'From the first listening I have been fascinated by the way in which the formal music of Ørjan Matre seems to combine opposite types of music: on the one hand, timbral pointillism in the spirit of Anton Webern; on the other hand, rhythmically resilient music with repeating patterns. The two types of music have often been viewed as mutually exclusive. The title “Atem” is of course taken from the German word for “breath”.
The work was commissioned by the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and is written for 4 woodwinds, 4 brass players, 2 percussionists, and a string quintet. Typical for the Matre sound laboratory is that all the instruments, not only the winds, are expected to produce breathing sounds. Now it may well be inappropriate to present an interpretation for listeners who themselves are qualified to point out the connections between the title and the work. Nonetheless: We note that all choices are made in the light of the simple sound description of the title: “Breath”.
The solo strings playing as a quintet on this recording have a more precise breathing sound than a tutti section, which one might expect of a work commissioned by a symphony orchestra. Another point from Matre’s laboratory is his deep insight into the playing techniques of the various instruments. Every single deviation from standard playing technique is described in detail in the score, strengthening the musicians’ confidence in the composer. I do not wish to bore the listener with examples, apart from one, where the strings play harmonics that do not resonate naturally. My guess is that Matre has taken this elegant manner of using “harmonics” in quotation marks from the Italian Salvatore Sciarrino.'