Joakim Sandgren

Joakim Sandgren (b.1965) is a Swedish composer living in France. At Nordic Music Days he is presented with the piece “bifurcations…” performed by Sören Hermansson. It’s a Norwegian premiere.

Sandgren studied composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm from 1991 to 1998. 2000 he completed the computer-assisted composition course at Ircam. 2003 he presented his Master 2 at the Paris 8 University under Horacio Vaggione. His compositions has been performed by Ensemble Itinéraire, Ensemble 2e2m, Court circuit, Taller Sonoro, Soyoz 21, Archaeus, Champ d’Action, In Extremis, Tokyo Gen’On Project, Modern Music Ensemble (Sydney), Curious Chamber Players, NEO, Ars Nova, Gageego!, Mimitabu, MA, Sveriges Radio Symfoniorkester and in festivals as Darmstadt International Summer Courses, Warsaw Autumn, ISCM, Les Musiques, SoundofStockholm.

Sandgren started composing computer-assisted in 1997 and since 1998 he compose in his house developed composition environment in LISP. From 2003 his music has been entirely oriented toward working on secondary sounds of instruments. These sounds are often of a very low intensity and often have to be enlarged using microphones. The way the compositions are designed is reminiscent of an “instrumental granular synthesis”. Even if instrumental, Sandgren’s compositions are conceived and composed in the way that we compose electroacoustic music. 2008 he started a suite of fifteen pieces for different formations and multi track electronics.

To see and hear more of Joakim Sandgren:



The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be “true”? Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?

I think it’s the composer’s duty to be ‘true’ to him/herself. I think it’s extremely important that the composer finds and does the things that are the most important and ‘true’ to him/her. That is the only way to do your strongest music. 

Do you have any thoughts on music’s role in our identity? Do you think of your self as a Nordic man?

I once said, here in France, that « you never get as Swedish as when you are living abroad ». So yes I’m a nordic man. We’ve had after all after the Romans were stopped in the Teutoburg Forest in the year 9, a thousand years without roman administration, roads, therms, and writings. It’s impossible not to have been marked by that, in contrast to the continent…

Your music can be received as sound sculptures, and you seem to have an almost tactile closeness to sound. Can you tell us something about your composition process? 

Sure. I can tell you everything about my composition processes. But the fact is that whatever technic I’ve used I have always been told that my music and sounds are tactile, physical and almost touchable. I must have I like for this. Perhaps the many many hours I spent in a tractor turning the hay when I was young?


The piece « bifurcations…» has no harmonic material. Is this typical for your works? 

« bifurcations simples » is totally representative of my work since 2003 when I stopped using harmony and pitch and only was looking for small hollow sounds, sounds that are détimbrés


I wrote « bifurcations… » for Sören Hermansson in 2016 just finishing a larger piece. It went swift and was fun. We had met some times before to work out the technicalities and possibilites. Then circonstances made it impossible to realize the piece that year. And in 2018 we retook the work, discovered more details and finished the piece, that was premiered in Stockholm at a portrait concert of me. It is a great pleasure to work with Sören and the precision he offer. The piece is dedicated to him. The composition explore the slowest part of my « notated tremolos » area that aren’t tremolos anymore and the small form takes us on a voyage through different states of tempos and cell patterns.