It’s almost impossible to say that you’re a “classically trained” anything without sounding overly pretentious, and I’m not necessarily into things “classical” anyway, as I’m mainly interested in music after the classical period.
It simply means that I have formal training in composition.
I started composing when I was 12 (everything seems to have begun when I was 12). Then, when I was 14, I discovered the music of the Second Viennese School, particularly that of Alban Berg. That sealed the deal for me. Berg’s opera Wozzeck hit me like nothing I had experienced before. I played that piano reduction endlessly.
I also consumed volume after volume on orchestration, studied all the main works by the greats in detail, and started writing large, over-the-top works for gigantic orchestras. I still love orchestration, it’s one of my fortes.
After a year at the Swedish Radio’s institute for higher musical education at Edsberg, where I studied piano — I was 17 and really didn’t like my piano professor — I began private studies in composition with Sven-David Sandström, at the suggestion of Sven-Erik Bäck, the head of Edsberg.
The Royal College
I was 19 when I was admitted to the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. My professor of composition was Gunnar Bucht for the first two years. I then took a sabbatical year, and for the two last years my professor was Sven-David Sandström, who had succeeded Gunnar Bucht at that time.
A number of guest professors appeared during my time in the class, but I can’t say any of them influenced me very much. And I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’ve actually studied with these temporary visitors. Brian Ferneyhough gave me a couple of impulses, but that’s about it.
I also had a number of other teachers at the College, such as Pär Lindgren, (electronic and electroacoustic music), Arne Mellnäs (orchestration), and Lars-Erik Rosell (counterpoint).
I graduated in 1986, something which today would have yielded a Master’s degree in composition. At the time, it didn’t yield any degree whatsoever, and I found out the other year that the Royal College has lost all its records of me ever having studied there. Ah, well…
I’ve composed a couple of pieces which have been played worldwide, notably The Maids, after Jean Genet’s play Les Bonnes and the internationally most played opera of all Swedish operas; and Schakt, a ballet which has become a modern classic.
The rest of my oeuvre is rather sparse. There’s a couple of works for wind band (one of them is available on CD), a piece for six digital pianos (also available on CD), some choral stuff, an orchestral suite, and some chamber music. I’ll be creating pages for them eventually.
I haven’t composed anything for over a decade. I should blog about my reasons when I have time. I really should.
There is, however, one work I have wanted to do for about 20 years now, and that’s a second opera. I have the subject matter ready: it’s based on a play by a Nobel laureate in literature; it’ll be in three acts and require about 40 singers, all female (a number of major roles supplemented by female choristers with smaller parts) except for two minor male parts. Oh yes, there’s also a counter-tenor in drag. Seventh century Chinese drag.
And of course everyone dies in the final scene. This is opera, you know.
Composition Blog Posts
- Cate Blanchett and I
- Redoing my website is a truly weird experience. Re-examining things, there’s so much I’ve simply forgotten, or never seen. Like this article in Playbill, where The Maids is mentioned in…
- Quotations in The Maids
- The quote is very brief, but it’s important: when Madame sings Such is love, Solange, I quote four bars from Bernard Herrmann’s music to Hitchcock’s Vertigo from 1958. The quotation…