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Øyvind Torvund: The Exotica Album
8:00pm, June 6, 2022 @ The Freight & Salvage, Berkeley

A chorus of Disney-fied whistling leads into the synthesized sounds of jungle animals, as impossibly lush, sensual strings transport us to the South Seas setting of some corny Hollywood movie or coconut-flavored TV ad. What might be chirping bird calls (sounding suspiciously like short-wave radio signals), and an insistent peck on the piano gives way to demented percussion, spiritual sax, and an Alpine brass fanfare that’s drowned out by electrical storms of yowling distortion.

Øyvind Torvund’s The Exotica Album re-imagines in collage form the chunky edifice of those Fifties and Sixties popular styles categorized variously as ‘exotica’ or ‘lounge,’ together with a wealth of historical reference points, from early electronic composition to cartoon music. But rather than the flip pastiche or cracking-a-nut-with-a sledgehammer cynicism that often characterizes high culture or avant-garde encounters with popular forms, Torvund’s attitude to his sources appears genuinely knowledgeable and affectionate. The result, rather than being a dry, academic-sounding rehash of pre-existing sources, provides a continuously diverting listening experience where the rate of change never lets up.

Torvund’s The Exotica Album was performed by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Eric Dudley, conductor, with saxophone soloist Larry Ochs and synthesizer virtuoso Jørgen Træen at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA on Monday, June 6, 2022 at 8pm. The performance was followed by a discussion between the composer and Charles Amirkhanian, Executive & Artistic Director of Other Minds.

Image above © Vyacheslav Argenberg.

The Exotica Album Program Cover

Click the image to download the full concert program.

About Øyvind Torvund

Alongside regular musical studies in Oslo and Berlin, the Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund played guitar in rock and improvising groups, and his music assembles disparate materials, inconsistent attitude: sounds from rock or from everyday life (or nature) occurring in chamber music, simplicity in a complex context, improvisation coexisting with exact notation, music combined with film or projections, seriousness in counterpoint with humor. Raw melodic schemes may come from Purcell, the infill from the detritus of electronic distortion or street noise. Categories are split open or blurred, habits unbent. To quote Iggy Pop: “The neon forest is my home.”

Torvund himself puts it like this:
“My chief concern is keeping an open approach as to what may function as the constitutive parts of a work of music, and trying to combine several kinds and levels of elements. … Contrasts, juxtapositions and completely opposite perspectives interest me because I believe that there is a lot happening around and beneath the ordinary musical framework, and a lot of unconscious forces to be explored.”

-Paul Griffiths

Audio Samples from The Exotica Album

Other Examples from Øyvind Torvund

About the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players

San Francisco Contemporary Music Players is the Northern California’s most longstanding and largest new music ensemble, comprised of twenty-two highly skilled musicians. For more than 50 years, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players have created innovative and artistically excellent music and are one of the most active ensembles in the United States dedicated to contemporary music. Holding an important role in the regional and national cultural landscape, the Contemporary Music Players are a 2018 awardee of the esteemed Fromm Foundation Ensemble Prize, and a ten-time winner of the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. The Players have performed more than 1,300 works by over 600 composers and the organization has commissioned over 80 major works including pieces from composers such as John Adams, John Cage, Earle Brown, Olly Wilson, Michael Gordon, Du Yun, Myra Melford, and Julia Wolfe. The Contemporary Players have been presented by leading cultural festivals and concert series including San Francisco Performances, Los Angeles Monday Evening Concerts, Cal Performances, the Stern Grove Festival, the Festival of New American Music at CSU Sacramento, the Ojai Festival, and France’s prestigious MANCA Festival. The Contemporary Music Players nourish the creation and dissemination of new works through world-class performances, commissions, and community and education programs. The Players perform the music of composers from across cultures and stylistic traditions who are creating a vast and vital 21st-century musical language featuring the work of iconic and emerging composers while shining a spotlight on works for large ensemble and California artists.

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