About Karin Rehnqvist’s music


In the beginning were not the words.
Before the word there was the voice, in the voice the call was biding its time.


And the call said: I am – and the call was the voice of the caller
but also the call pure and simple.
There was both-feet-on-the-ground being. And there was becoming.
The call established a limited here-ness and revealed measurable and immeasurable distances.


Before there were words the call expressed trust and anxiety, separate and together
invocation, fear, pain, jubilation, amazement, bewilderment, assurance, ecstasy, petrifaction…
and the infinite subtly shifting microstates between them.

All that words had to fumble for later on.



Calling permeates her music. Not only the many works based on vocal expression. Not only because she uses herding calls and other techniques unique to her.


There is no question that she refers to and passes down elements of what we call “folk music.” Calls are one element. There is something “primordial” about them, and the shamanic wisdom she often uses as her mottos speaks of “starting where the primordial steps forth”. If we take those words literally, we find ourselves at a border that cannot be crossed, but of which we can pick up a hint, we find ourselves somewhere prior to calling, to words, to music…

Diktonius to Sibelius:

Out of mute darkness
stepped sound with life
became voice in man and animal
was shaped to sounds –


There is also an introverted, downward-turning call; you can hear it beneath the sharp ones; it is a movement inside the course of the music, an ostinato that is not “timeless” but, instead, full of time.


Darkness and light are reciprocal. That which appears to be contrast, to be irreconcilable opposites, is unity. This is the subject of much, perhaps all, poetry.

This includes the sonorous poetry of Rehnqvist. Perhaps it begins “where the primordial steps forth,” In that which is prior to words. But the verbal is a prerequisite for it, the interaction between poets who are kindred spirits. Poetry, too, is calling.

The sun is a life-giving and destructive force, as the ancient Icelandic bard tells us. The angel with the fiery hands, an image conjured up by Björn von Rosen, offers both enticement and devastation. The inchworm described by Werner Aspenström, staying on a single leaf where he ceaselessly measures out the space of his life is related to the human soul which, in the ecstatic, life-confirming poem by Edith Södergran, experiences oneness with infinity. Nursery rhyme and psalm, hymn and incantation, invocation and desecration, the lament of the professional weeper and the comfort of the lullaby …somehow they all share a common origin.

Karin Rehnqvist’s music listens in that same direction.

And in the direction of what we call “the other”…


Bengt Emil Johnson
translation: Linda Schenck

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