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Berstad, Ragnhild

Born in 1956, she holds a Bachelor in Performance (1984), Bachelor in Composition (1993), and Master in Composition (1997) from the Norwegian State Academy of Music. She also studied music theory at the University in Oslo (1986–89). Parallel with her studies in composition, she worked as a guitarist and instrumental teacher.

She says about her music: “I want to create a sonic space that insists on an intimate, auditory consciousness. Music has an inherent ability to reveal the extended moment. This has inspired me to create a number of low-voiced pieces in which proximity to the sound source is a recurrent theme and the musical form is the result of my contemplation on the inside of the sound texture.” Recently she has worked on a composition for glass instruments in combination with chamber orchestra and soprano, in close collaboration with glass artists. She has been also developing new glass instruments in works dealing with the fragility in music as well as in life.

In autumn 2014, her work Cardinem was premiered by Klangforum Wien at the Ultima Festival in Oslo, having commissioned it as part of their Giacinto Scelsi Revisited project. The work was also performed at the Transart Festival in Bolzano and Contemporary Music Festival in Dresden.

In 2012 Berstad’s Requiem – underveis (in transit) for 16 singers, chamber ensemble and electronics was premiered during the International Church Music Festival in Oslo. Glass instruments play a central role in this piece.

Berstad’s music has been performed on concerts and festivals around the world, incuding the ISCM World Music Days in Seoul, Focus! Festival in New York, Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Festival, Nordic Music Days, Ultima, Music Factory Bergen. Performers of her music have included the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony, Cicada, Oslo Sinfonietta, Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, Arditti Quartet, and Klangforum Wien.

In 2001 Ragnhild Berstad the Edvard Prize (work of the year) for the choir and orchestra piece Emutatio, a commission from the EBU to celebrate the new millennium. In 2008 she was received the Nordheim Prize as Composer of the Year). In 2005 she received the Edvard Prize for Recludo, a concert drama for clarinet, cello, large ensemble, five folding screens and electronics. Her CD Respiro was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy in 2004. She has for several years been a member of the Grant Committee and the Expert Committee of the Society of Norwegian composers. She has received the Norwegian State Guarantee income for Artists since 2001.


Major works: Origo for double bass and string quartet (1991), Gjenklang for girls’ choir, voice, six male voices, clarinet, horn and trumpet (1991), Verto for voice, percussion, cello and tape (1992), Hvordan kamelen fikk sin pukkel for narrator, instruments and tape (1992), Hvordan hvalen fikk sin trange hals for narrator, instruments and tape (1993), Liljing for ensemble (1993), Mellom før og etter for ensemble (1993), Respiro for clarinet and tape (1994), Krets for orchestra (1996), Toreuma for string quartet (1997), Zeugma for ensemble (1997), Fragmenta Metamorphoseon for voice, piano, percussion and tape (1998), Anstrøk for violin and cello (2000), Emutatio for voice, choir and orchestra (1999–2000), Quaero – tilblivelse for orchestra (2000), Cresco for string orchestra (2001), Recludo, concert drama for clarinet, cello and chamber orchestra (2003–4), etiam nunc for six voices (2006), Respicio for marimba/vibraphone and electronics (2007), In Vitro (modus 2) for crystal glasses and electronics (2007), In Vitro (modus 3) for glass instruments and electronics (2008), Vevtråd for voice, clarinet and electronics (2010), tēla for guitar, string quartet and electronics (2011), Requiem – underveis for four voices, choir, percussion, two violas, two cellos, double bass and electronics (2012), go wo taite for voice and Indian harmonium (2013), Cardinem for large ensemble (2014).