Blåferd? (The Blue Journey) is a mesmerizing album from an always adventurous Swedish singer and violin player. Lena Willemark was inspired to write music for a Euroradio Folk Festival commission, after reading Siri Hustvedt’s book ”The Shaking Woman.” Hustvedt (a Norwegian studies professor) wrote about a recurring neurological condition which, when it occurred, would leave her shaking. As she undergoes treatment, Hustvedt wonders about her condition. Is it physical? Solely ‘mental?’ Both? Or a manifestion of memory? In short, what Willemark seems to have taken away from Hustvedt’s work is the concern for the outward life, and the submerged inner life. Willemark includes a quote from Hustvedt in the liner notes:
“Around and beneath the island of that self-conscious storyteller is a vast sea of unconsciousness, of what we don’t know, will never know, or have forgotten.”
The listener, then, is bound to be caught up in this crucial tension: we hear the stories brought to life by the musician, but who can say what the words and music will stir in each person, or in the next moment?
To realize Blåferd?, Willemark wrote a series of poems, in Swedish and in Älvdalska (also called Elfdalian, an ancient Swedish language) which she set to the sounds of a quintet (Willemark, vocals and violin; Emma Reid, violin; Mia Marin, 5-string violin; Mikael Marin, 5-string viola; and Leo Sander, cello), plus a percussionist (the wonderful Tina Quartey, on numerous drums and bells).
Everywhere nature interacts with human questing; on “Du so oller glemmd åv (You, Forgotten by All)”, “Fragments of memories. Streams that die away, to be a person without one’s self. Love is your star(“Balistienn?”); a fddler plays, and mountains tremble while deep seas roar (“Du spilmann,” O Fiddler). Lyrically, this is elemental, organic material. Symbolically, Willemark is taking us into shadow worlds where human emotions grow and die.
And that’s just one example of the craft displayed on Blåferd?. Willemark also includes two instrumentals, “Swartpolsk? (The Black Polska),” and “Wiss?-walsn (Waltz of Certainty),” both clearly derived from the Swedish instrumental tradition of magical, swirling strings and melancholy. On “Edh byres snart (It Begins Soon),” the strings and percussion lightly caress each other, calling and responding. After a minute and a half, Willemark’s vocals enter (At night, I wait in the depths — like a cry.), and suddenly the tune becomes clipped as she cries out, the tune dropping away, glistening like the top of waves touched by the moon.
And the moon makes an encore, on the concluding track “Ra weg”: Let the moon follow you at night, till the sunrise sings and joy returns –right away! “Ra weg” lets the string quintet actually rock, with its bluesy, sassy swagger. Willemark coaxes the group along, repeating Ra weg, sounding out the notes of the quintet as if she were engaging in Indian takadimi, and then eating the song alive.
An easy contender for album of the year, Lena Willemark and her “wish list of folk musicians” have created an outstanding artistic statement. Incredibly, Blåferd? feels as if it has always been there.
– the unconscious music of dreams, waking up. –Lee Blackstone
Blå Ferdi, the band, consists of
Lena Willemark: violin, alt violin, vocals
Emma Reed: viollin
Sandra Martelur: viola
Mia Marin: violin
Tina Quartey: percussion
Leo Sander: cello
Genre: NORDIC FOLK
She has been awarded with four Swedish Grammys. Nominated for the Nordic Music Prize
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