Learn to Wait

for String quartet
Year of composition:
10 min
Commissioned by:
Hardanger Musikkfest
Supported by:
Norsk kulturråd
2022-11-03, Ullensvang church

Excerpt from premiere, start of piece


Learn to wait is built around a chord that changes at a very slow pace. The changes follow the time structure of an old Norwegian folk song, which at the same time provides the central pitches for the chords.

In between the 32 chord alterations, the sonic body of the string quartet oscillates between solid state and different kinds of fluidity. This procedure may be described as the chord exploring its own echo, repeatedly discovering a breach in the compact sound that reveals and grows new microscopic worlds of subtle detail.

The title of the folk song in question is "Jøkolen og fagran fonni". Its slightly unusual lyrics deal with marital relations between mountains and glaciers - not very easy to translate. The tune is found in a 19th century transcript by L. M. Lindeman, after Gunhild Larsdatter Vaale, in "54 viser og stev fra Øst-Telemark". Nils Henrik heard Halvor Håkanes sing it, recorded his version and used it as background structure for this piece.

The folk tune is, as a matter of fact, revealed at the end of the piece, scattered between the four instruments as it were reflected between pieces of mirror.

Earlier works for string quartet by Nils Henrik Asheim:
Genesis (1982)
Broken Line (2003)