Steve Crowther: Can you tell us something of your background?
Stine Solbakken: I am a 23-year-old women from the south of Norway, and I work as a freelance musician and composer. I started playing trumpet at a young age and quickly joined every ensemble I possibly could. Music became a strong passion of mine, and I decided early that this was what I wanted to do with my life. At the age of 19 I served my national service as a bugle and trumpet player in His Majesty the Kings Guard of Norway’s Music Platoon. I learnt so much both musically and about myself and I truly loved my time there. I then went on to study music at Liverpool Institute for Performing Art where I chose performer and composition as my two main modules. It was while studying at LIPA that I discovered my passion for composition. It was something I had always wanted to do, but I never felt like I would be able to. It was a steep learning curve and I got to challenge myself with various compositional styles and with composing for different ensembles. While working on these pieces I found my personal style and sound which I kept developing throughout my time at LIPA.
SC: Can you describe the programmed works to us?
SS: The Piece is called ‘Karl Johan’s Gate’ which is the main street in Norway’s capital, Oslo. It stretches through the whole city centre and leads up to the castle of the Norwegian royal family. This piece reflects a day at ‘Karl Johan’s Gate’ through three sections: The first section is calm and optimistic. It creates a scene where the people are waking up and are making their way through the street on their way to work. The second section is high tempo and full of rhythms, which creates a hectic and stressful scene of the mid-day rush at ‘Karl Johan’s Gate’. The third section is slow and calming and creates the scene when everyone has done what they must do for the day and just enjoy the evening at Oslo’s main street.
SC: Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
SS: I start with picturing a scene or situation and then go on to how I would express that through music. I then choose which instrumentation I think would be best suited for the ‘sound picture’ I have in mind and that will express the emotions the way I want. I prefer to divide my compositions into sections to separate the different scenes/situations, almost like chapters in a book.
SC: Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
SS: I often don’t know the performers of my pieces before I start composing. As I mentioned above, I picture a scene or situations I want to compose music for and then decide on what instrumentation I would be best suited to express the sound I have in mind. I then go on to find an ensemble that would suit the piece.
SC: How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
SS: I would describe my ‘sound world’ as dominated by wind instruments, especially brass. I find that wind instruments are the ones I am drawn to every time I have a new composition in mind, predominantly brass as I love the contrast it can create between a delicate and flowy feel and a more military sound with fanfares. I would say that contrasts like that would describe my ‘sound world’.
SC: What motivates you to compose?
SS: My compositions often start with a small melodic or rhythmic idea that pops up in my head. This thought then develops to longer phrases and I start to imagine what instrumentation would work best for the music. I find it really motivating to see my small idea come to life as a fully piece of music.
SC: Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
SS: John Williams, I truly admire his music and it has inspired me a lot through my career as both a musician and a composer. As of now I have not written much film music, but it is something I find interesting and want to experiment more with. It is in some ways similar to my compositional process where I picture a scene or situation in my head and express it through the music.
SC: If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
SS: I would probably choose Percy Grainger as I really appreciate his work and how he expresses strong emotions through the music. It is really touching, and you can clearly see the visuals in your head while listening to the music. Lincolnshire Posy by Grainger is one of my all-time favorite pieces, and truly shows his talent to express emotions and create an imaginable film for the music.
SC: Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
- Gardemarsj (March of The Guards) by Ole Hvam
- Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger (especially II. Horkstow Grange)
- Vidda by Ole Edvard Antonsen
- Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland
- Gammel Jegermarsj by Frederik Schiöldberg
- The Olympic Spirit by John Williams
- Bruremarsj by Jan Magne Førde
- Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone
If I had to choose just one, it would have to be Gammel Jegermarsj by Frederik Schiöldberg.
SC: …and a book?:
SS: ‘The History of Bees’ by Maja Lunde
It is a part of a book series that elaborate the consequence of global warming through an interesting and touching storyline.
SC: …a film?
SS: Schindler’s List, both for the story and the soundtrack.
SC: … and a luxury item?
SS: My trumpet!