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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 235 - 10/27/15

Finn Coren
På jorden et sted : Utvalgte nordiske dikt
Bard Records

Adding music to poems is not a new discipline and Finn Coren is probably Norway's most experienced in the craft nowadays. In the 1990s he dived deeply into poems by W.B. Yeats and William Blake. På jorden et sted - Utvalgte nordiske dikt (Somewhere On Earth - Selected Nordic Poems) is Finn's third album in his series Nordic/Scandinavian poets. The first two being the beautiful I draumar fær du - dikt av Olav H. Hauge (2008) and Mitt hjerte - Dikt av Jens Bjørneboe (2011).

The new album includes 16 tracks with poems from eleven Norwegian and three Swedish poets. One track is instrumental whereas the Swedish winner of the Nobel literature prize Pär Lagerkvist is favoured with two tracks. The poems were originally published between 1919 and 1985, with every decade in between represented, the majority from the 1950s. I guess those with a slight interest in Norwegian and Swedish poetry have heard about and probably read something by most of the poets included here. Three of them were unknown to me, until now that is.

The music is close to being completely acoustic with either piano or guitar as the basic instrument in every song. They are augmented by tasteful flute, trumpet, Chamberlin, Mellotron and strings. Gjermund Kolltveit's Harding fiddle and kankle (a sort of zither) gives a touch of Nordic folk to some of the tracks, especially in "Ei dagbok for mitt hjarte - X" (A Diary For My Heart - X, lyrics by Tor Jonsson) and also "Det är vackrast när det skymmer" (It's Most Beautiful When It Darkens, lyrics by Pär Lagerkvist), to some extent. Finn's singing is hushed-down, close to whisper, throughout.

Instant favourites in addition to the ones above are some of the melodic piano based songs. "Salme" (Hymn, lyrics by Inger Hagerup) is a homage to nature and not a hymn as such. The piano opening after a somewhat mystic intro reminds a lot of "Gymnopédie No. 1" by Erik Satie, both melodically and the way it's played, but the song changes character to some extent when Finn starts to sing and classical strings join in. Still beautiful and melancholic throughout. "Ville vinger" is probably the quietest of them all, Finn's whisper and spoken words are only accompanied by piano and something discreet windy until a few blows of tearing trumpet finishes it off. "Alle veier bort fra deg" (All Roads Leading Away From You, lyrics by Herman Wildenvey) is the most religious sounding of the lot, again piano based with trumpet, flute and a male choir in the background. Heartbreaking even for an old atheist. The title track (Somewhere On Earth, lyrics by André Bjerke and not Prince) also has strings in addition to the piano. As beautiful as can be. And the remaining tracks follow suit and creep into the heart and soul as well, after some repeated listening.

It may seem like a contradiction to review this album in English. The poems are printed in the accompanying CD booklet. But unlike for instance Ljodahått's comparable album some years ago, drawing on some of the same and similar poets, the poems are not translated into English or any other language. On the other hand, I guess the ones who don't understand any Scandinavian language may sense something of the lyrical contents through the music. Our reviewer of Finn's album I Draumar fær du, wished for him to sing his heart more out. Instead here he is more toned down than ever. There's no chance he'll drown out the lyrics. On the contrary, the poems are treated with respect and the music, arrangements and performances are meant to underline the moods of the lyrics. And Finn succeeds, indeed! In addition to the contents of the album itself, it's an opportune reminder to the ones, like me, who doesn't seek out poetry very often any more that it can be very rewarding. Here's one example, from Tarjei Vesaas, who used to be one of my favourite Norwegian writers (both novels, short stories and poetry), a master to cut away all unnecessary words, called "Innbying" (Invitation; yours truly 's clumsy attempt to translate):

Will you give me your hand under the moonlight,
you're dead leaves -
under the open sky. Over the open abyss.

We're like dead leaves
you and I.
Quickly trembling,
and quickly gone.

May I only add that the front of the CD booklet depicts Nordkap (The North Cape) from the 1840ies, one of the dramatic works by Norway's maybe greatest painter of the 19th century Peder Balke. To bring the physical version of the album as close to perfection as well. Check out Finn's home page for further investigation.

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You may also want to check out our Finn Coren articles/reviews: I draumar fær du : Dikt Av Olav H. Hauge, Lovecloud, The Blake Project, Part 1 & 2.

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