In 1947, French writer Raymond Queneau published a book called Exercises De Style. Queneau was part of a literary group called Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: “workshop of potential literature”, stylized OuLiPo.
Other notable members of Oulipo include Georges Perec, Harry Mathews and Italo Calvino.
The Oulipians used constraints,structures and patterns as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration. Such constraints could be
- Lipograms (avoiding certain letters)
- S+7 (Replace every noun in a text with the seventh noun after it in a dictionary)
- Mathews’ Algorithm (elements in a text are moved around by a set of predetermined rules).
Exercises De Style tells a rather mundane, unremarkable story about a bus ride and a random encounter in Paris. This story is told 99 times (!), each of the variations in a different style, grammatical tense and with varying types of constraints.
In 2003, Panzerpappa started toying with an idea of making a musical equivalent of Exercises De Style. During one (of many!) beer-soaked, post-rehearsal hangouts at the legendary Mingles Bar & Restaurant in Trondheimsveien 4 (Oslo), the band conceived a rather ambitiuos plan:
Write a single musical theme, and then make 99 variations on this initial idea, all in different musical styles and for wildly differing musical line-ups.
Then, record all 99 pieces, with a total of 60 external musicians and singers participating (including a big band and a small orchestra!).
And finally, release this grand, conceptual masterpiece as a 3-CD set – with 33 variations on each disc – as STILØVINGAR (the Norwegian translation of “Exercises De Style”).
So, then, the members of the band, still young and idealistic, went to work and started writing. First, the initial theme, and then a solid dozen variations. The world was our oyster (soup…), and we were going to conquer it.
But, eventually, the sheer magnitude and scope of the project made it somewhat self-implode, and we ended up shelving the whole thing for an indefinite period of time. It was just SO much easier to release “regular” albums spanning 40++ minutes.
Before STILØVINGAR was altogether abandoned, Jarle was able to secure a live recording of variation no. 92, “Modern Style”, performed by the Ett Fett Big Band. And in 2016, Panzerpappa recorded no. 8, “Spådom” (Prophecy) as the opening track of the album Pestrottedans.
Now, in 2021, this particular composition have turned out to be just that: prophetic… Because now, in the age of streaming, the decline of “the album” and the rise of “the song” as the ultimate musical entity, and due to the fact that the members of Panzerpappa have gotten older and maybe a TAD bit wiser, we now intend to finish what we started!
2003 – 2025