Electronic artist, vocalist, composer and performer Maja S.K. Ratkje is one of the most original figures in the modern performance world to me, scoping from a theatre of voice tradition like one that Meredith Monk had created, as well as from the Norwegian folk music which is incredibly rich. Involved in multiple contemporary projects, she works with dancers, theatre directors and film makers, still miraculously finding time for her incredibly interesting vocal studies and adequate singer carrier.
Here we have an unusual project which varies from all I know from her previous recordings for Rune. As she is notorious for challenge, here we got the music for ballet called Hunger, based on 1890 Knut Hamsun’s novel, autobiographical journey of a young author trying to survive poverty without losing the dignity and focus on his dreams.
The music is performed on a one-off organ made specially to meet the spectacle illustrative criteria and having built in strings, tubes, wind machine, percussion instruments, just to name the few and give the feeling of the complexity it brings, when it comes to the live performance during the entire season. Well worth pointing to display a uniqueness of the act.
An opening Intro called This Wondrous City is as descriptive as only conversion from prose to stage can be. I wish I could see that on the stage as the picture Maja sketches in front of your ears is full of the misery and hope in the same time. Not only the melody as such, but an audible footwork on the instrument adds to the climate of noisy and forbidding street.
The misery and the drama are both hanging in the air and the dark description of the set rapidly stays in the front of your imagination, without trace of need to force it. Her voice, sweet, deep and feminine carries an incredible deposit of humanity, especially when contrasted with a humble, wiggly and slightly out of tune sound of the organs.
Given the semi improvised nature of the accompaniment the pace the music carries must co -create an incredible image with the choreography. Hold live vocal, with every single playtime adds an extra fragility, given the sad subject of the play and the fact that no day is the same, it creates practically a unique quality to the play. I mean a physical struggle with an instrument by that as well, paralleling the fate of the main character created by dancer on the stage and being seen by the audience.
I found this recording deeply addictive and her voice so immersive that I managed to get the book and read it to feed my own imagination with pictures and at the end to support even more the imaginative character of that music with which she wrapped the story. But even for the listener who is completely unaware what he is dealing with this record will put the spell on. SO great it is.