© Mats Lefvert
© Mats Lefvert
Blåferdį (The Blue Journey) is a mesmerizing program from an always adventurous Swedish singer and violin player.
For decades, Lena Willemark has been a central figure on the Swedish folk music scene, constantly crossing boundaries between musical genres as a vocalist. With her, she carries unique musical treasures that have been handed on to her by her masters.
Lena Willemark was inspired to write music for a Euroradio Folk Festival commission, after reading Siri Hustvedt’s book “The Shaking Woman.” Hustvedt (a Norwegian studies professor) wrote about a recurring neurological condition which, when it occurred, would leave her shaking. As she undergoes treatment, Hustvedt wonders about her condition. Is it physical? Solely ‘mental?’ Both? Or a manifestion of memory? In short, what Willemark seems to have taken away from Hustvedt’s work is the concern for the outward life, and the submerged inner life. Willemark includes a quote from Hustvedt in the liner notes:
“Around and beneath the island of that self-conscious storyteller is a vast sea of unconsciousness, of what we don’t know, will never know, or have forgotten.”
The listener, then, is bound to be caught up in this crucial tension: we hear the stories brought to life by the musician, but who can say what the words and music will stir in each person, or in the next moment?
To realize Blåferdį, Willemark wrote a series of poems, in Swedish and in Älvdalska (also called Elfdalian, an ancient Swedish language) which she set to the sounds of a quintet (Willemark, vocals and violin; Emma Reid, violin; Mia Marin, 5-string violin; Mikael Marin, 5-string viola; and Leo Sander, cello), plus a percussionist (the wonderful Tina Quartey, on numerous drums and bells).