The Great Learning Orchestra:
A4 Concert at The Artist's House

photos: ingvar loco nordin

The Great Learning OrchestraA4 Concert at Konstnärshuset
(The Artists’ House), Stockholm, 18 December 2004

2 CDs. Durations: CD 1: 67:14, CD 2: 64:48
Recording by Bebe Risenfors
(Some of the pieces were recorded elsewhere)

Bebe Risenfors [contrabass]
Leif Jordansson [electric guitar, acoustic guitar]
Anders Erkeus [violin]
Thomas Halling [trombone]
Gunnar Rosengren [bandoneon]
Ingegerd Harvard [accordion]
Björn Eriksson [clarinet]
Lily Bigestans [vocals]
Bengt Ernryd [flugelhorn]
Jonna Sandell [violin]
Pelle Halvarsson [cello]
Lisa Ullén [melodica]
Miya Cuzner [flute]
Nisse Personne [tenor saxophone]
Robin McGinley [cello]
Johnny Wartel [tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone]
Johan E Andersson [percussion]
Sven Bjerhall [acoustic guitar]
Lars Braf [alto saxophone]
Andreas Hedwall [trombone]

01. Hugh Shrapnel: Twilight Music [5:36]:
02. Johan Boberg: Buddhatone [7:10]
03. Johan E. Andersson: A Piece For Voices [4:40]
04. Johannes Bergmark: Kärlek [6:00]
05. Paul Burnell: All the Same [2:50]
06. Robin McGinley: No Sound Is Innocent [7:16]
07. Nils Personne: Broken Silence [15:53]
08. Peter Schuback: L'heure du Panurge [9:27]
09. Lisa Ullén: Logo [7:52]
10. Tony Harris: FIB [6:32]
11. Bebe Risenfors: Your Name a Melody [6:57]
12. Leif Jordansson: Anthem reconstructed [10:34]
13. Cornelius Cardew: Schooltime Special [9:31]
14. Johan E. Andersson: Piece for Ensemble [14:34]
15. Matti Bye: A4 [0:38]
16. Pelle Halvarsson: C Major, News [6:14]
17. Leif Jordansson: Hommage à John Lennon [9:23]

Listen at LastFm!

Leif Jordansson of The Great Learning Orchestra once formulated the A4 idea: inspiring people of all walks of life – composers and non-composers, musicians and non-musicians – to write A4 compositions for the orchestra, laying down the one, simple rule that the score should fit onto an A4 sheet of paper. The freedom of this venture is that any kind of score is welcomed, such as verbal instructions, graphic scores or scores made out in traditional notations – as long as the content is restrained to the area of an A4 sheet!

One of the A4 scores

This call for submissions has resulted in an overflow of creative musical ideas; some very conceptual, others fully notated orchestral scores, and some arriving in the guise of beautiful poems. Known composers as well as artists from other disciplines and simply interested people have contributed.

A4 concerts have been held in Gothenburg in August 2004, as well as in Stockholm’s Culture House in September 2004 and The Artists’ House in Stockholm December 2004 – which this text deals with – and in the form of a workshop, a concert and an exhibition at Fylkingen, Stockholm in May 2006, intended for students aged about 14 – 18.

The entrance to the concert hall

The concert that this text focuses on was held in KonstnärshusetThe Artists’ House – in central Stockholm, not far from Kungsträdgården – The King’s Garden - on 18th December 2004. The entire event was recorded by GLO member Bebe Risenfors on DAT, resulting in two preliminary CDs that exist in raw format, i.e. not edited to any great length, but still very interesting and revealing.

The Artists’ House is a beautiful place immersed with creative vibrancy, and the hall a few stories up fitted the aim of The Great Learning Orchestra perfectly. You arrived up those marble steps, as the view opened up through tall, open doors into the large and high hall, light of day falling in through a ceiling partly constructed as a light shaft made of window glass. As has become common practice, the day’s version of the Great Learning Orchestra was seated in the middle of the room, right under the light shaft, and the walls all around the room were hung with A4 sheets: A4 scores! Right close to the orchestra a music stand was placed, and the score of what ever was played at the moment was placed on the stand, by the principle “now playing”.

A representative of the orchestra – its artistic director Leif Jordansson – told the people of the audience that they were free to move around the hall during the concert, to study the scores along the walls or to hear and see the players from different vantage points. Though this is highly unusual for concertgoers to hear, some of them took Jordansson’s words ad notam and moved leisurely around the orchestra, through the sound. I moved around the orchestra with my camera.

I will talk a little about some of the works played. The choice is purely random, and is not guided by any personal taste or at all referring to any certain personal standards of quality or anything.

Back cover of one of the CDs

Hugh Shrapnel: Twilight Music

A little child calls out in a corner of the hall right as the music begins in a gradually spreading, hovering mist composed of wind and strings and high-pitch vocal drones. Gray, rattlesnake-rattling percussive events imply a greater space than first conceived, so the field of perception thus expands beyond the moss-laden stone walls, while a light from within (the music or yourself) or from a rising sun illuminates the musical fog in a kind of religious, relaxed awe, wherein nobody is scared of life or death or the bardo states in between.
The music recedes almost imperceptibly into the silence from whence it rose. Very beautiful.

Johan E. Andersson:
A Piece For Voices

Gentle as the dawn, this vocal music seeps in like the light of morning through the cracks between the planks of a wall of an old shed by the river where you’ve been spending the night after a day of canoeing. It is the light of reality, which is always mystical and unexplainable, originating in the nuclear processes of our closest star, lighting up inside our brain as a chain reaction of electricity, conveying cosmic occurrences into brainwave patterns of beauty.
The mixed GLO choir makes sideways sweeps through the volumes and pitches, extending a pattern of colored threads through your mind and conscience; yarn colored with vegetable dye spanning the geometrical planes of, unraveling a place and time called YOU, called ME, crossing paths. The layers of voices travel softly but firmly, in no hurry at all, knowing that time is a false concept; just a crutch for sentient beings who keep traveling body-vehicle after body-vehicle, in the quest for enlightenment. It is a great learning!

Bebe Risenfors, Nils Personne, Leif Jordansson

Paul Burnell: All the Same

This is one of the more thoroughly scored pieces of the concert, i.e., traditionally scored, all the notes written out, and a text as well, for the vocals.
It’s a jazzy, marching little piece, humorous and rhythmical, yes, great fun – which is why it ends in the musicians’ spontaneous laughter!

It kicks off with a wind tutti, which is followed by a swinging, swaying finger snapping, where after the entire orchestra, with drums, brass and voices add up and join forces in this short and fun little piece. The trumpet excels in some flowering, soloist outbreaks, as the bass-line lays down a foundation in collaboration with the drums. The text sections are enjoyable, delivered as where they catchphrases or slogans:

Here there, all the same / love hate, all the same / young old, all the same / in out, all the same / you me, all the same / them us, all the same/… and so forth!


Robin McGinley: No Sound Is Innocent

It begins with coughing, either because someone coughed and others caught on, or because it is prescribed in the score – but I suppose, as the title says; no sound is innocent, and can therefore be brought to a score-like identity in this music!

Robin McGinley at right, explaining the piece

Instruments and voices – and bird whistles – catch on. The coughs reappear irregularly, some members indulge in ingenious vocal adventures, and suddenly someone screams bravo! and claps her hands, as others join in, clapping and cheering, even as far as into a number of exclaimed bravissimos! Yes, all these sounds are guilty, no doubt, and not one of them is innocent. They’ve all entered the provable world of audibility.

A very free piece like this – with a hell-hound mentality built in to it – invariably slides into a free expression of noise, but in this case a trombone inside this free flow of noise storms right into a nonconformist classic called
I Have Dreamt of A City Above the Clouds, almost bringing tears to your eyes, as you can make out the Kingdom of Heaven in the maze somewhere, approaching like a Salvationist with brass buttons and a chic hat!

An electric guitar paints the sky in un-deciphered figures. Tempi are mixed, as are slingshot shreds of melodies, moving fall-leaf-like. When applause ends the piece, you can never be sure whether or not they are an integral part of the composition!

The Great Learning Orchstra of 18th December 2004

Lisa Ullén: Logo

Ullén’s entry moves in with an atmosphere mimicking American late night, Humphrey Bogart jazz bars of the 50s, as wind instruments layer each other in various colorations, laid-back, loose, elastic – in intellectualisms that inspire the reading of Jean-Paul Sartre and J. M. G. Le Clézio.
Lisa Ullén’s piece is very different from other entries of this set, bringing an unwarranted jazz sophistication into the blessed Artist House December afternoon avant-gardism.

Pelle Halvarsson by Miya Cuzner's GLO banner

Leif Jordansson: Anthem Reconstructed

This is a stretching, layered, glaring extension of take-turn wind drones and a plucked, silvery guitar, appearing sparse like the sharp knots of barbed wire through mist. You get caught in these languishing proceedings, the way you succumb to love or a holy illness.
The music spreads like subdued light inside your veins, taking up residence in liver, kidneys and heart, finally lighting up inside your skull with overwhelming beatitude, playing out childhood scenes that were forgotten, making it all clear to you once again. This is the time to sit cross-legged and listen, your mind lofty, your body heavy with Tellus gravity while Conscience soars and returning memories fly in like a flock of seagulls, circling on the salty wind from the sea.
Extremely beautiful is this music.

Back cover of one of the CDs from GLO's Artist House concert