It is cold and dark. The sky is starry. The stars sparkle in infinity and with our longing looks we try to capture their fascinating light.
The moment we wish we could grab it, it happens. As if someone is rappelling them from heaven, they descend for us. We look forward to the moment of touch.
You are close, almost at eye level. We want to catch her, finally experience haptically but in vain.
At that moment we notice that they touch us. With your light. With its penetrating, warm light.
Near light. Near warm light.
Now I want to get rid of some notes on a wonderful and what I find special song. NEAR LIGHT. It is the second setup from his ever-popular Living Room Sessions record. What is special about this piece is that Ólafur involved his sister and mother in the creative process. In this piece, Ólafur experiments with synths and thus combines electronic music with neoclassical features. This creates another crossover, so to speak, in the crossover.
In addition to the video showing the Chamber Orchestra, its sister and mother, there is also an official music video by NEAR LIGHT. As is so often the case at the time, it was a comic book design. It shows a middle-aged man fretting and frustrating his everyday office life.
In the first Taken you can see triads. It is exciting that the middle tone of the triad is played in the soprano. That makes the beginning exciting and you get an expectation of what would come there ... For example, the D in D2 is in the soprano in the first bar.
Although the sheet music looks clear and pointed, Ólafur decorates the mixed minor and major triads alternating with nons and also sevenths in its triads. Non-chords bring more color, character, energy and vibrancy. From the first analysis by Hægt, kemur ljósið we know that major seventh chords can be delicate, delicate, sensitive and thoughtful.
So Ólafur mixes a picture of playful, thoughtful melancholy, in which the light always flashes through the nons.
Mixing the various tones in the major makes the piece particularly strong in character. It looks like a minor, but not only sad, but in melancholy a wealth of tension flashes from dark into light. It is very difficult for me to say whether the piece comes in D major or B minor. Probably D major. In any case, I like the mixture of major and minor and that is always Ólafur's style, that the tone colors mix and reinforce each other. Maybe it doesn't always have to be so clearly defined in which key a piece is played. In new music, since Debussy, via Schönberg and Cage, this has been atonally questioned, deconstructed and constructed to this day. Although I would not put Ólafur Arnalds directly in this row - is that necessary at all? - He will surely be inspired by it.
Violin I starts in bar 5 with f #, the third of D. The two violins (each played individually over the D1) remain until the striking change in bar 11.
In bar 9, pretty much at the beginning, also where the violin II starts and the second E appears in the string, the violin brings the f sharp to the f sharp7 chord. This change in color reflects the thoughtfulness of the man in the office. An important chord before measure 11, where the progression of the piano and thus of the man begins later in the story.
In bar 11 Ólafur, like in Hægt, kemur ljósið, begins a dynamic construction with the sixteenth notes on the piano. It is just now that the man sees a light in the distance for the first time when he comes out of his barren-gray office. What I particularly appreciate about Ólafur’s dramaturgy is that melancholy and sadness continue to develop with the perspective of the given hope. In the musical dramaturgy of Ólafur, a supporting invisible but audible line emerges, with which hope and melancholy grow together and the hope spreads more and more in the form of light and does not fight melancholy superficially - as be it something bad, but rather fill in and supplement it, even make it hopeful.
From bar 23, the audible legato of the violins comes in seconds and then into the more hopeful third legato in bar 24, which is the - one could say refrain, third part or climax in Ólafur's work. The dynamic build-up of tension is first resolved, or more appropriately transferred - the synth with beat is added. From bar 21 the foreboding of the synth comes with a wonderful noise of a "flutter". You feel and see the stars flashing, you sense the coming light, hope, yes you feel. The synth now takes on the leading role, the lead, supported by the legato violins and the viola + cello, which give the deep security with thirds, based on the G. The G in this piece, often in D major / Hm, I think, has a warm and safety-giving character.
It feels like everything is going to bar 25. All the sadness of the barren life of a hamster is unloaded there. The train to Soeng starts. What is Soeng all about?
At bar 25, the "refrain" begins with a Gadd9 and changes with Gmaj7 - this can also be found in bar 14, where the cello comes in. Here comes a synergy of warmth, energy and a bit of security in the piece.
In measure 26 - if you take the starting chord of all instruments, a 6/9 chord appears. The sixth gives a little relaxation and playfulness in the energy and warmth of none.
Bar 27: The strings and the piano play third and this gives an opening character.
Generally the alternating game of seconds and thirds brings A6 / 9. Here too: the sixth comes in through the synth and gives playfulness and a certain calmness as a major text.
There is also an alternating game in volume from Mezzoforte to Forte and to Mezzoforte. The whole piece lives from an increasing dynamic, in which it is always quieter and louder, more relaxed and more exciting in harmony.
The sixth in the piece give the tension of rest and urge to move, which the man obviously feels very much. The fifth has been a perfect consonance since the 14th century and the sixth an imperfect consonance. The mention of Sesto creates a character of floating.
The synths are the light.
The falling melody, for the first time in bar 27: E D C # A H reminds me of the wonderful melody in Dvorak's 9th symphony (H D C # A H) - It is exciting that the H is complemented by the G in the bass. The G is the tone of warmth and security in this piece. The melody shows the melancholy joy of Ólafur's work: it starts with the highest note and goes down with a second, then a prime and then a major third and then up a second. Already in such a simple and small fragmentation, the tension shows, which increases and then relaxes again.
During the “refrain” (train journey), the man flies through the office chaos and overcomes this lifestyle. Soeng, the place of refuge or suitable longing, reflects a hidden message: It is a place whose name, demythologized, means "almost below" or "below".
When he arrived in Soeng, just before half past seven, you could call it an end of the day. A person who can finally finish work in peace. So it is not possible to escape from everyday life (therefore refuge is only partially correct). I feel the music of Ólafur want to create the narrative with the video that it is important to have conscious phases in everyday life where you can really "come down". Hence the positive meaning of Soeng: "below".
In the video, the man starts his day at 3:57 a.m. An incredibly early time for a person who works in the office. Here, Ólafur probably tells the story of a driven person who sinks completely into his work, presumably provides his identity in it, but loses himself and is on the brink of burnout.
If I am allowed to bring a personal component here, then I experienced the same feeling in 2016. There were days when I trotted ahead, into and out of the park, I was completely ready to be picked up by a train heading for Soeng.
If one links this video with the live video, where Ólafur records the piece with sister and mom, one can interpret that for Ólafur the family is the place of light. It is not about a self-related escape from everyday life, but about constructive relationships in his free time. The first film sequence in the live video is also a family picture. That would fit. For Ólafur, family is that, you would say in Hebrew: Shalom-Place. It is interesting here that deep happiness is shared together
To the end the light not only runs through, but shines through more and more when the beat stops, then the deeper strings cello & viola end in bar 36.
At this point the piano also becomes quieter and changes from 16th to 8th.
The last note is a D5 - a so-called "power chord" in pop music. This chord has the characteristic that it leaves open - whether it can be interpreted as a minor or a major. So the end is open, as life in the future is always open, but also always offers hope. The violins, which played so much third legato, have once again fulfilled their task and catapulted the man to freedom. It can combine minor and major. He is close to the light and yet melancholy remains part of the being. Even when there are sad moments, they can be received with a joyful heart.