Rökkur is the Icelandic word for twilight, the hour when shadows fall, a time of transition, ambiguity, and magic. The album Rökkur documents the meeting of Norwegian composer-vocalist-sound artist Maja S. K. Ratkje and the Icelandic chamber ensemble Nordic Affect – baroque violinist and artistic director Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir, baroque violist Marie Stockmarr Becker, baroque cellist Hanna Loftsdóttir, and harpsichord player Guðrún Óskarsdóttir.
When rökkur fell in pre-electric times, it was a space for storytelling, reading, yarn spinning, singing, or even a dreamlike state of dozing. Ratkje and Nordic Affect’s Rökkur transforms this Icelandic concept into a vivid sonic journey that constantly shifts between the familiar, the atmosphere from the past, and the yet-to-be-imagined future. Ratkje blends her extended vocals, poetry reading, various effects and live sampling and electronics with the delicate Baroque instrumental sound of Nordic Affect. Rökkur was recorded live at Øra Studio in Trondheim and its music was composed by Ratkje, except for two pieces by Ratkje’s partner, Frode Haltli, and her daughter, Frida Haltli, and three pieces were composed in collaboration with Nordic Affect.
The open and inclusive musical range of Rökkur is remarkable and unpredictable. Ratkje and Nordic Affect visit experimental, electro-acoustic sound-oriented music, often associated with contemporary music, free improvised and noise music and make these uncommon experiments sound natural and organic. The album revolves around quotes from the poem «Love (III)» by English English poet and priest George Herbert (1593-1633), who was associated with metaphysics. Ratkje and Nordic Affect find a resonant sonic palette that corresponds with Herbert’s compassionate and loving world of transcendent reality that sounds at the same time ancient and futuristic.
Ratkje and Nordic Affect also rearrange playfully Ratkje’s composition for the Norwegian National Ballet in Jo Strømgren’s choreography, sketch a meditative and ambient soundscape, adapt Norwegian poet Karin Haugane’s aching and touching poem «Du som fremmed», dive into collective improvisation that references a Scandinavian ‘lokk’ herding call, and offer a touching lullaby. Each piece in the magical Rökkur journey reveals more brilliant and imaginative sonic marvels.
Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir (baroque violin), Marie Stockmarr Becker (baroque viola), Hanna Loftsdóttir (baroque cello), Guðrún Óskarsdóttir (harpsichord), Maja S. K. Ratkje (vocals, various objects, live electronics)