknown, which may at the moment be some sort of “sublime imperfection” (or perhaps “perfect intimacy”). Perhaps this is my Truth.
Plasticity is focused around a rethoric relationship between a halting, yet flowing, material and a form of “quasi-silence” or composed pause. Superimposed on this pair is an expansion and compression, respectively, of musical time, where the piece extensively stretches out some aspects of the music, while condensing others.