Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862) was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher, best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay «Civil Disobedience», an argument in favor of peaceful disobedience against an unjust state.
Norwegian, Trondheim-based jazz vocalist-songwriter Heidi Skjerve, known from the experimental vocal ensemble Trondheim Voices, composed chamber music for passages from Thoreau’s Journal and his lecture «Walking: or, The Wild» for a string quartet and piano, with musicians from Trondheim Solistene and Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, and herself on vocals. Skjerve added field recordings of wind turbines taken from the disputed wind farm at Storheia i Fosen, the largest onshore wind power project in Europe, and forest sounds of birdlife, bumblebees, water and trudging in Estenstadmarka in Trondheim and in Vemundvik i Namsos.
Clearly, Skjerve identifies with Thoreau’s immediate joy of sauntering in the woods, enjoying the life-affirming sounds of birds and frogs, and experiencing how humans take liberties with nature. She thinks that these ideas are still relevant, almost two centuries after they were written, especially in Norway with its magnificent natural scenery. Thoreau wrote that «nature always possesses a certain sonorousness…» and Skjerve transforms his mindfulness consciousness, his poetic observations and insightful escapades from the industrial expansion of the 19th century into a serene cycle of songs.
These songs navigate gently and thoughtfully between genre-bending impressionistic instrumental segments to traditional, romantic song formats and open soundscapes with improvised elements. Skjerve’s crystalline, warm voice and her unique gift for conveying concise poetic and philosophical ideas in delicate songs are at the center of this album. This beautiful album was recorded live at Trondheim’s Sverresborg Church Center in April 2022 and January 2023. «This stillness, solitude, wildness of nature / Is a kind of thoroughwort, or boneset to my intellect / This is what I go out to seek», Thoreau wrote. Skjerve sounds like she realized this noble quest. She concluded this album with Thoreau’s prophetic warning, with the disturbing, humming sound of the wind turbines: «But most men, it seems to me, do not care for Nature / And would sell their share in all her beauty… It is for the very reason / That some do not care for those things / That we need to continue / To protect all from / The vandalism of a few».
Heidi Skjerve (vocals), Tora Stølan Ness (violin), Rannveig Ryeng (violin), Karoline Vik Hegge (viola), Kari Nesdal Sandnes (cello), Finn Magnus Fjell Hjelland (piano)