EXHALING MUSIC | Documentary (2009) featuring composer Flint Juventino Beppe

Finding success as a
contemporary composer and making music ones liveli-
hood, is probably not easy, and it has not been easy for
Fred Jonny Berg. For as long as he can remember,
he has been working hard for
his breakthrough. He always composes in solitude, and when the piece is finally
on paper, it’s finished. te me nt i s all abo whether on a stage production
or some kind of recording. Fred Jonny Berg has lived in
the village of Rognan, in the
northern part of Norway, his
entire life. He’s found more than enough
peace and quiet here, a
necessity for a composer. It doesn’t matter whether he’s
at the local Chinese restaurant
or at home at the kitchen table; Fred Jonny already has the
music in his head. His compositions are recorded
on paper in peace and quiet. There are different opinions
about Fred Jonny’s music; some find it meaningful,
others not. There have been some setbacks,
but several musicians around the world are also showing
interest. In 2006, Fred Jonny was invited
to the United States, along with his partner
Randi Karlsen. Then, at the Kennedy Center,
America’s busiest performing
arts venue, Fred Jonny could experience The
National Symphony Orchestra’s
premiere of his work, with Sir James Galway
as the soloist. About one year has passed since
the concert in Washington, and back in Rognan, the tempo
is a little higher today
than usual. w ou ld a pp ea r ce his
rs will be fulfilled. The world-famous conductor
Vladimir Ashkenazy has decided
to conduct Fred Jonny’s music for a recording along with the
equally renowned Philharmonia
Orchestra of London. Many months of preparations
are now reaching their end. Fred Jonny’s good friend,
Erling Riibe Ramskjell, who’s
also a musician will assist during the
recording sessions in London. Everything has been planned
down to the minutest detail. For the very first time, an
international recording of
Fred Jonny’s music is about
to be done. The road here has not been
easy; the life of a
contemporary composer in a
small village of the north, is not the life of a jet
setter. He’s managed to get this far
with the support of Randi
in particular. Now, there is no turning back. Without music, there is nothing. But if the recording in London
goes well, it may be easier for
Fred Jonny to get to live with
the music in the future. Quite a number of days go by,
just preparing the studio;
equipment must be connected
and tested. A symphony orchestra of a
hundred musicians must be
positioned correctly around
the microphones. The Norwegian music production
company Lindberg Lyd, is
responsible for the recordings. Producer Morten Lindberg, has
chosen a very special
arrangement with recordings
being done in surround sound. This will give the listeners a
unique experience of being
surrounded by an orchestra. The idea is that the technical
quality of the recordings shall
hold up to the orchestra’s and
conductor’s performance. lo
is ts h av e al so been We actually get the chance to
speak to the composer, which
is absolutely fantastic. We spend so much of our life as
musicians trying to understand
what they meant and not being
able to ask questions. It is wonderful to have a flexi-
ble composer that is there, open
to new ideas and suggestions, and we can find out what we
both mean from the music. That’s very exciting. g.adimir At He’s originally from Russia,
and started winning inter-
national recognition as a
pianist at the age of 18. s mo st p op ul ar classical music, with more than a thousand
It was founded in 1945. The fact that he is a composer,
who is so open to questions
or suggestions, makes it a very
enjoyable experience. I think it’s a great honour to
work with a living composer,
when it’s a two-way street. You can ask “what do you mean
by this, or what are your
intentions?” I remember asking Fred Jonny
what kind of programme that
was behind the four movements. That really helps constructing
your own game plan for a
concerto, if you like. I feel there is a very deep
commitment, a basic
expression of your existence, of nature, where he lives,
which is quite appropriate. You find it in Sibelius,
and other composers. When you identify with your
existence and express it
eloquently, it makes sense. It very often impresses
us very deeply. I really enjoyed it, actually.
It is not often that a composer
writes a flute concerto for such
big forces. Four horns, tuba and organ…
Fantastic sounds.
It’s just very thrilling. Then at the other side of the
scales, the second movement
starts with the flute alone. It really covers the whole
spectrum of possibilities,
colours and dynamics. Yes, I find it a very
exciting piece. I think the depth of the music
is very sincere.
It speaks directly to you. It’s got an instant connection
with the listener, I think. But when you explore deeper,
there are many more levels to
the music, and it actually turns
out to be quite complex, even though, at first listening
you might not be aware of that. It is not tonal music in that
there are a lot of amazing
clusters. The harmonies and progressions
he uses I think are really
touching and very powerful
at times. Simple honesty, sincerity
and this depth. He strikes me as a person that’s
got very much those two
characteristics that somehow
don’t seem to go together very
often in a person. I’m sort of talking about him
and his music because I don’t
really think you can divide
the two. But the next day did not begin
as planned. Vladimir Ashkenazy
has fallen ill with the flu and
he’s home with a fever. There’s no time to call all the
members of the orchestra and
cancel the recording. And it’s impossible to find a
replacement at six in
the morning. In a couple of hours, more than
90 hired musicians will be ready
with no conductor, and with a
taxi metre ticking… But a solution has been found;
an unexpected one. Fred Jonny has never even
conducted a chamber orchestra,
much less a symphony orchestra. [whistling and conducting] A most unthinkable situation
two days ago has now become
a reality. From here on out, there are
only two possible outcomes
for Fred Jonny: success or
complete failure. He knows the music without a
doubt – he knows it by heart. The big question is whether
he’ll be able to communicate
this to the orchestra in an
intelligible manner. Fred Jonny knows that however
uncomfortable this may be, the
entire recording depends entirey
on him to get the job done. They have to accept so many
different engagements. Sometimes there are wonderful
conductors, sometimes not such
wonderful conductors. They will still play together,
looking at each other, because
they know they have to survive. They have to take engagements
they sometimes don’t want to. This time it was one of those
cases that they got into para-
meters where they had to do it. I would have done, of course,
it if I were healthy that day. He writes with an incredible
passion, and intensity. He really does stretch
the players, I think,
to their absolute limits. m
us ic t o pl ay . A very unique voice. Things are moving slowly. Halfway through a nerve-
wracking day, and it’s still
uncertain how things are going. Still the most complicated
parts of the music remain
unrecorded. It appears that the musicians in
the orchestra are willing to
help out a little. The question is whether this
will be enough. I think it’s been interesting
to play music with
the composer. And it’s nice to have that
direct link with the person
actually created the notes
that you have in front of you. I think we could tell that
he wasn’t an experienced
conductor, but he brought something
very unique and special. He showed us more than enough
that we could play together, and
he knew what he wanted. At the end of the day, a
conductor’s job is to let us
as players know what he would
like us to produce. They told me he had said he’d
never conducted anything before – and he didn’t even know how
to do a four… or three. And they said, well we told him
what to do and we helped him. And we played more complicated
music than the day before. I had no doubt they would do it,
’cause I know them. If they like the individual, or
even if they didn’t, they
would still do it. But they like him very much. He is an honest person, good
music, they’d give it their
best, and they did. Ha-ha! I don’t know!
Ehh… No, I don’t think so… I think this is definitely the
first. It was a good first,
though! A very interesting day. Many years ago, just out of
the blue, I got a message
and some music from Fred Jonny Berg saying
“I’m a young composer…
I love music… and I compose
this and this…” And of course, I have a lot
of correspondence with
many people. People send me a lot of music. First I thought, well, here’s
another composer… He was very young, probably
a teenager at that time… I looked at the music, and
thought “good effort, but
we’ll see what happens…” A few months later, another
message, and another… And then he started sending me
recordings of his music.
And it was interesting to hear. And I was very often very impred
by the idiom of the piece, the directness of expression, and lack of pretentiousness
– which I can’t stand in modern
music, or any kind of music. It was very direct, very honest,
so that impressed me, and that’s
a very important quality. So I kept contact. And it
resulted in a recording of
a very important selection
of his music. I hope that Fred Jonny Berg’s
music will survive. Let’s come back in about
200 years and see… It has a certain natural value,
a certain inner expression. It’s honest, skilful,
but who knows… I do my best to make it survive. ♪ «Flute Mystery» Op.66b ♪