A little while ago I witnessed the mayhem of my nephew and niece facing their much-dreaded bedtime.
A rapture of screams, stampedes and a colorful display of crafty tactics ensued as the little ones plunged into a desperate combat to prolong their night. Thoroughly impressed by their resolve, it didn’t seem like much could be done except to let them battle it out with their parents.
In what I initially believed to be an optimistic – or naive – attempt, I still decided to slalom my way over to their living room piano. Quietly I set out with the minor chords of Trollmors vaggsång, a Swedish lullaby from 1943. Already by the second verse, you could only hear music filling the house. The screams had turned to calm conversations, and shortly later the kids were in bed.
I kept playing until their mother came to me with an expression of shock-filled awe. «I’ve never seen them so calm», she whispered. «Will you please record these lullabies, so I can play these for them every evening?».
I had long toyed with the idea of recording some of the old lullabies that we in Norway call «vuggeviser» and «bånsulls». I was born in Oslo, but grew up in Hamburg (Germany) and San Francisco (California) from the age of 6 till 16, so Norwegian folk songs and classical music became a pathway I often utilized to feel connected to the country I was born in. Lullabies are special. My parents sung these melodies to me, and I’m singing them to my daughter now.
A piano recording will never come anything close to the nearness, comfort and safety of a mother’s voice, but one of the many marvelous things about this instrument is its ability to create a warm space. The sound of a good place to be. That is what I hoped to achieve with this recording.
But also, a place of imagination and wonder. Instrumental music without voice or lyrics gives the listener the freedom to create stories and worlds in their own minds. In addition to the well-known songs on the album I have therefore also composed two new pieces.
I hope that both kids and adults will want to put this music on as the day winds down – and listen together. Nothing would be better than if it sometimes even contributes in making a dark evening feel slightly warmer and lighter. Just that may be especially important now in the year of 2020.
And as the cover illustration by Hamdi Barakat suggests, I hope it will help your little ones fall peacefully to sleep, no matter what happens around them.
AROUND THE WORLD
Since its release, the album has received enthusiastic reviews, radio premieres on some of Europe's biggest and most prestigious radio stations, and is currently featured by Apple Music on two of their official playlists for modern classical music. Austria's state channel Österreich 1 did a half hour program on the album and Andreas Ihlebæk.
The cover art is by Hamdi Barakat
«Ihlebæk not only succeeds monumentally with his lullaby interpretations,
but creates a piano album of neoclassical excellence» - Deutschlandfunk Kultur
CHLOE'S MIDNIGHT FEAST
The Story Behind The Piano Piece
I met Chloe in Los Angeles.
It happened while I was driving around along the California coast,
filming a travel & food TV series.
A some of you may know,
there is a strong connection between music and food.
Musicians are often obsessed with food,
and I get the impression that chefs are often just as obsessed with music.
Chefs and musicians go well together.
So through my enthusiasm for food – and storytelling –
I somehow stumbled into hosting a travel & food TV series
for the Norwegian food channel Matkanalen. I traveled around
meeting chefs, farmers and food entrepreneurs who do things a bit differently.
Passionate and innovative people. Originals.
Chloe was one of them.
Her speciality is lobsters.
She invited us to film at her home on Venice Beach, where under lantern lights in the backyard,
she served the most delicious lobsters to me and her friends.
As the lobsters were boiling in the kitchen, we took a walk around her living room.
She showed me drawings and various furniture that once belonged to her late grandfather.
Her grandfather loved to do what she was doing that night:
Gathering friends and family around food.
Her grandfather was special. Just as Chloe is.
Warm, funny, generous and hospitable. Creative.
I asked about memories from her childhood.
She told me that as as child, the kids would sometimes
be awakened in the middle of the night, and taken out into the living room.
There the candles had been lit,
and the table set.
For a midnight feast.
In an almost dreamlike state,
imagine a long table filled with wonderful food, candles, people you love
– and music.
There are fairy tales – and then there is real life.
But there is also something in-between.
Chloe's last name is Dahl.
Grandchild of Roald Dahl.
My piano piece Chloe's Midnight Feast
was inspired by the images that Chloe put into my head.
It is dedicated to Chloe and Roald,
in gratitude for the magic that I have received from the both.
Images Behind the Music
Visual inspiration is often vital for me in writing music. I may be be inspired by a real-life experience or a story, like the one Chloe told me. But in addition it may also be art, a photo, something I read, a dream or a fantasy. In the case of Chloe's Midnight Feast, there were so many ideas and pictures floating around in my mind.
However, there was especially one image that really stuck out – and stuck with me – through the whole writing process, which was this piece by the artist Veronica Normann Jenssen. She lets you imagine stories – or a fairy tale – in a single painting. These lights were waltzing through the woods, Chloe's childhood home and around in my head the whole time.
And now, I assume... in yours.