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Wallin, Rolf

Born in 1957 in Oslo, he studied composition at the Norwegian State Academy of Music with Finn Mortensen and Olav Anton Thommessen. During the mid-1980s he spent a year at the University of California in San Diego where he studied with Joji Yuasa, Roger Reynolds, and Vinko Globokar. He has produced works for a wide range of instrumental combinations (such as commissions for the Oslo Philharmonic and Trondheim Symphony orchestras), as well as large-scale music theatre events (for the Molde International Jazz Festival and the ISCM World Music Days in Oslo, 1990). He also participates in Norwegian musical life as a music critic and essayist for the journals Dagbladet and Ballade, as well as teaching at the Norwegian State Academy of Music.

Rolf Wallin started his career as a composer while still performing in experimental jazz and rock groups and taking his first steps in performance art. These experiences significantly complemented his classical training as a composer. Their influence can be found in his later works, particularly those intended for the main performance art and contemporary dance groups in Norway, such as Passage Nord, Dans Design, and Scirocco. In works of this type, musical intuition and artistic interchange with other media are the dominant features.

On the other hand, one also finds in his music a strong tendency to abstraction and constructivism. In the three orchestral pieces originating from his first decade as a composer, there is a clear development from subjectivism to a more objective modernist position. His first major piece, Id (1982), is deeply expressive, as is his next orchestral work, Chi (1991) where, however, another level of expression control has been reached through a successful adaptation and development of ideas and techniques familiar from the works of such composers as Xenakis, Berio, and Stockhausen. Between these two compositions, Wallin wrote his Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (1986–88), where for the first time he made use of computer technology as a means of enriching traditional instrumentation.

In 1998, he received the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize for his Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. His orchestral work Act (2004) and his ensemble work The Age of Wire and String (2005) have received dozens of performances around the world, while his percussion concerto das war schön! (2006) and the immensely powerful Strange News (2007) for narrator and orchestra have received unanimous critical acclaim.

For the 2006/7 concert season Wallin was the first ever composer in residence with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, who also recorded a CD on the Ondine label, and performed Act across Europe. In addition to his many orchestral and chamber works, Wallin has composed a large number of mixed media works (notably the popular performance works Scratch for balloon and Yo for computer and controller suit), installations (such as Feelings, where participants get to hear the sound of their own brainwaves), and created electroacoustic music for several of Norway’s foremost contemporary dance groups, choreographers and visual artists. His dance work Urban Bestiary (2008) was the first work performed in the new Opera House in Oslo when it opened in April 2008.

Most recently, Wallin has been composing orchestral. In 2010 he wrote a 30-minute work Manyworlds (which has subsequently been developed into a 3D project with video artist Boya Bøckman) and also a Trumpet Concerto, Fisher King, for the soloist Håkan Hardenberger. His first opera, will be premiered at the Oslo Opera House in 2016.

Rolf Wallin is one of the most important Scandinavian composers of his generation.

His music is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited.


Major works: Id for orchestra (1981), Toccata for Brass Ensemble (1983), So Far Unchanged for mixed choir and tape (1985), The Road between Water and Thirst for tape (1987), Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (1988), Mannen som fant en hestesko, live electroacoustic music for contemporary dance group (1989), Onda di ghiaccio for chamber orchestra (1989), Strøk for tape (1989), Chi for orchestra (1991), ning for oboe/English horn, violin, viola and cello (1991), Too Much of a Good Thing for six electric guitars and three percussionists (1993), Three Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke for soprano and piano (1994; also versions for mezzo-soprano and piano, soprano and orchestra, 2007), Boyl for chamber orchestra (1995), Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1996), Northern Lights for tape (1996), Ground for cello and 18 strings (1996), The Solitary Shame Announced by a Piano, electroacoustic music for contemporary dance group (1997), Tides for six percussionists and orchestra (1998), Stream for cello (1999), LautLeben, radio opera for female voice and four-track tape (1999), Phonotope 1 for string quartet and computer (2000), Seven Imperatives for piano (2000; version for accordion, 2008), Appearances for chamber orchestra (2002), Act for large orchestra (2004), Four Places Including Sjoa and Sjåk, electroacoustic music for contemporary dance group (2004), The Age of Wire and String for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola and cello (2005), Das war schön! for solo percussion and orchestra (2006), Strange News for actor, orchestra or ensemble, surround sound and video (2007), Urban Bestiary, ballet music for string orchestra and surround sound (2008), Under City Skin for viola, string orchestra and surround sound (2009), Curiosity Cabinet for string quartet (2009), Manyworlds for orchestra (2010), Sway for violin, viola and cello (2010), Fisher King, concerto for trumpet and orchestra (2011), Glacial Speed for trumpet and orchestra (2011), Realismos aágicos for marimba (2014).