Exercises in Style – No. 83: Italianismar (Italianisms)

This one was written back in early 2004. When we first started working on the Stiløvingar-project in 2003, Jarle was going full-on with his master’s degree in musicology at the University of Oslo, and took all sorts of arranging and composing subjects (counterpoint, big band arranging, orchestration etc. etc.). These, of course, required regular home assignments and hand-ins, and to kill several flies with one stroke, he managed to write quite a few Exercises and hand them in as a part of his compulsory assignments. That way, he even got them reviewed 😃

This particular one was written for string quartet as part of a course called Free-tonal Music, which bas based solidly on the music of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Ravel and Bartok, first and foremost. The starting concept for Jarle was “music for a 1940’s Italian movie”, and although it starts of in a freetonal way with lots of modulations and “free” treatment of harmony and resolutions, it ends up in a direct homage to the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, even downright STEALING his chord progressions to several of the themes on the Once Upon A Time In America-soundtrack.

We were SO lucky to once again have one of the amazing ensembles at Barratt Due to record this one for us. The JENS (Juniorensemblet Barratt Due) is a string orchestra comprised of up-and-coming talented string players from 12 to 16 years of age. They are led by the inimitable, incredibly inspiring Sigyn Fossnes, a true musical force, and one of the foremost educators of stringed instruments that we know. As Anders said during the recording sessions – “now I REALLY wish that I’d picked up a string instrument and could play in this ensemble, with Sigyn conducting”.

And not only that, we have more musical royalty involved. The pianist extraordinaire, composer, conductor, Musician with a capital M, Linguist with a capital L – Petter Sørlie Kragstad – is reading Queneau’s original lyrics to Exercise no. 83 – “Italianisms”. Jarle has known Petter since their high-school days, and thay’ve played together in different bands since then, among them the progressive rock tribute band Dead Dino Storage, who in later years have specialized on the music of Frank Zappa, but also have done projects with the music of King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes, Genesis et. al.

Petter have also been directly involved with Panzerpappa on several occasions – the big band version of the band in 2004, and even before that, in 2002 with the spin-off concept Bad Alchemy, who paid tribute to artists like Henry Cow, Lars Hollmer, Univers Zero, National Health and Slapp Happy. Looking forward to more playing together in the future, Petter!

The original intentions of this exercise was actually preserved through 18 years, and we’ve tried to keep as true to the 40’s Italian movie-vibe as possible 🙂

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