Peter Gabriel and the Polar Music Prize

31 August, 2009; 16:38 1 comment

Peter Gabriel is one of this year’s winners of the Polar Music Prize, which was presented today at Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. In honor of the occasion, here’s a video of Peter Gabriel performing his song Games without Frontiers while riding a Segway Personal Transporter:

Other winners of this year’s Polar Music Prize were José Antonio Abreu, a Venezuelan pianist and music educator, along with his humanitarian organization El Sistema.

The Polar Music Prize, while not quite the Nobel, is still quite prestigious in the music world. It was founded by the late ABBA manager Stig Anderson. Like the Nobel prizes, the Polar Music Prizes are decided by a committee of Swedish “experts” in music, ranging widely in styles, traditions, and roles.

Categories: awards, music

Route for This Year’s Hike

10 July, 2009; 14:56 Leave a comment

This year’s backpacking objective. The blue line is the route, the yellow line is the Norway-Sweden border.

Padjelanta 2009

The route starts and ends on the Norwegian side at Sulitjelma, then takes us in a counter-clockwise loop around Sulitjelmaisen, glacier covering the mountain Suliskongen. Along the way, we walk along the alpine lake of Laomejávrre; southeast into Sweden to the mountain huts at Lairostugan, which border the larger lake of Bieskehávrre; turn north and up into the highlands next to the glacier; then down into the valley of the river Stalojåkkå.

From there, if we have time, maybe we’ll branch away northeast for a round-trip northeast to Staloluokta, at the edge of the huge lake Virihaure, which was our starting point for last year’s hike and where it might be possible to buy some fresh or smoked arctic char from the Sámi people living there. After we return to the valley, we continue southwest back into Norway. We’ll try to make a day trip somewhere along here up to see the even bigger glacier Blåmannsisen (“Ice of the Blue Man”), which is the fifth-largest glacier in mainland Norway. Finally, we continue southwest to Sulitjelma to finish the tour.

We’ve planned 7 1/2 days of hiking, and with travel up there and back by train and bus, I’ll be gone from July 19th to 28th. Up there, there’s no phone service, let alone internet. Time to get away.

Categories: recreation, travel

Your U.S. Senator from Illinois…er, I mean Minnesota…

7 July, 2009; 14:47 1 comment

AlFr-Sen. Paul SimonWoo hoo! Liberal policy-wonk with a sense of humor and a funny face Al Franken will be sworn in today! Finally he’s in the real Senate — not just on TV.

Categories: politics

Pop Orchestra in the Cellar of the Stockholm School of Social Work

8 June, 2009; 17:42 Leave a comment

Sander Screencap One of the best things I’ve managed to get involved with since moving to Sweden is the Stockholm Academic Orchestra (click here for an English auto-translation), a group of about 30 amateur musicians that put on 4-5 concerts per year, usually renting out a little church in the south borough. Back in December, I found out through a work connection that they were fresh out of trombones, and I was looking for a new music project, so it came at the perfect time. What’s more, they were preparing to perform a piece by Sibelius, one of my favorite composers — his Violin Concerto.

Since then, we’ve had two formal concerts — first in February, the Sibelius violin concerto featuring a fantastic guest soloist, Sergei Bolkholvets, and then in May, a mix of Debussy, a concerto for bondeone by Piazzolla, and collaborations with four local pop musicians (AK von Malmborg, Mikael Sundin, Anna Järvinen, and some-time [ingenting] singer Christopher Sander). This is one of the great things about this orchestra: they have some deep and rich connections with musicians of all types across Stockholm, meaning that they can put on a show that mixes powerful traditional pieces with adventurous collaborations.

This past Friday we had a paid gig — playing a few pieces for the graduation ceremony of the Stockholm School of Social Work, including one of Christopher Sander’s songs from [ingenging], Bergochdalbanan (The Rollercoaster). Then afterward, the fun began: doing a video recording for one of Swedish Television’s online blogs of us backing up Christopher on Bergochdalbanan. If the weather hadn’t been so windy, we would have set up on the lawn outside of the School of Social Work, but instead we grabbed our instruments and sheet music and were led through a narrow door underneath the stairs, down another set of stairs into the cellar of the building. Then a right turn, through another door, and into a long corridor with grey concrete walls, fluorescent lighting, and pipes and wires lining the ceiling and left-hand wall, stretching all the way down the length of the building. This is where we were to play.

It took some time to get settled into positions that felt at least reasonably comfortable to play as a group — this was a far cry from the layout we were used to, and it takes a moment to put aside those habits of being near to certain instruments and far from others. Eventually the cellos were set up with some chairs, and we all found one way or another to place our sheet music within sight. As the videographers got their portable gear calibrated, we did our own calibrations — small groups of individuals playing a few bars from the song, or improvising a klezmer ditty, one way or another exploring the acoustics of this corridor. It was amazingly easy to hear each other — but afterall, the walls were very hard, and the corridor narrow, so where else would the sound go, but into each other’s ears? Then we started playing for real.

We did two takes. The song begins with an all-string introduction alternating between subdominant and dominant, next highlighted by some woodwind melodies, then with the brass up to a final dominant. It’s resolved by Christopher Sanders’s unamplified vocals in the verse, accompanied by his bandmate playing glockenspiel this time instead of the normal piano part. I actually don’t play much, but when I do play, it’s fun — basically a bass trombone part, providing the lower-end foundation during the powerful second refrain, so I get to really belt it out in the low range when the time is right. When I wasn’t playing, I was listening — and noticing that because of where I was standing, I was near instruments that I don’t normally hear so well — in particular, the cellos and the lead 2nd violin, playing some lovingly delivered counter-melodies and delicate pizzicatos. At the same time, with such effective acoustics, I could hear sounds from all the way down the corridor. The videographer made his way up and down, slowly weaving his way between us and somehow managing to catch some key instruments at the right time.

But if you’ve read this far, then why not see for yourself? SVT has uploaded the video to their blog, so just click here and check it out. Now you know the backstory on how we ended up in such an industrial setting. By the way, you can catch a glimpse of me hiding behind the double-bass — mostly, you can just see my slide.

Categories: music

Study of Temporary Public Spaces: Ice Walking

8 March, 2009; 21:20 Leave a comment

Just a 2-minute walk from home is Brunnsviken, a bay of the Baltic harbor that is so cut-off, it feels more like a lake, and it freezes over just as easily as a lake. On a cold, sunny winter day, lakes and channels like these become public spaces in their own right, with people out for some walking, skiing, or skating. Or in some cases, to grab a hot dog.

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Categories: recreation

Submarines of Stockholm

26 February, 2009; 22:27 Leave a comment

Vancouver band New Pornographers was in Stockholm at about this time last year to play at Debaser (great show, by the way!). I guess lead singer A.C. Newman must have had his creative juices flowing on his visit, because now his second solo album came out containing this track (mp3 file, courtesy of his record label).

Categories: music

Stockholm 2010

24 February, 2009; 12:09 Leave a comment

Green Wedges

We’re still getting used to 2009, and it already seems that 2010 is shaping to be a significant year for Stockholm, especially in light of two unrelated announcements today.

First, the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria, planned for summer of 2010, and second, the selection of Stockholm as Europe’s very first “Green Capital” for the year 2010 (followed by Hamburg, Germany, in 2011). The Green Capital designation is especially interesting in light of a planned large-scale exhibition (in Swedish) on sustainable cities by Färgfabriken, a center for arts, culture, and pressing social questions.

(Note: the figure at right shows Stockholm’s “Green Wedges”, areas of greenspace that reach very close to the inner city from several directions. I am lucky to both live and work right next to a couple of these wedges, but in reality, you’re never far from them, wherever you are.)

Categories: culture, environment