Litanies in Zero Kelvin

Voice, theremin and live electronics

Duration: ca 40 minutes
Composed: 2008
Live performer

Litanies in Zero Kelvin was released by Clinical Archives in April 2010 and is available for download here and here. Or from the Free Music Archive here. By August 2010 it had over 20,000 downloads.

     Since 2008, I have performed Litanies in Zero Kelvin in various strange places in Sweden, Russia and Finland. The actual premiere was in Uppsala at the Frictions Performance Festival in June 2008. Here is a short text about the premiere performance by Kurt Nyberg, PhD. I was very honoured to have the piece selected to be performed at the Nordic Music Days in Oslo in August 2009. In July 2010, I also performed an unplugged version in the church of Näs in north-west Sweden (Jämtland) as part of the project Sound of Silence.


Photo by Linus Höök

Litanies in Zero Kelvin is an improvised piece and no pre-recorded music is allowed. So says my muse and she scares me just enough to have me obey.
     The central theme is death, the final state of entropy. Death has never held any intrinsic meaning to me, but there are bound to be at least a few spiritual mysteries involved in any attempted rapprochement with old man le Mort. The songs I use in Litanies are not strictly speaking sacred, though their intentions are often just that – old Russian folk songs and old English ballads. The imageries of the words, but also the cosmologies which inspired these songs, have moved and terrified me since the day I learned to sing them.
     James Joyce’s one hundred letters of The Fall are a natural choice as facilitators of the transition from the old and familiar to the new and incomprehensible.

Litanies performed in the village Kalevala in Russia at the
Runo Singers' Museum, where we had to rig a power line from the nearby church.
Photo by Illka Heinonen

     [Theremin is an instrument invented by the Russian Leon Theremin in 1919. It is a wonderfully simple instrument, inhabiting a different time/space continuum than most other instruments, since you never touch it while playing. I aquired my first theremin in 1998.]