Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi

Opera Pop. A Music Album Condemned to Meaning

Norwegian Academy of Music


Sound sample from a pre-project. Source: “Who Is Your Daddy? Who Is Your Mommy?” from the album Soundtrack of an Imaginary Opera Composer: Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi The musicians: Elisabeth Holmertz, voice; Martina Starr-Lassen, voice; Ørjan Hartveit, voice; Erik Håkon Halvorsen, synth; Owen Weaver, percussion; Jutta Morgenstern, violin; Agnese Rugevica, cello.

The research project is realised within the field of musical composition. The aim is to compose music that interprets and takes part in historical myths that are present in opera. These are part of our collective understanding of this world. The aim is to create new interpretations and perspectives that reveal the characters and narratives as not universal, but defined by certain groups of people, and that they are gendered. The music will not be composed as a new opera, but “opera songs” presented as an album.

The research will also implement ideas that are present in popular music. Observing opera and popular music next to each other artistically allows to combine expressions from the domains that are often called «high culture» and «mainstream culture». The social hierarchies within opera and pop are studied on a similar level. The project will operate within a ‘new’ musical genre called “opera pop”.

One of the main standpoints of this project is that music is never neutral or innocent, but always filled with codes and associations that a composer engages in dialogue with. In this sense music is «condemned to meaning», and a composer is condemned to make choices in relation to the society already present within the musical material.

During this project new compositional methods are developed and employed, particularly designed to include perspectives of the social world that each of us belongs to. Examples of these methods are “musical dumpster diving” and “denaturalisation”. The research will also approach questions of the values and financial structures within art music and popular music. Could participation in popular music bring contemporary music closer to the society, being heard by larger audiences, or is something lost in the process?

Rebecka Sofia Ahvenniemi is a PhD research fellow at the Norwegian Academy of Music, at the department of Composition, Music Theory and Music Technology. Most of Rebecka’s music is written score music, often combining acoustic instruments with electronic mediums. In many of her musical works, as well as research and writing, she engages in questions that concern culture and society on a larger scale. Rebecka’s music has been performed internationally in most Nordic countries, USA, Canada, and UK.


Rebecka is educated both in musical composition and philosophy. She has studied these fields at the University of Bergen, the University of Helsinki, Ferie Universitet Berlin, and Columbia University. She finished her doctoral degree in philosophy in the fall 2021 with the thesis Musical Composition as Lingering Reflection. Exploring the Critical Potential of Music. Further, she has taught composition at the Grieg academy in Bergen and Musikkhøgskolen in Oslo. She has also been a teacher at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen.


In 2022 Rebecka released her 2nd album: Soundtrack of an Imaginary Opera. This is a pre-project for her research at the Norwegian Academy of Music. She composes mixtures of musical genres and explores social codes present in opera and popular music.




Artistic Research Forum (abstract)