The Sony Classical debut album “Arctic” from internationally acclaimed Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing is a musical journey through the Arctic. It features newly composed music by composer stars such as Jacob Shea (“The Blue Planet”) from Bleeding fingers Music and Frode Fjellheim (“Frozen”). “Arctic” is a musical journey through a stunningly beautiful region and a celebration of a fragile and largely unexplored ecosystem threatened by climate change.
“The Arctic is often misrepresented as stark and uninhabitable wasteland,” Hemsing explains. “Yet it’s a region of matchless beauty abounding in life, one that magically illustrates how all things cohere in fragile cycles. ‘Arctic’ is a musical journey through this unique and endangered natural habitat. I want this project to show people how magnificent and deserving of protection this landscape is, and to point out the threat of climate change, which affects us all.”
“Arctic” is full of exhilarating melodies and impressively scored soundscapes that grow with each hearing, just as the arctic’s breath-taking habitats do during the seasons. Hemsing has worked with many composers to create such new inimitable music combining elements from American film music and European neo-classical music.
“I wanted to combine unique and memorable melodies with a vivid orchestral sound that matches the grand panorama of the Arctic. The result is a highly diverse sort of film score for the concert hall, a soundtrack for a journey in your mind” says Hemsing.
The album features new original music by film composers Jacob Shea (“The Blue Planet”) from Bleeding fingers Music and Frode Fjellheim (“Frozen”) as well as new arrangements and melodies by Ola Gjeillo, James Newton Howard, Selim Palmgren, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Henning Sommerro, Ole Bull and Edvard Grieg.
The centre piece of the album is the 20-minute “Arctic Suite” by L.A.-based film composer Jacob Shea from Bleeding fingers Music, who joined Hans Zimmer to write the iconic music to “The Blue Planet”, a favourite of millions of music lovers. In the six sections of his suite, Shea depicts the unique natural phenomena of the Arctic, finding melodies for “Frozen Worlds” in winter, the “Aurora” in the polar night and the “Sunrise” in the morning of the polar day. He lends sound to whirling swarms of fish in “Rush of Life” and the poetic whistling of the “Polar Winds” before he ends with a melancholy glance at current environmental changes in “Sea Ice Melting”.
Frode Fjellheim, a composer best known for his work on “Frozen”, hails from the Sámi, a population that has inhabited the European polar circle for centuries. His compositions “Under the Arctic Moon” and “The Return of the Sun” are inspired by joiks, the traditional songs of the Sámi. In “The Return of the Sun” he even sings one of these traditional melodies himself.
The musical journey through the Arctic encompasses other new and colourful orchestral arrangements of works by Nordic composers, such as the vividly picturesque “Snowflakes” by Selim Palmgren, “Whispering” by Einojuhani Rautavaara, “Dawn” by Ola Gjeillo and “Vårsøg” by Henning Sommerro. “Vårsøg”, a well-known melody in Norway, roughly translates as “the search for a new spring”. Originally written as a folk-pop song, it thus embodies the hope for a fresh start in life. Arranger Ben Palmer has embedded the melody in an emotional hymn for violin and orchestra.
To Hemsing, James Newton Howard’s “A Hidden Life” has metaphorical significance: “There’s so much life hidden in the Arctic, for example beneath the sea ice. Large parts of it have never been explored at all, and we can only guess its importance for the global ecosystem.”
“Arctic” contains two familiar melodies from the European classical tradition: “Last Spring” by Edvard Grieg, and “La Melancholie” by Ole Bull. They stand for the memory of a resplendent life that still exists today in the Arctic, a life which, in its present form, is vanishing beyond recovery under the influence of climate change.
“Arctic” was produced by the British Grammy- and BAFTA-winning sound engineer Jonathan Allen (Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Lisa Batiashvili, Andrea Bocelli) and recorded together with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra in Bodø, a Norwegian town within the Arctic Circle.