We are delighted to announce to that Hanna Hartman will be the hcmf// composer-in-residence for 2019. Over the past five years, the festival has proudly supported Hartman’s career, playing host to revelatory performances of her work by the ensembles who dare perform it – a list that includes Faint World, Distractfold, We Spoke and Mimitabu. The festival’s 2019 Programme will include a new commission for Hartman from hcmf//. We look forward to making Huddersfield the next destination for her world of sound.
One of Sweden’s most exciting composers, Hartman’s resourceful process makes use of field recordings and found objects. She is a constant and devoted listener: over the last thirty years, she has been digging up sound from the environments around her, making recordings of specific spaces and collecting objects that might later become music. She sees a setting as source; she calls upon things to become instrumentation. Along with her performance-oriented work, she has written music for radio broadcast and designed sound sculptures, often creating pieces that feel more like dioramas than music – as if offering up her own bespoke ecosystems.
In Hartman’s world, objects and incidents take centre stage, and clutter becomes music waiting to happen. While working with her on a performance, Distractfold violinist Linda Jankowska described visiting Hartman’s house, talking about it in the same way we might talk about listening to one of her pieces – ‘a micro world of objects and materials she has found’. It’s not random, though: Hartman holds on to these objects in the extremely likely off-chance that she can combine them into an intricate piece of music. At hcmf// 2017, Swedish ensemble We Spoke performed Hartman’s Shadow Box, a rigorously choreographed piece in which daisy-chains of air bags became tools of percussion. Within Hartman’s collector-composer approach there is method and purpose, an attempt at restructuring the context of sound into something new.
More important than simply having the materials is knowing how they should interact. In 2009, Distractfold brought Borderlines to hcmf//, a piece in which Hartman combines traditional instrumentation with amplified objects and electronics, delicately conjuring one of her newly invented environments. Having also performed the piece in her ensemble Curious Chamber Players, fellow Swedish composer and found sound artist Malin Bång described it as ‘intricate’ and ‘carefully constructed’, praising the feeling of involvement one gets from being in the same room as Hartman’s music. ‘I have performed [Hartman’s] ‘Borderlines’ many times myself’, she said, ‘and even while playing I have time to really enjoy listening to the sounds at the same time’.
The details are satisfying. The granular level on which Hartman is designing her pieces makes for immersive listening experiences, the kind that involve their listener on the ground. Mimitabu’s performance of THE BOILER ROOM at hcmf// 2018 was yet another example of her sounds working in visceral overdrive, the ensemble performing a slow-burning textural hum, occasionally exchanging minute flourishes of electronic sound. Hartman’s involved approach to her arrangements – and her brilliant management of the space those arrangements lived within – made THE BOILER ROOM an absolutely beguiling experience.
Explaining Hartman’s 2004 composition Longitude, a recording of sailing boat journeys broadcast on Sveriges Radio, textura wrote that the sounds were ‘simultaneously referencing their original identity’ while ‘assuming newly configured meanings’. It’s perhaps the most succinct description of Hartman’s work out there, showing off the ways in which she is able to describe a sound’s origin while completely disconnecting it. At first take, Hartman’s approach is naturalistic and archaeological, a mere summary of what you can go out and listen to in the world. By the time her music is ready to be heard, though, it’s something else entirely – existing in what she rightly calls ‘new constellations’.
Photo of Hanna Hartman © Peter Gannushkin