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.
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
This particular exercise is set out for a 10-piece brass ensemble (4 trumpets, horn, 3 tenor trombones, bass trombone and tuba).
It was written fairly quickly by Jarle last year, when we needed a “jingle” for some of our Stiløvingar-related videos. Its a relief to finally get it out of the midi world and into the realm of audio – performed by humans 🙂
The piece was recorded on February 12th, by the wonderful brass ensemble at Unge Talenter, Barratt Due Institute of Music, led by Elin Holmen Kurverud and Antonio José Vera Escribano. The musicians are in the age range of 13 to 18 y.o. Thank you so much for your dedication, effort and brilliant performance!
Jonathan, Marie, Liisa, Malin – trumpet
Ingeborg, Håvard, Jenny – french horn
Maria, Aksel, Marius – trombone
Odin, Eivind – tuba
Jarle – conductor
Anders – sound recording
The piece is written in a style that (well, maybe) could pass as intro music for old newsreels from the 1920’s and 1930’s. And the video is of course inspired by the famous “News On The March”-sequence from Citizen Kane.
We are happy to present the next chapter in the Stiløvingar saga, the 11th track so far and the first one in 2022. This time it is variation #31, Preteritum (Past), which is interpreted musically. Expressing emotions of sorrow and longing, it seems fitting to dedicate this one to the brave people of Ukraine .
Please feel free to check out all 11 variations already available on Bandcamp (https://panzerpappa.bandcamp.com) and stay tuned for more variations in the weeks to come .
Magne has been a dear friend of Panzerpappa from the early days, and it’s very exciting to have him as a participant on one of our tunes.
The early sketches for this exercise came about almost by accident. Anders had bought a new acoustic guitar and wanted to try out the open-G tuning favored by many blues and slide guitarists. Playing around with this unfamiliar tuning it was inevitable that he would try to play the main theme from “Stiløvingar” (Exercises in Style).
In the beginning he stumbled and frowned, but slowly everything started to come together. The sound of the guitar with an open-G tuning and how the theme slowly evolved by the new constraints started to bring up images of rural areas of the American South during the great depression: hillbillies, rednecks and barrels and jugs with moonshine.
After a while, Anders realized that this could be a proper part of Stiløvingar and he started to leaf through the book to find an exercise where those particular images could fit. He ended up with “Bondsk”, meaning “country yokel or hillbilly” according to the dictionary (Queneau’s original French exercise is called “Paysan”, but was replaced with “West Indies” in the English translation. The Norwegian interpretation is closer to the original).
He recorded a couple of versions of the rhythm guitar together with fretless bass only a few days later since he wanted to keep the spontaneity of the original approach. This first draft was allowed to ferment slowly for several months, and then in the late autumn of 2021 it was time to distill the mash.
First, some of the original guitars were siphoned, and Jarle added a couple of tracks of banjo, slide guitar and lap steel. The final ingredient that was added to the blend, before mixing and distillation, was no other than Jarle’s father, the incomparable Magne Storløkken, contributing on harmonica.
Torgeirs grandfather, Haakon Sørbye, studied electrical engineering and was a radio amateur. In 1940, in the beginning of WWII, he was recruited as a telegraph operator for the secret intelligence service station in Trondheim, Skylark B.
The station sent three times a week, all in code: military information on troop movements and ship calls, military and merchant vessels and other German activities. He was eventually arrested and sent to several German prison camps.
In Dachau, he managed to assemble a working radio receiver with radio parts that other prisoners had found. Among other things, the radio received Norwegian-language broadcasts from London and the Norwegian prisoners were kept informed about the course of the war in the winter and spring.
After the war, Haakon continued his studies before he worked years developing the radio line production in Norway.
This variation, written by Jarle back in 2004, takes its inspiration from the 1960s third-stream jazz in general, and Charles Mingus in particular. He set it out for a proper big band (5 saxes, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, piano, guitar, bass, drums), but the problem was finding a band that would be willing to rehearse and record it without any kind of monetary compensation 🙂
Through his long-time friend and bandmate in the jazz quartet Made in Corea, Erik Jøkling, Jarle was connected with Eirik Gaaseide, founder and leader of the Ett Fett Big Band, one of the top semi-professional bands in Norway. They wanted to give it a shot, so on a rainy October day in 2004, Jarle got on a train to Lillestrøm, armed with a full set of parts and a score, an expensive Shure stereo microphone and a portable DAT-recorder.
In three hours, the band rehearsed the piece and recorded four takes. The released version is an edit with the best segments from each of the takes.
The sound quality is a bit raw, but the performance is great, and on a personal level for Jarle, this particular recording is so special that it just HAD to be a part of the Stiløvingar-project. The reason being that this very session was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration. In the 17 years since this inaugural meeting, Jarle has arranged and conducted several projects with the Ett Fett Big Band – great examples would be: The music of Steely Dan, Gino Vanelli, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Tribal Tech and, in October this year, a project dedicated to the music of Allan Holdsworth.
When arranging the piece, we wanted to create a nagging feeling – almost like the musical variety of putting the finger repeatedly in someone’s chest to make them get the point. We imagined the musical equivalent of insisting, as having no embellishments or expression of musical feeling, only the raw rhythm, melody, and harmony.
Every instrument is electronic – soft synths or hardware synths – and there is almost no dynamic variation. There is also a very dry ambiance so that nothing distracts from the actual sound.
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 now 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.