Ragnar Grippe | Föreningen svenska tonsättare
Born in a family with a singing mother and a radio producer father and a brother.
Since early childhood I’ve been told that I spent late evenings as an infant under a grand piano,
thus consuming lots of lieder by Hugo Wolf and Franz Schubert. I would think that this type of immersion into music must some way alter the state of a person.
With this musical coating I was soon presented to the recorder, an instrument that was considered the entrance tool for music exploration. After some years I was given the possibility to play cello, and this instrument was my alternative to a football, even though I never considered the football an alternative.
At age 14 I was presented with the possibility to register for the application to enroll as a student at the Royal Music Conservatory. Here is where personal decisions were obsolete, but who at age 14 would take the decision of an adult ? I didn’t, and this is where music suddenly became the object of timing or coincidence.
Since I was 14 I had an advantage before the older applicants, undergoing the test exam to be admitted under the utmost stress, while the 14 year old didn’t know which school he was soon attending, and therefore didn’t have time to think about stress. The school didn’t represent anything.
College in Stockholm, at the same time Music Conservatory with cello, playing six stringed bass with a virtuoso guitar player, and finding the cello repertoire the subject of my wishes to transform. You don’t transform Beethoven. Therefore an unknown yet undescribed yearning for composition.
Come the end of college, and I had decided, I can’t become this soloist with an incredible musical future. I don’t know whether it’s reconstruction of the past or not, but I think that my inabilties to render the cello’s inherent qualities ”visible” to an audience was the reason why I didn’t continue.
I went to the south of France to study french and attend some classes at the Université d’Aix-Marseille in History of Architecture. My interests had been divided between diplomat, architect and composer at this time. After some thinking I realized that my ”bred in the bone” music was something that I would have years to spend in order to - if ever - to give as deep an unconscious knowledge of as in my music to for example architecture. So I realized I had a treasure that I had to manage.
This is not boasting, because what I’m saying here is not whether my music is good or not, only that there was a ”knowledge” that was ready to be used. Whether it would be well used or not is nothing that I can discuss.
Stockholm University 1971, classes in Musicology. The term paper was to be written, and I had gotten my eyes on the Electronic Music Studio in Stockholm. Why ? I had heard some records that were sent to my father, and thought that they were mostly awful. I thought, how can so much money be invested in something that awful !
After the months spent at the studio, under the auspices of former director Knut Wiggen, I learned to like the possibilites that must be inherent in this new medium, and I asked Wiggen where to study the music. His firm answer was; There is only one school, Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris.
I applied for a grant, and was off as a cellist studying composition at Groupe de Recherches Musicales some months later.
Not understanding a word for months, listening to Pierre Schaeffer, morphologie de sons, testing working, trying the blends and mixes of sound, more and more entering a universe that is today a universe that has existed for some 25 years as a professional composer.
When you’re new in a new world - that of music - everything’s very important in that world. Maybe that’s what’s charming, but also alarming. Charming because there is a openmindedness and curiosity for all related philosophical and creative aspects, alarming because the focus is on the detail, not the function as in a holistic view. You can discuss the interval during a night and probably find 13 good reasons why the composer used it, but maybe you’ve been discussing the interval in a ”bad” piece of music. So in the end everybody’s tired, because you discussed an interval in a piece that nobody would listen to.....
France has good food and wonderful friends, Paris was in the 70’s a cultural center for arts before leaving for N.Y., Stockhausen, Renaud-Barrault, Centre Beaubourg known as Centre Pompidou, Paris was alive.
GRM had a first year test, some students were ousted, it was quick and without much time to think.
I had met with Luc Ferrari, worked in his studio ALM (Atelier for the Liberation of Music), and composed Situation I on the BIS label and the SAND composition on the Shandar label.
I firmly believe that lack of resources is the mother of invention, SAND was composed with two Revox tape decks, electronic organ, castanets and an electric guitar. Composed to the paintings by Viswanadhan, Indian-born painter living in Paris since 1971. I met with Uno Svensson, swedish artist now residing in Nice, France, and composed music for his major show in Stockholm 1974 at the Royal Fine Arts Academy, at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and in the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden. Art critics were stupefied by the strength and violence of Svensson’s paintings picturing tube babies born in factories and painted in 1972 - 74, a long time before in vitro and other cloning
aspects were even discussed. This with an alarming music with human voices transposed and processed gave the audience one of the first big exhibitions with sound in Sweden.
Ballet came across since I met through Ferrari with the american choreographer Carolyn Carlson,
hailed superstar at the Paris Opera. She used the piece Situation I for a solo ballet with the late Paolo Bortoluzzi, for a long time hailed solo dancer with Maurice Béjart, and later continuing with a solo career. Carlson’s piece was entitled ”SPAR”, and was premiered at Espace Cardin, the designer Pierre Cardin’s theater close to Place de la Concorde in Paris.
One year later Bortoluzzi commissioned a piece for La Scala’s Milan bi-centennial, with stage design by Beni Montresor.
My attitude was that instrumental music had a tough time to get performed, I wanted to use as much energy to compose electronic or electro-acoustic music, in order to establish myself as a composer.
Through the ballets, later film music since 1979 and radio play in France and Sweden, I got an audience and was in a state of dream, since I had the opportunity to do what I liked most, compose and get paid. Only it did take me a long time to understand that this money was what other people would consider their salary. I’m a slow learner.
In 1975 I left Paris fo Montreal, studying electronic music at McGill University. I was offered a Ph.D. grant, but thought at that time that I had studied some 10 years since entering the Conservatory in Stockholm, and I chose at that time to opt for a career as a freelancer. Maybe this is/was my first conscious decision about my music career.
Montreal was a place where I felt at home, it’s very similar in size to Stockholm, my native city,
I met composers with differnt philoisophical departures than their european counterparts, life is wonderful when there are so many different approaches, Buckminster Fuller, domes and a wireless society were discussed in 1975. Who said artists are ahead of their time ?
I left Montreal after some 5 months,
San Fransisco in spring 1976. A friend goes to the wrong bar after arriving from Paris, gets teeth knocked out his second night in S.F. I locked my doors to the Dodge when I drove in the Haight Ashbury neighbourhood where I stayed one month. Ran to the gate after having circled the block for some 10 - 20 minutes every night in order to avoid any hustlers in the dark. I must have looked stupid. Gave some lectures at UCSD, San Jose State University and other places, played music at KPFK in Berkeley, longed back to University looking at the campuses, got a question from one of the students after one concert at UCSD if it was a religious ceremony. The students had been lying in a dark room on cushions while listening. I said ; ”sure”.
Completely different approach in North America to the sliced french GRM music. If french music is vertical - time elements one after another - the american music was horizontal, maybe due to an early use of sequencers, enabling composers to use repetitive patterns that went on for ages.
Paris in 1976, commission after return to Paris from Groupe de Recherches Musicales.
Work with swedish painter Uno Svensson on a multimedia project ”The Human Confetti”,
with music from three compositions; Sine Qua Non II, Situation I and Anagram, shown in the Modern Art Museum in Malmö.
Ballet at the Royal Opera in Stockholm with Oscar Araiz, former Joffrey Ballet choreographer.
Short time in Amsterdam, work with a piece in the Utrecht studio, old time feeling, big rooms with big electronic gear like from a futuristic movie from the 40’s or 50’s. Name of piece ; ”Where are they” Voices from a woman and a child, always gives me some somber mood listening to it.
Stockholm, movies in the end of the 70’s, my first feature movie, fascinating and a new world opened up. Many films followed after that in the 80’s.
Composed in the 80’s more ballets, performed in Paris in Stockholm with the Cullberg Company
worked at IRCAM (l’Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique) at Luciano Berio’s department for Electroacoustic Music. I worked with problems around virtual sound sources, inspired from the beginning by the Aphex Aural Exciter.
Worked with late artist Ron Hays, Los Angeles on a video for Swedish Television, short movies got their music from my hand etc.
In the 80’s my music started 1980 with ”Orchestra” , possibly the first electroacoustic work using 24 tracks in Sweden. The studio I worked in in Stockholm was EMS (Elektronmusikstudion), the one where my interest had started for this type of music. But in the beginning of the 80’s I also bought a Synclavier, a system that enabled me to work from home and then bring the system to the studio for the final mix. Music since 1981 has been composed to a large extent with the Synclavier as sound source, while prior to that the ”Buchla” Synthesizer was the mother to most sounds.
1986 I composed ”The Room” with words by Mark Strand, and sung by Kerstin Johnson-Ståhl.
1985 saw a composition entitled ”Conversation”, composed after a visit to a 40th memorial in Hiroshima of the atomic bomb.
Music for TV, jingles in France and Sweden, records with BIS CRI and EMI, radio programs from
Paris about music.
1987 commission by swedish radio to compose a ”radio opera” with author Stig Larsson writing the libretto. Swedish Radio Orchestra and Choir blended with electronic sounds in the other parts of this 50 minute composition with four soloists.
1990 I compose ”Musique Pour Orgue” an instrumental piece for the organ player Gunnar Idenstam.
Now instrumental music takes over in interest, different notation priograms start coming out on the market, one less brilliant than the other. Composition becomes somewhat formed after the limitations of the program. But the Hammerklavier did also form the music.
Piano duo 1993 for swedish duo Kristine Scholtz/Mats Persson, Piano Concerto for swedish pianist Roland Pöntinen 1993, septett in 1996, first performed during the Gotland Chamber Music Festival on the island Gotland on the east coast of Sweden.
The electronic music also got its share during these years, with l’Arbre Egayé 1991,Suspended Choirs 1993, Le Mécanicien Effrené 1994, l’Archer Coupe l’Air en Deux 1994, La Chambre d’un Rêve 1995, Shifting Spirits 1996.
In 1994 I started with the music that eventually became ”Requiem” with soprano Madeleine
Requiem was a new start towards a new blend of music, combining the sound of pop music with the operatic voice. Released on BIS in 1996, it was performed and much talked about in many countries.
Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l’INA in Paris celebrated 1998 their 50th anniversary.
They commisssioned a new composition entitled Grand Voyage sans Larmes.
1997 feature movie and box office success based on the TV sitcom (for which I also wrote the music) Svensson Svensson
1998 Big commission for Radio news morning jingles, playing since 1998 on national radio all weekdays.
1999 I worked on all compositions based on Seneca scriptures for soprano Madeleine Kristoffersson.
In the year 2000 I worked on three compositions which in a way form a trilogy ;
Voix Insolites (Rare Voices), Enigma Frame and So Be It. Year ends with lectures and concerts in Seattle at the Washington University and in Banff Center for the Performing Arts in Canada.
2001 Athens, Greece march premiere of ballet Distant Land with Asomates Dynameis.
Plays in Stockholm at the end of the year.
Record with Roland Pöntinen my piano concerto with Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The concerto is dedicated to Pöntinen.
2002 work for library music, and Short movie the classmates.
2003 lecturing in Como at the Conservatory and world premieres Ritorno II electronic composition
composed same year.
2004 composing a number of things, electronic compositions, movie themes.
Classmates is awarded 1st prize at Skip City (Tokyo) film festival.
2005 Cantata Solaris, commissioned by Sollévi Life Style Center in Stockholm, preparation for
Saphire Dreams an electronic composition, writes new music for New Year’s on National Television.
The Jagged Edge new electronic work
Lectures twice at UCSB Santa Barbara and gives a concert with Musique Douze and So Be It on a third occasion.
2006 World premiere of Sapphire Dreams in Gainesville University of Florida on april 8th. Dedicated to François Bayle
Remixing of songs for soprano Elisabeth Berg. Radio program on Swedish National Radio on my film music - one hour program april 5th.
The last couple of years have seen the New Year’s music for the city of Stockholm performed at midnight and aired on National TV on 1997,1998, 1999, 2000, 2001,2002,2003 and 2005.
New piece ”The Road” was premiered at UFL (University of Florida) in april 2007. Launch of several albums on iTunes and other electronic purveyors of music
World premiere of Vox Altra at FEMF17 april 2008
Lecture at UCSB Santa Barbara MAT in february 2009
World premiere of Napoli Down in New York april 2009
Theatre Music for Gift med alla at the Odenteatern in Stockholm
new jingles for SR National Radio
concert in Montreal october 2009 with surround pieces at Concordia University
2010 the 8th Abstraction premiered in New York at NYCEMF
Score to Imani
Release of Soundtrack without a Movie and No Dress Code on iTunes
Release of Signorum Amor on iTunes
Cold Numbers 2011 5.1 electronic piece premiered at Audiorama in Stockholm Sweden
2 hour portrait on Swedish National Radio
Release of FILM on iTunes
Discography includes releases on
C R I
Chair STIM grant jury 2011 2012 2013
2012 release of Cold Numbers and june 5th of Dream Train on iTunes.
New project “Rooms” is under way. Keep posted.
This work is entitle 1952 and exist in stereo and 5.1 versions
Works number some 300 works in areas such as
film, TV, radio jingles, modern danse, chamber music, symphonic music, electronic music etc
Cold Numbers released february 14th 2012 on major platforms.
New electronic melodic rhythmic album for release summer 2012
Guilty released june 2013
new project on Bernard Heidsieck projected time mid 2014
new electronic composition
Crushing Silence released globally on iTunes and major platforms february 19th 2014
The album includes works such as
1994 Le Mécanicien Effréné
and 2013 Crushing Silence
Comments on the works are available as a free podcast on iTunes or directly on the web site
Podcasts about the music from the 70's, 80's,90's the 2000's and 2010 through 2013 can be found at
as well as on iTunes
lectures will be held upon request at email@example.com
Vox Altra stereo and 5.1
Grand Voyage sans Larmes GRM 50th anniversary commission
Piano Concerto dedicated to Roland Pontinen recorded by SRO at the Berwald Hall Stockholm
So Be It