Soundtrack for an Imaginary Opera

imaginary operaSo continuing my exploration of music by contemporary female composers I listened to Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi’s Soundtrack for an Imaginary Opera.  Ahvenniemi is both a composer and a philosopher who is inviting us, in this work, to reflect on opera as a social construct as much as text and music.  There’s lots of information on what she’s getting at plus all the texts at this link.

The texts here are a mix of fragments from opera and other works plus a made up “operatic language” which is a sort of cod Italian.  The pieces are all very different with the soundworlds created by what the composer calls “musical dumpster diving”.  So, in the first track; “Beauty Hurts”, which riffs off Monteverdi’s Orfeo  there are bits of “Monteverdi like” music mixed with strings slipping from arpeggios into slides plus lots of percussion and synthesizer.  The second track; “Punish Me”, uses a variety of vocal techniques; speech, whispering, something akin to Sprechstimme and a kind of pop style, backed up by booming percussion and shimmering strings.

“Who is Your Daddy? Who is Your Mommy?” lends made up vocals and the insistent repetition of the title with what sounds like a building being demolished, a drum kit and machine gun fire.  Then we get , in “leave Life” an ethereal vocal line backed by accordion like sounds from the synthesiser.  “Nymph Cry”, which is about bewilderment sounds almost like church music before it morphs into a kind of 1970s soft rock vibe.  Finally “Es dringen Blüten” takes the first three words of a Goethe couplet. (Es dringen blüten, wie glänzt die Sonne, Zu neuen Liedern und Tänzen gibst) over music that sounds like someone scratching a vinyl record mixed with what may be a quote from Handel.  There’s some extreme stereo on this track too which is a bit brain curdling when listened to on headphones.

All the performer and engineering (it’s a standard CD quality recording and sounds fine) credits are contained in the link above.

I don’t think I’ve ever listened to anything quite like this.  It’s an interesting exploration of rather a lot of ideas about music and text.

Catalogue number: Ravello Records RR8068

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