Wednesday, 25 May 2022

ICE wins the Teosto Prize 2022

I have been so overwhelmed the past week since winning the Teosto Prize* from all the positive responses and wonderful greetings!

Teotso Prize Winners 2022. Photo Jussi Helttunen

Now I would like to share with you a few pictures from the event. It feels unbelievable that I was given the chance by Dalia Stasevska and Lahti Symphony Orchestra to compose a work for them and the European Green Capital Lahti 2021, a work about climate change, and it feels even more unbelievable that this for me so important work also now won the Teosto Prize 2022! Huge thank you to both the pre-jury, who selected my work for nomination as well as the final jury who awarded me the prize!
Also a big congratulations to the other three winners, Yona , Linda Fredriksson and Evil Stöö as well as to all the other amazing nominated composers!

Cecilia Damström with conductor Dalia Stasevska after ICE winning the Teosto Prize 2022

I would also like to give a huge thanks to my family and friends who have been there for me and have supported my choice to become a composer, in both good times and bad. Never once did my parents question my decision to become a composer, on the contrary: it was my mother who suggested I’d study composition in the first place, so an extra huge thank you to my dear mother, who suggested this path that has felt right ever since.

Teosto Prize Winners 2022. Photo Jussi Helttunen.

I’m very honoured, happy and proud to be the first woman within classical music to win the Teosto Prize (which has been handed out since 2003). However I would like to draw attention to the fact that I’m by no means the first woman who could have won the prize. I would like to thank all the amazing women within history who have composed amazing music and have been part of the slow transformation toward a more diverse cultural field. A special big shoutout to Kaija Saariaho who has inspired the whole world through her personal music. Looking forward to an even more diverse future within culture as well as in general!
*Teosto is the Finnish copyright organisation for music creators, composers, and publishers. The Teosto Prize is awarded since 2003 to “bold, original and innovative musical works” and it is one of the biggest art awards in the Nordic countries.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

KRAFT - A world premiere with Akademen

What a concert! What a night!

Last night the Academic Male Voice Choir Akademen together with their conductor Elisa Huovinen gave an outstanding world premiere to my piece Hav, which they had commissioned. Due to a movement in the piece, where the choir is required to clap and stomp, the choir sang the whole 17 minute accapella piece by heart! This in a time when covid-19 has made regular choir practises impossible for over 2 years! I was so impressed!

The whole concert took place in a former steam power plant Kattilahalli, which felt like a industrial cathedral (to borrow the music criticque Mats Liljeroos words).

Hav was one of three commissions by the choir around the theme renewable energies interwoven by preludes and interludes by soundartist Joel James Ward and the whole concert was visually orchestrated by light artist Alexander Salvesen. After Ward’s opening soundscape, Andrea Eklund’s meditative piece Aeon Breath to a poem by James Gilbank filled the domelike hall while the smoke lay heavy and the light scape was hazy. During Ward’s water-inspired interlude soundscape, while the choir re-essembled in the dark.

KRAFT Photo by Melinda Schultz
KRAFT Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

Out of the dim light and haze the intimate beginning of my Hav began to rise, while Salvesen made spectacular visual landscapes through enormous water projections of light upon the ceiling. Hav consists of a total of ten movements which are sung attack after each other. The first movement in Swedish is meditative and describes the sea and how tremendous it is while the second very energetic movement in English discusses the possibilities of wave power plants. Example of the lyrics of the second movement:

There is an enormous energy potential 

that is available around the clock and free of charge. 

A potential, that if fully exploited, 

could satisfy 40% of the world wide demand for power. 

This equals the output of 700-800 nuclear power stations. 

This would mean no high-level radio active vaste 

of seven hundred to eight hundred nuclear power stations. 

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

As mentioned, Salvesen had arranged a water basin of about two times 20 meters, with a small motor spinning a pedal that produced fantastic waves that all was reflected on the ceiling, so the energy potential of waves was literally projected on the ceiling and walls.

In the middle of the piece the choir sings partly in unison and partly in three part harmony with a happy melody in major with vibes from Finnish folk music, accompanied by claps and stomps, the following text in Finnish from the Finnish “Economist” (Taloussanomat), here translated:

Only the demand for renewable energy 

will grow this year, 

predicts the International Energy Agency IEA.

The global energy market and emissions

 from energy production 

will see a historic drop this year 

as a result of the coronary virus pandemic, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.

The prognosis says  

that the energy demand 

is going to fall 

the most it has done in 70 years - 

Emissions could fall 

by as much as eight percent, 

the International Energy Agency IEA predicts.

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After this lighter segment the choir is split up so that soloist came to stand between the choir and the water pool, each with an own lightbulb in front of them. While the choir breathes in and out at a rising tempo like a dying planet, the soloists recite a text about how Finnish firms developing Wave-power haven’t received the needed funding from the state (which somehow just seems incredible to me, and so sad). The ever growing crescendo and accelerando is interrupted by a foghorn, which is followed by some beautiful huge chords by the choir and a lamenting solo sung by one of the first tenors. The choir get’s to whistle and sing overtones as well. The piece ends with my words (in Swedish)

Today wave energy costs 

about twice as much per megawatt hour, 

than electricity produced by wind or nuclear power.

But what is the price for the survival of mankind, 

for the continued existence of our planet? I

magine if you were to invest as much i

n renewable energies as in Olkiluoto 3, almost nine billion. 

What would happen? Where can it take us?



Energy potential


KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After my piece the hall went almost dark again and while Salvesen made an impressive visualsation of red radar lights moving around the space, Ward filled the space with a morse code telling about the piece and presenting the artists. During this time the choir could collect their note stands and sheet music for the final piece.

It felt like Alex Freeman’s A Field of Sunlight picked up where I had left, and the piece began with an amazing chord with overtone singing, which was absolutely stunning. The piece composed to Galileo Galilei’s poetical texts about the sun, was an all time changing mass of sound. 

KRAFT Alexander Salvesen Photo by Melinda Schultz

During this piece the amazing circular projections of water (projected by old overhead projectors) began to fill up with colours and turn blood red in the front (stage) part of the hall while they turned green and blue in the back part of the hall. A total of 8 overhead projectors were projecting different coloured orbs on to the ceiling and walls, while Salvesen walked calmly between them and adjusting the colours in them. The whole piece ended in semi-darkness with the feeling of rotating stars moving around the room. This was achieved by two simple disco balls placed relatively far behind in the room, a simple but genius work of art by Salvesen.

KRAFT 2022 Akademen Photo by Melinda Schultz

After the last tones of Freeman’s piece had rung out the audience was allowed to clap for the first time in 75 minutes, and clap they did! They audience gave the concert a standing ovation for about 10 minutes. This was an absolutely unforgettable experience, and its with mixed feelings I say: a once in a life time experience. Of course it would be amazing if this whole concert would be put up again, in for instance a festival! But there is also something very beautiful and special in being part of something so huge and visceral.

Joel Ward, Cecilia Damström, Alex Freeman, Andrea Eklund, Alexander Salvesen and Elisa Huovinen after the concert KRAFT 7th of May 2022 at Kattilahalli, Helsinki.