Exercises in Style – No. 40: Så (You Know)

It all started with a paper cup…

Anders received a video from his niece, with her performing a «cup-clap»-rhythm. She asked if he could set some music to this rhythm, making it a proper, albeit brief, tune.

He did, with some programmed drums, funky bass, a wah-wah riff and a guitar/synth theme reminiscent of the opening to a TV series. Anders sent it over to his niece, and forgot about it for a while…

… until one day when we were discussing ideas for new Exercises in Style. He suddenly remembered the CupClap Theme Song, and realized that he could play a slightly altered, but very recognizable version of the Exercises-theme on top of the existing arrangement.

Jarle liked the idea, and especially the link to the wonderful world of TV shows, and added two additional sections to Anders’ original tune. They were even able to utilize the initial CupClap-theme as a countermelody for the recap at the end 🙂

So, another Exercise had seen the light of day. But which one was it? After a lot of contemplation and some debate, they decided on Quenau’s exercise No. 40: «You Know…»

You probably know the phrase “You know”: few things sounds more American than this short filler phrase. For some of us it promptly leads the thoughts to American pop-culture, and to the iconic phenomenon of the TV intros of the 80s and 90s. They were a thing of beauty, weren’t they? A perfect blend of catchy tunes and kitchy hairdos.

From the eerie opening of shows like “X-files” and “Twin Peaks” to the high-energy, up-beat theme songs of “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Airwolf”, these intro themes set the stage for some of the most memorable television moments of the decades.

But beyond just being catchy and memorable, these themes also helped to define the shows they introduced. They set the tone and conveyed the essence of the series, giving viewers a sense of what they could expect from the next hour or so of peak TV entertainment. Some were the perfect anthem to the young and fashionable characters of the show, others haunting and atmospheric masterpieces, all perfectly capturing the tone of the series.

So here’s to the TV intro themes of the 80s and 90s, the unsung heroes of our favorite shows. Thank you for the memories and the toe-tapping tunes (and to Anders’ niece: a sincere thank you for the cupclap-rhythm which spurred us on…!)

Exercises in Style – No. 68: Med Ordbok (Translation)

In 1960 Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais formed OuLiPo, Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, as a part of Collège de ‘Pataphysique.

OuLiPo consisted of mostly French mathematicians and authors who were interested in exploring the effect of constraints and structures on the creative process. Some of the forms they studied were lipograms (writing that excludes one or more letters of the alphabet), palindromes (text that can be read both forwards and backward), and mathematical problems such as permutations set theory and game theory.

Written thirteen years before the formation of OuLiPo, Exercises of Style (1947) was an important inspiration and several of the techniques in the book were further examined by members of the OuLiPo. One of the exercises, “Translation” (ironically replaced in the English translation from 1958), was formalized by Jean Lescure as part of the toolbox and techniques of the OuLiPo. Lescure dubbed it S+7.

In this exercise, Queneau replaced all nouns with the seventh noun after it in a dictionary, for instance, “heure” became “hexagon” and “type” became “typhon” etc. Another example would be to transform the line “I wandered lonely as a cloud” from Wordsworth to “I wandered lonely as a clown”. The result will depend on the size of the dictionary, but the author is supposed to stick to the same dictionary throughout the text. Variations on the technique could easily be conceived by changing the class of word substituted for instance verbs, or to increase or decrease the number of entries to count (V+9).

When Anders set out to do a musical version of this substitution process, he found that simply substituting some of the notes in the original piece “#1 Notation” with a transposed note was kind of uninspiring. Instead, he took the process a few steps further. He generated a twelve-note row from the melodic theme of the first exercise and searched for a piece of music to use for the substitution.

He landed on Weberns’ Symphonie Op. 21 (1928) for clarinet, bass clarinet, two horns, harp, and string quartet. This hauntingly beautiful piece was chosen as a template for the exercise due to its sophisticated use of the twelve-tone technique and a strict adherence to form, mirroring the formalistic approach of Queneau and OuLiPo.

The derived twelve-tone row was superimposed on the Webern, Symphonie Op. 21, keeping his form intact. In other words, the rhythm and the orchestrations are kept from the original score, while the pitches have been replaced by substituting all notes from Webern’s original row with the corresponding in the Queneau-derived row. The score was realized with a combination of instruments from IRCAM’s solo instruments 2 and SWAM from Audio Modeling.


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Progress: 21 of 99 finished.

Exercises in Style – No. 94: Portrett (Portrait)

What an honor to have one of your compositions performed, analyzed and even reviewed by the one and only Wolfgang Plagge!

“Portrait” is a theme and variations-movement for four-handed piano (in this case – for two pianos), played by Wolfgang and our very own Torgeir for inclusion in our Exercises In Style-project.

Torgeir: “I was lucky enough to know Wolfgang from before and was therefore bold enough to ask if he would like to contribute to the Exercises In Style-project. He seemed more than curious about this and showed great enthusiasm for the concept in general and for “Portrait” in particular.

He booked us both rehearsal and recording time in a beautiful recital hall at the Norwegian Academy of Music, as well as two gorgeous and freshly tuned grand pianos.

We practiced together for the first time at the Academy. He obviously got the most demanding part. Since then we had two meetings at Wolfgang’s house.

As thanks for his time, he was honored each time with various homemade wooden products (Among other things, a spinning top, which he and the children made spin for over three minutes on the living room floor!).

Wolfgang is a wonderful person, rich in knowledge and musicality. He is extremely generous and always has a good story. I am really grateful to have had this opportunity and suspect Wolfgang to feel the same.”

Exercises in Style – No. 94: Portrett (Portrait). Video.

Performed by Wolfgang Plagge (piano) and Torgeir Wergeland Sørbye (piano).

Part of Panzerpappa’s Exercises in Style-project (2021 – 2025)

The Stiløvingar [Exercises in Style] album is a work in progress and will continue to grow as we compose and record tracks. If you buy the album, you will be informed when new tracks are added to the album as long as you follow us on Bandcamp. We will add a handful of new tracks every now and then.

By 2025 the album will contain 99 tracks, one for each of the exercises in the book Exercises in Style (1947) by Raymond Queneau. In other words, the price you pay is for the full digital album with all 99 tracks.

https://panzerpappa.bandcamp.com/album/stil-vingar-exercises-in-style https://panzerpappa.com/

Exercises in Style – No. 81: Makaronisk (Dog Latin)

No. 81 Makaronisk (Dog Latin) is written in a style reminiscent of the Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594). The «Palestrina» style (also called «Renaissance polyphony») has been taught in higher music education since the middle of the 18th century.

The style is characterized by dynamic and «flowing» parts, not static, homophonic chords, and there are numerous strict rules for the treatment of leaps and dissonances. Do check out Palestrina’s beautiful Missa Papae Marcelli, one of the highlights of the Renaissance period.

The piece was recorded by 60 singers from the St. Laurentius choir on April 28th. Their rehearsal room distinguishes itself by having one of the squeakiest floors ever (!), and Anders had to do quiet a lot of work in Isotope RX to salvage the recording. If you listen carefully, you can still hear some reminiscences of the floor squeaks, but now more as atmospheric (and slightly ghost-like) sounds 🙂

The St. Laurentius choir is one of the best non-professional choirs in Northern Europe. It was founded in 1965 by the late Kjell W. Christensen, and consists of 115 singers, both children and adults.

The choir has participated in several blockbuster productions through the years: Jesus Christ Superstar (2014), Kristina Från Duvemåla (2016), Chess (2018) and Bjørn og Benny (Thank You for the Music) 2021, with professional soloists and musicians.

Every other year they go on tour in Europe, and have visited most, if not all, European countries. They’ve also done operas, operettas and several other musicals, and dramatized works such as Carmina Burana. The choir’s singers fill almost all roles in these larger productions (soloists, dancers and actors). In addition, a formidable effort is made with choreography, direction, PR and scenic work.

The choir has its base in Lørenskog, Jarle’s home ground, and he has participated on several of their great productions. So it was REALLY cool to get them on board the Stiløvingar-project – we are forever grateful.

Performed by the St. Laurentius choir

Composer and conductor – Jarle

Recording engineer – Anders (Decca tree! 🙂

Mix & master – Jarle

Exercises in Style – No. 17: Ordsamansetning (Word-composition)

Every preset on a synth or keyboard gives musical ideas.

Torgeir tried a new wavetable synth and found the sound that reminds of a vintage transistor organ crossed with the presence sound of a laser sword and the humming sound of a power transformer. To achieve a more nostalgic vibe we added some electrostatic noise, and then everyone in the band contributed with flavors of their chosen instruments.

Jarle added the “ticking clocks”-beat and the bells (a composite sound from two different synths), Anders contributed with granular delay on the bells and some subbass, and finally Steinar recorded an Ondes Martenot-patch with his EWI.

The video for this exercise is nothing but a shameless, cynical advertisement for our newest merch article (available on Bandcamp) – beautiful handcrafted beer coasters made by none other than our keyboard player, Torgeir. Check them out!

Exercises in Style – No. 70: Anglisismar (Anglicisms)

This particular variation was written back in 2004 by Jarle. The title connotates to «something REALLY British!», and although there were several possible styles to choose from (skiffle, John Dowland, Edward Elgar, The Beatles, progressive rock, different styles of folk music etc. etc.), Jarle eventually settled on the phenomenon called the British Trad Jazz Revival, which started just after WWII, and grew really huge in the 50s and 60s. And even in 2022, trad jazz is still a huge thing on the British Isles.

The trad jazz revival scene had its three B’s, namely Acker Bilk (clarinet), Kenny Ball (trumpet) and Chris Barber (trombone). To match that, we were so incredibly lucky to get hold of the three legendary M’s: Morten Barrikmo (clarinet), Marius Henriksen-Haltli (trumpet) and Marius Tobias Hoven (trombone)!

The tune is completely through-composed, but our fabulous horn players managed to make every line sound fresh and spontaneous through their performance. We sincerely thank you for contributing to the project!

Exercises in Style – No. 27: Insisterande (Insisting)

In 2021, the Norwegian band Panzerpappa announced a 5-year project to interpret musically all the 99 short texts contained in the book Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau.

This is the 14th exercise which the band has released so far.

For this exercise which is called Insistence, Steinar, who wrote the piece, early on started to think of the French avant-rock group Art Zoyd which for more than 4 decades have been masters in blending electronic music and acoustic instruments into a forceful and undoubtedly insistent expression. This exercise is in many ways a tribute to the legacy of Art Zoyd.

This exercise was also a perfect opportunity for Steinar to utilize a wide range of high-quality sampled instruments from the British company Soniccouture.

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 🙂