Rebekka Karijord cultivates a majestic symphonic setting – interpreted by the London Contemporary Orchestra at AIR Studios – for Margreth Olin’s profoundly reflective film “Songs of Earth” to rest within.
With director Margreth Olin’s 85-year-old father serving as the cinematic guide through Songs of Earth, the film promises from the very start to get up close and personal. But not in that usual documentarian way. Songs of Earth rather employs the breathtaking immensity of nature and the harmonics of earth herself to reach into the center of that most intimate of all terrains. The human spirit. And now, the soundtrack is available as a rich experience on its own.
The process of scoring Songs of Earth was unconventional right from the get-go, owing in part to the close collaborative relationship between Karijord and the film’s sound designer, Tormod Ringnes and field recordings by Andreas Lindberg Svensson. Joining the team on site during the filming, Svensson used contact and underwater microphones to capture the stunning sounds of nature itself. Once the effervescent, eerie, and utterly realistic music of glaciers, melting ice, rivers, frozen lakes, and streams reached Karijord’s ears she began to meditate upon how she could translate these sounds into the body of orchestral instruments. In other words: How does a woodwind sing like a melting glacier? Can a double bass resonate like an ancient spruce tree? Does an avalanche thunder through the brass of a tuba or wooden body of a viola?
Having reached a few conclusions, Karijord experimented with various soloists at her studio. She wanted to test the limits, unearthing how musical instruments could emulate nature. How brass and wood and steel could allow earth to emanate from their bodies. The techniques she uncovered were used in the writing of the score, and then taken to AIR Studios to be run through the majesty that is the London Contemporary Orchestra. “LCO was definitely the right orchestra for Songs of Earth. Undoubtedly one of the best in the world at these very intuitive, cinematic, extended techniques. They arrived at that precise place I wanted to reach with this score,” Karijord reflects.
Overall, Karijord was determined to communicate simplicity with this soundtrack so that it wouldn’t prevail over the imagery. She achieved this by keeping the origin of each tone closely linked to nature, rather than asking nature to emulate the sounds of the instruments. The resultant experience trains the human ear to absorb music in a whole new way. “When I watch the film now, I have trouble differentiating the field recordings from the studio instruments. This creates a fantastic synergy, a sonic poem on the indivisible nature between the human and natural worlds.”
The fact that Margreth Olin and Rebekka Karijord have worked together for over 15 years, and both claim Norwegian soil as home ground, plays no small role in this remarkable result. The extensive level of trust and freedom between the two women can be heard within the instrumentation. Take the flute being played without its mouthpiece, blown into much like a bottle. The result is otherworldly, a massive moaning ache of a tone, uncontrollable while still sticking to its lines. Much like the deep trust coursing through the relationship of these two Scandinavian women, which grants Karijord the freedom to follow her creativity to its farthest edge.
Songs of Earth, featuring executive producers Wim Wenders and Liv Ullman, is a moving meditation, a deep journey seamlessly traveling between both sonic and visual landscapes. Listened to on its own, this spell-binding soundtrack promises to awaken the human spirit from the inside out, reminding each one of us of that undeniable connection between the nature out there and the nature within.
Original Score by: Rebekka Karijord
Orchestra: The London Contemporary Orchestra recorded at Air Studios, London
Hanna Ekström – violin
Linnea Olsson – cello
Nils Berg – woodwinds
Vilhem Bromander – Double Bass
Conductor: Hugh Brunt
Film Directed by: Margreth Olin
Sound Design: Tormod Ringnes
Field Recordings: Andreas Lindberg Svensson
Score Mixer: Fionna Cruickshank