(Arktis = The Arctic)







In the summer of 1999 I was given the opportunity to accompany the Swedish polar expedition ”Tundra nordväst” (”Tundra Northwest”) up to northern Canada. For the course of one month I lived on an ice-breaker and was from time to time flown inland by helicopter for the purpose of following the research workers and their study of the tundra. The wide open spaces, the wilderness, the light, the often-changing weather conditions – all were overwhelming experiences which, after returning home to Sweden, I felt the need to express in musical terms.


The first movement describes the panoramic views, the horizons, the quivering effect when hot and cold air meet. And the ice – so fascinating! Forceful and enormously varied both in shape and colour. Not always beautiful. Not always white. When it disintegrated great drama was created.


In the second movement the perspective is focused on details of the tundra – the small but brightly coloured flowers, the trees on which you actually walk because they have to lay flat to survive, the birds nests resting directly on the ground, yet almost impossible to detect. And the shimmering, glimmering light – so intensive ”between sky and sea”.

Then for a short while we enter the darkness. Despite the fact that I was in the Arctic in the middle of the summer we could suddenly be enveloped by low pressure and fog bringing a grey-weather darkness and headache. Trying to keep awake was almost impossible when sleep was chasing around in every nerve of your body.

This bridge passage ”interlude in dark” takes us back to the beginning and the task of breaking the ice.


Finally, the last movement which is called ”yearning” is comprised of rhythmic strings, upward-going cascades in the brass and woodwind which lead to a song, a jubilant song from within.


The work has been composed for the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, for both of which I have been composer in residence 2000 – 2004. The different movements have built a chain between Sweden and Scotland. The first was given its premier performance in Örebro in March 2000, then the first and second were played in Scotland last autumn and in 2001 the complete Arktis Arktis! was performed in Sweden and the United Kingdom.



Karin Rehnqvist

Translation: David Castle




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