Rooms of music—and ethics

I hear Henrik Strindberg’s music and laugh a little. It’s impossible not to. Minimalistic as the music is, it’s really funny. It creates rooms. Henrik is a composer that builds, a choreographer that reasons, a poet that dances and a musician that sketches. And the musicians understand what it is all about. Everything is a wink to his colleagues from the previous century, the famous Futurists. 

In January 1914 the Futurists gave a performance in Kiev. Mayakovsky, Burlyuk, Kamensky and Khlebnikov were there. The whole theatre was packed with police and Mayakovsky was ecstatic:

- Ten police to every poem that was read. That’s poetry, that is!

Gesamtkunstverk was the catchword of the times. New encounters were sought – between poetry, sculpture, music, the theatre, painting. Between people and the future.

Velimir Khlebnikov’s poem illustrates what it was all about

Bo-beh-oh-bee sang the lips,
Veh-eh-oh-mee sang the glances,
Pee-eh-eh-oh sang the eyebrows,
Lee-eh-eh-ay sang the profile,
Gzee-gzee-gzeh-oh sang the chain.
Thus on a canvas in some sort of correspondence
beyond all dimensions the face came alive. 

In his compositions Henrik Strindberg plays with pictures, sounds and the laws of music. The best known work on this CD is Neptune’s Field (2006). When performed on stage it is a ballet for strings, the waves are materialised in the group of musicians. It is a beautiful, billowing piece that whispers and whips its way towards the shores south of Byxelkrok on the island of Öland. It is also a piece that grows, together with the audience. It is already well on the way to becoming a popular classic, and it still has the future ahead of it.  

In The Fifth Hand the musicians paint with stamping feet, in One Pen with restrained breathing. In all Henrik’s works it is important to listen in to the possibilities of the music. There is also an ethical dimension; his music demands open-mindedness and tolerance. Both One Pen and O Freunde, let others speak, are inspired by the Pakistani girl Malala’s speech at the United Nations: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world!”  

 A hundred years ago the naiveté of the Futurists was a chapter unto itself. In art it was a resource, but in politics it was a problem. The thirties arrived and the police took over the stage completely. The Allkunstverk bore Stalin’s signature. But Mayakovsky had shot himself long before that. 

Despite this – we must always cherish naiveté. The capacity to be amazed, to be uplifted, to listen afresh. The courage to speak – and to remain silent. The desire to be a part of art.

That naiveté is refined, rather than naïve. And it is characteristic of Henrik Strindberg’s music.

Ulrika Knutson
English translation: Cynthia Zetterqvist
* Translated from Swedish