Stine Sørlie is a Norwegian composer. She is coming to Bodø with the piece “Pollination”, performed by Vocal Art.
Sørlie is educated at Gotland Tonsättarskola and the Norwegian Academy of Music. Her works include solo, chamber and orchestral pieces, and music for film, theater, and dance. Sørlie is interested in creating compositional formats that include different variables which engage the musicians in an active manner, offering them options and flexibility when interpreting the music.
She has written for numerous distinguished classical performers, as well as jazz and folk musicians, and for renowned ensembles including POING, Pinquins, BIT20, Cikada, Oslo Sinfonietta, Telemark Chamber Orchestra, Kitchen Orchestra, Architek Percussion, The Bozzini Quartet, Tre Voci, Små Grå, Pärlor För Svin, Curious Chamber Players, Mimitabu, and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Her works have been performed at festivals such as the Stockholm Chamber Music Festival, Hardanger Music Festival, Young Nordic Music Festival, Cluster: New Music and Integrated Arts Festival, Ilios, NuMusic, Only Connect, Borealis and Ultima. Sørlie has served as Chairperson of the Board in nyMusikks komponistgruppe, co-director of nu:nord, and project manager for the 100th anniversary of The Norwegian Society of Composers, where she has been Vice Chairperson since 2016.
What can non-standard notations do which standard notations cannot?
Even the most detailed scores inspire a lot of different interpretations, which is why there are a countless number of recordings of the most famous classical works. I’m interested in the grey areas between composition, interpretation, and improvisation, so even if my scores are quite traditionally notated and detailed, I often leave some of the decisions in my scores up to the performers. In general, the choice of musical notation can be made for aesthetic or practical purposes, like in Pollination where the singers create some sounds that just as likely could have come from electronic sources. However, in principle, it’s amazing how the basic notation system, with only twelve notes, a few note values representing duration and some symbols representing accidentals and dynamics, can convey such a wide range of different music and expressions! In comparison, the Norwegian language has 29 letters and more than 300 000 words, and to speak and write it, you also want to master the pronunciation, the spelling, the syntax, the grammar and so on. Considering how many people learn a new language, I think it’s strange that it’s not more common to learn how to read music, also among musicians and music lovers outside of the classical music field. Once I was sitting in a hotel bar in London with one of my scores, preparing for a rehearsal, and a bunch of guys was sitting at another table. One of them eventually came up to me and told me that he and his friends had wanted to approach me for a while, but that they were hesitating because none of them could read music themselves. It turned out that they were Bon Jovi’s band and crew members.
Where do you find the ideas to get you started? What inspires you?
Speaking of language: One of the activities that inspire me is listening to foreign languages when I’m traveling. I will listen to the sound of it, and perhaps imagine what the conversation is about, or do like the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu did: He used to go to the cinema when he went to a foreign country, to experience the language, tempo, and soul of the country he was visiting. In general, I like to explore what is hidden. What lies beneath, under the surface? Nature and art are my main sources for inspiration — Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, a poem by Friederike Mayröcker, a sculpture by Camille Claudel or a painting by Gerhard Richter can trigger my imagination and raise questions like “How come?”. “What if?”.
Can music be true? Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?
A piece of art, not unlike a true love of one’s life, can often be multi-layered and contradictive. When I transform an idea into a piece of music, I try to unfold the qualities that resonate with me, and hopefully, also resonate in the ears of the future listeners. The process sometimes feels a bit like the game hide-and-seek: I’m searching high and low for the right tone and trying to reveal the inner logic of the material. I’m trying to catch sounds that still don’t exist, and even when a piece becomes a physical phenomenon, I think in general that the abstract nature of music is somehow always resisting reification, as it often consists of multiple voices and layers, and constantly is moving in time.
Bust of a ten year old future composer, on the piano she played on at the time. Artist: Ellen Jacobsen.
Voice I & II: Pollution, pollination, pollution, pollination…
Voice III: The fog claiming so thick, they could hardly remember…
Voice IV: When all the roses are dead, what shall blossom on my grave?
These are the opening phrases of the piece Pollination, where the vocal quartet sings from the perspectives of the flowers. The sounds of the piece are inspired by nature sounds as well as noise and electronic sounds. The life-giving pollen of the flowers is floating in the same air as life-threatening dust and pollution. The sounds are purely acoustic, expressed by four female voices, trying to let their individual voices and choices break through the commotion of our entangled world.