1. Dan Warburton in The WIRE magazine No. 267, 2006
on the Folke Rabe/Jan Bark CD: ARGH!
Sometimes an album appears that, to quote Jim O'Rourke's typically enthusiastic liner notes, exposes the path that had been obscured: great composers everywhere, existing in a land before unknown to homebound experimental enthusiasts. Swedish composers Folke Rabe and Jan Bark burst on their local scene in 1962 with Bolos, a raucous blast of four trombones that still sounds as wild and shocking as it did back then. Aided by the succès de scandale, the pair studied with Ligeti, befriended Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley and Morton Subotnick and were invited to San Francisco's Tape Music Center in 1965. Argh! bundles together Bolos with compositions the two wrote individually in the two
decades that followed.
Rabe's Argh!, as its Pop Art comic book title suggests, is a crazy collage of US Top 40 radio station garbage, from jingles and weather forecasts to the smash hits of the day (Petula Clark's Downtown gets a right mauling). What's impressive is how quickly and completely the Swedes assimilated a wide range of influences.
In the space of just three years Bark's electronic music evolved from the chaotic mishmash of Ach Chamberlin (1965), which uses the primitive early sampler of the same name (though how the piece is a homage to Neville Chamberlain is not at all clear), to the dense, highly accomplished Bar, which he completed on his return to Stockholm in 1968.
Rabe's Joe's Harp (1970) is a brief choral work exploring overtone-rich throat singing, recalling both Stockhausen's Stimmung and Ligeti's Lux Aeterna and well able to stand beside both. Equally impressive is 1982's To The Barbender, a 70th birthday present for John Cage in which church bells, car crashes, cuckoo clocks and cows share the bill with Wagner's Liebestod. Meanwhile, Bark's Memoria In Memoriam is a forgotten masterpiece of 70s minimalism scored for voice, organ, piano, cello and percussion. The influence of Riley is evident in the overlapping riff work, but Bark's expansive vocal lines and lush scoring look forward to later minimalists such as John Adams and Michael Torke.
One wonders how the history of contemporary music in Sweden (and elsewhere) might have been different, had this 1975 rehearsal tape seen the light of day back when it was made.
2. Göran Persson in Expressen, Stockholm, March 24, 1995: review of the CD "BASTA"
In the auditory storm centre *)
Mad frolics, bizarre musical games, sadness and seriousness. Folke Rabe
is beseeching his honest pessimism with musical humour.
Pièce for speaking chorus from the very young 60:ies is landing in a horror vison of the destruction of the world even if the text is by the Swedish editor of the Mad Magazine Lasse OMånsson. Fifteen years later**) Rabe is still asking himself: Which are the characteristics of a holocaust process? With electroacoustic means he is describing a slowly progressing Cyclone which is wolfing down everything that is in the way. Yet he is ready to burst out in a virtuoso Shazam for solo trumpet, a musical conjuring trick written for Håkan Hardenberger.
There is, with Rabe, an authentic movement for our time, an involvement for the world in common and for all the vulnerable (well described in Two Stanzas from 1980 for choir to Göran Sonnevis poem). In contrast to many others he is honest enough to compose in the age in which he is living without devoting himself to any musical fashion.
Rondes for male chorus, with fluttering lips, nasal sounds and graphic notation, was well set in the mid 60:ies. Now, in the 90:ies, he is musically correct when mixing a more conventionally classical music with ethnic elements, a lappish yoik, in Nature, Heard and Relatives for French Horn and String orchestra. These are, by the way, available on a (brand new) CD from Phono Suecia along with goodies such as Notturno for mezzo-soprano and woodwinds as well as Basta for trombone solo.
In the Trombone Concerto of 1990, which Christian Lindberg with customary authority brought to success in the Stockholm Concert Hall last Wednesday, he is quoting the old Beatles song Eleanor Rigby and allowing the soloist/individual to play off himself against the orchestra/collective.
Like a rejected jerk in pants too short, Lindberg appeared among the Philharmonics. With various musical tricks he tried to ingratiate himself with the musicians. A mean interpretation would of course be that you, as an individual, always will have to subordinate yourself to the demands of the collective. In fact, it is rather a matter of rescuing humour, human sympathy and warmth. That is, at least, what Folke Rabes music is telling me.
*) The original headline - I stormörat - is a game with words. Stormöga - Storm eye - is the Swedish expression for a storm centre. I stormörat litterarily means In the storm ear.
**) as a matter of fact 23 years /FR/
3. Thomas Millroth in Gränslöst magazine,
No. 2, September 1995:
The necessity of the impossible
/Review of the BASTA CD, Phono Suecia PSCD 67. Compositions by Folke Rabe performed by Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet), Christian Lindberg (trombone), The Swedish Radio Chorus, Sören Hermansson (French horn), Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, Uppsala University Male Chorus, The Bel Canto Chorus./
Another well-drawned composer’s portrait in the Phono Suecia series. Folke Rabe has played many roles and been of great importance in the Swedish music environment. As for myself I have loved him both as an improvisor/interpreter, introducer of contemporary music and as a composer. Other roles have been the music educators’s and the concert manager’s.
The composer’s portrait includes ”Notturno” from 1959 for mezzo soprano and ensemble, set to poems by Edith Södergran, ”Pièce” from 1961 for chorus with text by Lasse O’Månsson, ”Rondes” from 1964 for chorus, ”Two Stanzas” from 1980 for chorus on poems by Göran Sonnevi, ”Basta” from 1982 for trombone solo, ”to love” from 1984 for chorus on poems by e.e. cummings, the electro-acoustical piece ”Cyclone” from 1984, ”Nature, Heard and Relatives” from 1991 for French Horn and orchestra and ”Tintomara” from 1992 for trumpet and trombone.
Consequently the musical idiom is changing from 1959, before he was studying with Karl-Birger Blomdahl. That was a time when serial techniques were dominating and you could say that the music is similar to, or adopts itself to, a picture of the age, although the personal, poetical touch i sunmistakable and partly the same as in the recent works. The play on words and the absurdities in the billowing sound sea of the 1960:ies is also conditioned by the time, but in Rabe’s case it has a mildness in the humour and a warmth in the absurdity.
”Rondes” is built on a graphic score which prescribes nasal sounds, glissandi, footscraping, the whispering of phone numbers etc., but what seems rabid gradually sounds mildly rabeian, even if I, personally, prefer ”Pièce” for speaking chorus (written in collaboration with Lasse O’Månsson) with its choppy sound sea. The choral composer Rabe is exploiting the sonorities out to the utmost softness and refinement.
The compositions for instrumental soloists are filled with virtuoso lyricism as well. There are sparks of bewitching mystery around Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg in ”Tintomara”. The expansive trombone sounds in ”Basta” rise and recede in a certain, extended rhythm which Christian Lindberg is shaping with great power and concentration.
All of the music contains a great warmth and open generosity which emerges from the low voice which wants to mediate but keeps away from gestures and big words. The only composition which steps out of the way and rather is shaping a kind of disintegration, despair and wrath (which could be related to the composer’s perception of the dis/order in the world) is the electro-acoustic piece ”Cyclone” which brings the listener into a maelstrom of sounds, sonorities and abysmal breaks. A movement is coming up which breaks the form in pieces. A piece of disaster or a hopeful utopia? Or a reminder of the fascination in the presence of the utopia, the one which never will be practicable but constantly doomed to destruction but, nevertheless, necessary as a mould for thought and imagination.
Rabe’s music is such an utopia, shaped musically. The necessity of the impossible.
4. PRESS RELEASE from Rönnells Vintage Book Store,
Dec. 12, 2006: Rabe/Bark-CD ”Best of 2006”
The respected, international, New York based magazine Artforum has recently
released its December issue. A number of culture personalities have been invited
to choose their favourites in film, music, literature and "The Artists'
Artists" of the past year, 2006. The sound and light artist Christina
Kubisch has chosen, among her "Best of 2006", the CD "ARGH!"
with music by Folke Rabe and Jan Bark from 1962 through 1982. The CD was published
Kning Disk and Håll Tjäften (Shut up!), a label issued by Rönnell's Vintage Book Store in Stockholm. The production was supported by the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.
This is Artforum's statement on "ARGH!": A rectrospective of the Swedish artists and musicians' pioneering work from the early 1960s to the present. Their music effortlessly combines the electroacoustic and the all-out trashy.
This is what the critics have written about "ARGH!":
”Bark's Memoria In Memoriam is a forgotten masterpiece of 70s minimalism
scored for voice, organ, piano, cello and percussion. /…/ One wonders
how the history of contemporary music in Sweden (and elsewhere) might have
been different, had this 1975 rehearsal tape seen the light of day back when
it was made.”
Dan Warburton, The Wire
"A contemporary classic for your pleasure"
Leif Carlsson, Lira
"A wonderful retrospective of Folke Rabe's and Jan Bark's musical oeuvre."
Magnus Olsson, Sound of Music
"Jan Bark and Folke Rabe are two cool art music men who have been reissued
by Kning Disk in a fabulous selection on the CD "Argh!". Experimental
music from 1965 through 1982 that sounds more fresh than up-to-date postrock
Dan Backman, Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden
"In the beginning there was San Francisco Tape Center. The fountain
of imagination unveiled again. Shower the thought!"
Kjell Alinge, Eldorado (Program on the Swedish Broadcasting)
”Perhaps the most impressive of all the compositions on here, the
minimal yet expansive 'Memoria in Memoriam' /…/ is a breathtaking opus
for voice, cello, piano, organ and percussion that, despite being 17 minutes
always appears to end too early.”
Andreas Knutsen, Other Music
“This is where the past truly becomes present, and continues into the future.”
Jim O'Rourke, in the CD-booklet going with ”ARGH!”
More details under the "Discography" menu above.