Summary: A research project by Liv Elise Nordskog and Signe Bakke

The two members of this project wished to select the set of songs by Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981) which seemed most suitable for a classically trained soprano and pianist. The 10 “Øverland Songs” were chosen, as they suited the performers’ “classical” ideal and involved a wide range of colours and temperament.


Initially, historical sources, such as literature, recordings, manuscripts, were studied regarding Tveitt’s musical identity. This included looking into his connection with rural sites in the Hardanger region of Norway and his affinity with French sound ideals. Various metaphors, associations, and images of majestic nature were investigated. This was in order to enhance emotional connections with Tveitt’s sound world and to find embodiment of the musical expressions.


A closer study of Øverland’s poems posed a challenge to the initial “Hardanger-nature” line of inquiry, since the poems revolve around existential human questions and emotions. The interconnection of exterior and interior landscapes in Tveitt’s “Øverland Songs” led the project into a new direction.


Tveitt’s scores are sparse and thus open for interpretation. Varying musical character, phrasing and sound qualities were tested, sometimes to extreme limits of tempo and dynamics. Recordings from the NRK radio archives clearly showed how ideals of interpretation have changed since the 1970s. Listening to the recordings raised questions about appropriate use of tempo and time in one’s own interpretation.


This project sought to explore the peculiar and enigmatic artistry of Tveitt by studying the slow, calm, and free declamatory style found in historical recordings. Comparing different choices, discussing recordings and the performer’s artistic freedom became an integral part of the process, as was developing the ability to verbalize intuitive artistic choices. Discussing musical meaning and musical expression may assist musical perceptions, but it can also obstruct or block intuitive processes. Referring to artistic experience and tacit knowledge became a central issue throughout the project.Research results were presented in workshops, lectures, and concerts.

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Foto: Tore Hegdal