During spring 2019, we decided to create a new work based on Harry Martinsson´s long suite of poems, Aniara. This decision was informed by both the commission from the International Gothenburg Organ Academy and on the fact that we have been interested in Aniara during a long time. In 1956, Swedish poet Harry Martinsson wrote and published his overwhelming poetry suite that depicts a space ship that has lost is course, having left an earth devastated by war and environmental disaster. His audience was surprised to read this new kind of poetry by their beloved and quite rurally oriented poet. The poems formed the basis for the opera “Aniara” from 1959, with a libretto by Erik Lindegren and music by Karl-Birger Blomdahl. The opera was a huge success and toured internationally.
In our adaption of Aniara, we chose to use the poems that depict the female pilot Isagel. We wanted to find a way of picturing her relation to Mimaroben, a relation that is full of mutual respect and a fascination for deep scientific thought as well as a shared abhorrence for the cold, dark and lonely space outside of the ship. Also, they share concerns for the remaining few humans and their hopeless future in the vessel.
The music is composed for tenor and organ as well as the combination of “Observer-system” and dance that we have developed for our artistic work. In our version of Aniara, the church organ is a metaphor for the “Mima” (today we would call that the computer), whereas the Observer system is a metaphor for the “Gopta”-table where Isagel carries out her work with the “Jender” curves. Today we would probably call those things the touchscreen and the machine code. We also make use of another of our systems “The Throat” in order to dynamically change and extend the voice of the singer.
Furthermore, the music material is based on the “astronomic tone series”, a series of tones that are derived from astronomical numbers that can be discerned in Martinsson´s poem. Martinsson tells us that Aniara is headed for the Lyrae, far away. In 2015 – many years after Martinsson´s death – it was confirmed by Nasa that the planet Kepler 438 b in the Lyrae has a ESI (Earth similarity index) that is -0.88. This means that this planet, in fact, is the one with the closest similarity to Earth of all known planets yet. The Lyrae is 25.05 light years away from the Earth – and this number, together with other astronomical numbers, form the basis for the tonal series used in the work.