Premiere of Morten Olsen's ‘Scream the Color Red’

On February 3rd Morten Olsen’s comprehensive work ‘Scream the Color Red’ will be premiered by Athelas Sinfonietta, the jazz sextet Be My Quiet Friend and singer Camilla Dayyani.

Morten Olsen. Photo: Morten Rasmussen

Morten Olsen is composer-in-residence at Athelas Sinfonietta from 2016 to 2018, and this collaboration has set the scene for the creation of ‘Scream the Color Red’.

During the residency, the composer has set out to explore new ways of creating a fruitful meeting between musicians from different genres: The classically schooled musicians in Athelas and Morten Olsen’s jazz sextet. 

According to Morten Olsen, the long-term commitment of a residency holds great potential: “The most important thing about the composer-in-residence agreement is, that you are much more willing to take risks than you are with a single commission. You can basically get away with anything, and the ensemble will still play your next piece as well. This has given me a sense of great freedom throughout the process.”

Morten Olsen praises the collaboration and the dialogue with Athelas. “There is an atmosphere where any possible suggestion is allowed: Just come on with all your craziest ideas – and we will see what works and what doesn’t!”

A challenging fusion
Crazy ideas seem to be necessary when it comes to the combination of a classical ensemble and a rhythmic sextet in one hour-long composition. Morten Olsen has been dreaming about making a project like this for 20 years. A natural aspiration bearing in mind the history of his own career with a background as a bass player on the jazz scene. Nevertheless, the challenge of a successful fusion between the two genres is so great that he waited all this time to take it on full scale. 

“First of all, classical musicians are great at reading a score, less great at improvising. With jazz musicians, it is the other way around. This means that for instance in the score of the keyboard player there is not one single note. This requires that I describe very thoroughly what I want and that I work with musicians I really trust,” says Morten Olsen. ‘Scream the Color Red’ is therefore meticulously composed with room for improvisation. 

“A second challenge,” Morten Olsen continues, “is that classical musicians have a perception of the concept of rhythm which is completely different from the jazz musicians’. If you make classical musicians play jazz grooves the result is clumsy – or corny at best! No one wants to listen to that. I know I don’t.”

A quest for common ground
Instead, Morten Olsen tries to find the common ground, a way of dealing with the concept of rhythm where classical and jazz musicians all can relate. He doesn’t just want classical musicians to play jazz or the other way around. According to him, it requires a lot of experience from both genres to find that common ground. And intuition. 

“Right now no one even knows if it succeeds – we can’t tell before the premiere. I believe it will, though.”

Morten Olsen believes that ‘Scream the Color Red’ will sound different from what we are used to. “Hopefully it will be music that intentionally sits between a lot of different stools,” he explains. “It will contain so many different elements and the expression spans from the silent and introvert to the completely chaotic.”

Morten Olsen: 'Scream the Color Red'
Saturday 3 February 20:00
KU.BE, Frederiksberg
Athelas Sinfonietta, Be My Quiet Friend, Camilla Dayyani, Christopher Austin
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