Benedicte Maurseth - Hárr

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 23 / 5 / 2022

Benedicte Maurseth - Hárr

Label: Hubro Music
Format: CD
Magical new album by Benedicte Maurseth which. a portal into a world shared by music and nature, wildlife and mountain people, traditional Norwegian folk tunes and contemporary minimalist arrangements, is a highly rewarding listening experience


Benedicte Maurseth was raised in Maurset, part of Hardangervidda National Park, Norway’s largest national park. She plays traditional Hardanger fiddle. Her family were reindeer herders there and interviews with her great great grandfather and her great grandfather are included on this album. Maurseth was commissioned to compose a piece for the 2019 Hardanger Musikkfest. The festival theme for that year was ‘vandring’, a word which encompasses walking, hiking and strolling in translation. This was a theme close to her heart, as she had grown up hiking in the region that was home to her family. 'Harr' is the Norse name for Harteigen, the most characteristic mountain in the national park. Maurseth is also inspired by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who founded ecosophy, recognising that humans are part of an ecological system that is interdependent with nature and that all of life and all of nature’s rich diversity have equal value. Maurseth has also worked with musician, writer and philosopher David Rothenberg on projects that combined playing live with birdsong. This approach to nature and music is very current. Festivals like Timber celebrate this source of inspiration. Sam Lee has his project with nightingales. Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris promote respect for nature and mourn and celebrate our connections to it with their 'Lost Spells' concerts and publications. Websites like 'Caught By the River' and Radio 3’s 'Unclassified 'programme also share this world of music, the written word and the natural world. It isn’t a completely new approach, but as we become increasingly aware of the impact of climate change on the environment, it’s both a source of inspiration and a way for musicians to share their concerns. Joni Mitchell sampled whale songs and Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara used bird cries in his 1972 composition' Cantus Arcticus'. This album is a wonderful collection of compositions that celebrate and explore the natural world of the Hardangervidda National Park. The music weaves round the sounds of bumblebees, reindeer and running water, and a wealth of bird songs including snipe, plover, owl and loon. The voices of Maurseth’s family are featured, I’m guessing talking about their traditional way of life as reindeer herders. It’s the cadence and rhythm of their voices rather than the meaning of their words that is soothing and hypnotic. Maurseth plays Hardanger fiddle, bringing a reminder of Norwegian folk tunes to the mix. The recordings were then used a basis for improvisation by the fellow musicians involved in this commissioned work including Hakon Morch Stene and Mats Eilertsen. These improvisations include a mix of percussion, marimba, vibraphone, double bass, harmonica, saxophone and electronics. Influenced by musique concrete, American minimalism and Norwegian folk tunes, above all this album is inspired by the natural world and our connections to nature. This shapeshifting musical experience is beautifully expressed on the longest track, 'Hreinn' where Steve Reich meets Rautavaara. Making the connection between music and our enjoyment of the natural world through exploration, Maurseth shares her thoughts with us on the sleeve notes. "In many ways creating music and hiking are the same thing, at least to me – they evoke an awareness of beauty, deep listening and presence when our spirit is open. You can experience them alone or share them with others, in silence or in conversation."

Track Listing:-

1 Augnast
2 Heilo
3 Reinsdyrbjøller
4 Kollasj I
5 Eidfyrder
6 Hárr
7 Hreinn
8 Kollasj II
9 Snø Over Sysendalen

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