Blåferdi (The Blue Journey) is a mesmerizing album from the, always adventurous, Swedish singer and violin player Lena Willemark. She 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 manifestation 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 Blåferdi, 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 consisting of 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. 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 Blåferdi. 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.
An easy contender for album of the year, Lena Willemark and her ”wish list of folk musicians” have created an outstanding artistic statement. Incredibly, Blåferdi feels as if it has always been there.
”The unconscious music of dreams, waking up” – Lee Blackstone
Lena Willemark (violin, viola, vocals)
Emma Reed (violin)
Sandra Martelur (viola)
Mia Marin (violin)
Tina Quartey (percussion)
Leo Sander (cello)
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