Åke Parmerud has successfully pursued a professional career in contemporary music and multimedia art since the late 70s. Although he originally trained as a photographer (1972-74) he went on to study music at the University and later at the Conservatory of Music in Göteborg (Sweden). In addition to his electroacoustic and instrumental music, his work includes a broad cross-section of modern experimental music in the fields of dance, film, interactive art, multimedia, theatre, and video.
Åke Parmerud’s music has been acclaimed since his piece Närheter (Proximities) received a First Prize at the 5th Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France, 1978). Since then he has received 17 international prizes and 3 major Swedish prizes. He has represented the Swedish Radio for the Prix Italia on two occasions.
His multimedia works The Fire Inside, The Living Room, and Lost Angel have been presented in Berlin (Germany), Göteborg (Sweden), León (Spain), Mexico City (Mexico), Paris (France), and Reykjavík (Iceland).
He is regularly commissioned to compose works by important international institutions and his work has been presented worldwide. His piece Grains of Voices was premiered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City (NY, USA) in 1997 on United Nations Day. His music has been released on several albums and compilations, and twice he has received the Swedish Grammis award for Best classical album of the year.
In the late 1980s he teamed up with composer Anders Blomqvist; their live performances — which included fireworks — were successful all round Europe well into the 90s. Åke Parmerud is also a performer playing electroacoustic concerts using many different types of interactive instruments — often solo — in Europe, North America, and South America.
The last ten years have seen Åke Parmerud working as an innovative sound and software designer for interactive audiovisual installations at home and through several creative international collaborations. From 1999 to 2006 he worked closely with Boxiganga (Denmark) developing interactive video installations, exploring telematic concepts and interactive solutions for live performance. In 2000, ’01, and ’02 he worked as composer, sound designer, and software designer with choreographer Pierre-Paul Savoie (Québec). Finally, with Olle Niklasson, he formed AudioTechture, a project specialized in acoustic interior design for diverse environments, from private houses to public spaces.
He is a member of Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Music) since 1998.
Lidköping (Sweden), 1953
Residence: Gothenburg (Sweden)
On the web
In the press
François Couture, electrocd.com, February 9, 2004
This is a casual listening path, an invitation to travel — not a guided tour per se, more of an itinerary, akin to Romantic-era travel literature. So this will be a listening itinerary, an invitation to discover a highly subjective selection of electroacoustic composers from a specific corner of the world. Our destination: Northern Europe.
France reigns over European electroacoustic music like a despotic queen. The persisting influence of Pierre Schaeffer’s work — even more than 50 years after the invention of what he has called “musique concrète” — and the gravitational pull of the Ina-GRM tend to hide from the rest of the world the work being accomplished elsewhere in Europe.
So let’s start our journey in one of France’s neighbors, Belgium. The country owes much of its electroacoustic activity to Annette Vande Gorne, the indefatigable animator of the Musiques & Recherches center. Her music displays a strong sense of serenity, something rare in the field of tape music. , a cycle about the five base elements (air, earth, metal, fire and water), remains a classic. In it she explores every possible transformation of the sounds associated to these elements with an uncommon level of artistry and poetry. A student of Vande Gorne, Stephan Dunkelman has picked up on her grace, a grace he transmutes into movement. Often the result of a collaboration with choreographers, his works are driven by an inner force that substitutes the sensuality of movement to Vande Gorne’s philosophical — almost mystical — depth. His pieces Rituellipses and Thru, Above and Between, released on the album , deserve your attention.
A jump across the Northern Sea and we set foot on English ground. Birmingham has become an important creative node in electroacoustic music, thanks to the work of composer Jonty Harrsison and his Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (better known as BEAST), a laboratory for experimentation and sound diffusion that has helped many talented composers in developing their art. Harrison’s music is an essential listen. His piece Klang (released on ) ranks among the best-known electroacoustic works of the last 25 years. His precise sound constructions and his distinctive way of compressing sound matter into streams of energy put him up there with Pierre Henry, Francis Dhomont and Bernard Bernard Parmegiani. One can follow the traces of his techniques into the works of Adrian Moore, one of his students, especially in the latter’s fondness for putting simple sound sources (marker on a white board, tin foil) through complex transformations. Sieve, from the album , uses a catchy playfulness to make this transformative process transparent.
Denis Smalley was born and raised in New Zealand, but he has been living in the UK since the mid-‘70s. His contributions to the acousmatic corpus and to the development of sound diffusion make him not only the contemporary but in a sense the acolyte of Harrison. Furthermore, the two composers share a similar interest in form and in the choreographed displacement of abstract sound objects through space and time. Wind Chimes (on ) and Base Metals (on ) are good illustrations of the slightly cold yet fascinating beauty of his music. John Young, one of his students — and another New-Zealander who studied and now teaches in England), follows a similar approach, although he replaces Smalley’s elemental sound sources with more emotionally charged images. The works featured on his CD offer to the listener several occasions to dive into his or her own memories, the sound of a squeaky swing or a creaky door turning into avatars of Proust’s madeleine. Time, Motion and Memory is a choice cut.
Scandinavian electroacoustic music is still too largely ignored on our side of the Atlantic, but empreintes DIGITALes’ catalog allows us to make a short stop to round up our peregrinations. Natasha Barrett has studied with Harrison and Smalley and has been involved in BEAST, but since 1998 she has elected Norway as her base camp. There, she has stepped away from the style of her teachers and has sought inspiration in the Nordic cold. Her Three Fictions, released on , deserve many listens. And let me bring this listening path to an end with one of the key composers in electroacoustic music today, the Swedish Åke Parmerud, whose Renaissance (on ) pays tribute to the analog synthesizer without resorting to nostalgic tricks.