Raw Icelandic songs cast in a mould of Flemish indie baroque

The Loom of Mind

Mugison, Pétur Ben, B.O.X

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One man band Mugison teams up with his compatriot Pétur Ben and the Flemish indie-baroque collective Baroque Orchestration X (B.O.X., who featured in Shara Worden’s You Us We All last year) in The Loom of Mind. The title of the programme refers to the creativity and the complexity of the brain, but also to its vulnerability. Accompanied by B.O.X.’s baroque instruments, the bearded bard from Iceland brings a mix of old and new songs, weaving together stand-up comedy, stories, visuals and set design to create a performance in which Mugison’s ‘Mirstrument’ – a kind of electronic, musical loom – will take centre stage.

programme

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Loom of Mind is a seventy minute performance by Icelandic one man band Mugison, his compatriot Pétur Ben and the Flemish indie-baroque collective Baroque Orchestration X (B.O.X., who featured in Shara Worden's You Us We All last year). Accompanied by Box's baroque instruments, the bearded crooner from Iceland brings a mix of old and new songs, weaving them together with standup, stories, visuals and set design to create a performance in which Mugison's 'Mirstrumenti' - a kind of electronic, musical loom with a 192 button keyboard - will take centre stage.

The title of the programme refers to various different meanings of the word 'loom'. In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary we find:
1. noun; a frame or machine for interlacing, at the right angles, two or more sets of threads or yarns to form a cloth.
2. verb; to appear in a large, strange, or frightening form often in a sudden way; to appear in an impressively large or great form; to be close to happening, to be about to happen
3. noun; the indistinct and exaggerated appearance of something seen on the horizon or through fog or darkness; also: a looming shadow or reflection.

In the first meaning of the word 'loom', namely an astonishingly crafty and complex weaving device, the Loom of Mind becomes a metaphor for the creativity and complexity of the mind, but also for its fragility and easily induced confusion. Physically, these machines themselves provide countless clues for music composition, visuals and stage design.
With the second and third definitions in mind, The Loom of Mind contemplates on how the fragility of the mind, and of life in general, can be frightening and even paralysing. Although seemingly far away at times, tragedy and sudden disaster are always looming, be it deep down in our sub consciousness, or just around he corner in the real world. Mental disorder, depression, car accidents, terrorism, disasters … it's all out there, all the time, and it's so easy to live a life in fear. However, although many of these events and conditions are beyond our control, fear itself can rightfully be pointed out as the source of many things evil.

On an everyday level it can weigh on our existence and drive us to poor choices and unhappiness. On a society level, fear can become truly destructive when it is being instrumentalised by a political system, or by powerful individuals or institutions, like banks. Isn't greed, for example, also the fear of not having enough, or of having less than your neighbour? Like gravity for water down the drain, fear, when losing its natural counterweights hope and content, becomes the drawing force of many a downward spiral.

For the storytelling and standup parts of the show, the (history of) psychology, mental disorder, fear, weaver's craft etcetera, provide many ideas to develop and incorporate into the performance. Exploring the history of these things is a way of linking in with the historical context that is brought on stage by the early music instruments of B.O.X.

The Loom of Mind ends up being about all these threads and themes together, often simultaneously, sometimes gloriously messing things up in an idle effort of weaving it all together in something meaningful. But the piece demonstrates that creation, confusion and control turn out to be going hand in hand.

Combining genuine, contemporary creative genius with age-old historical sound textures and some compelling, universal storylines, the piece is somehow extremely ambitious and without any pretense at the same time. Through humour, music and timeless beauty, yet without moralising, the underlying message is one of hope and consolation: by modestly accepting imperfection and embracing the finitude of life, we can set our minds free, at least for the time of one great evening.

Out of chaos comes order, and all order eventually disintegrates.

BIOGRAPHY

Whether the Icelandic singer and musician Mugison, pseudonym of Örn Elías Guomundsson (1976), plays his laptop or swaps it for musicians of flesh and blood, he always charms with enchanting and unpredictable songs. Mugison became drawn into music after having witnessed a concert by the poet/musician Kjartan H. Grétarsson in 1993, and got the artist to agree to teaching him music. It brought him into contact with The Beat Poets, the music of Frank Zappa and Icelandic poetry. Nirvana's seminal album In Utero and Björk's Debut have also had great influence on his music, as well as the music of Andy Votel and Matthew Herbert. The latter took Mugison under his wing and nurtured him. Whilst studying music at London's Middlesex University, Mugison started experimenting with creating music on the computer. He released various CDs, including his debut album Lonely Mountain (2003) as well as Mugiboogie (2008) and Haglél (2011). To Mugison, music is one big, cheerful and sometimes even schizophrenic playground. His music is so varied that he had no trouble supporting such diverse acts as hard rock formation Queens of the Stone Age, electronics wizard Matthew Herbert and his folky compatriot Emiliana Torrini. In 2013, he launched his now famous 'mirstrumenti', an instrument boasting a 192 button keyboard which he developed together with his sound engineer.

Pétur Ben is a man who has lived in many different worlds. He has toured the globe as a rock musician, both with his own music and in Mugison's band. He's a singer-songwriter, composer, producer and arranger. Born and bred in Reykjavik, Ben has been playing and writing music from a young age. In 2004, he graduated from the Reykjavik Academy of Music. He first rose to fame because of his collaboration with his compatriot Mugison. His debut album Wine For My Weakness won him the Icelandic Music Awards in 2007. Since then he's been busy working in film, theatre and as a studio producer, recording with some of Iceland's finest talents, including Kippi Kaninus, Amiina, Sigtryggur, Baldursson and Mugison. Ben's most recent album, God's Lonely Man, was met with great acclaim in 2012, landing on nearly every list of that year's best releases in Iceland. With his background in death metal and having scored director Ragnar Bragasoin's previous films Children, Parents and Bjarnfredarson, it was no surprise he was asked to write the score for Bragason's 2013 release Metalhead as well. Metalhead won the Edda Award for best original score in 2014 and was nominated for the Harpa Nordic Film Composer Award.

Formed and led by lute player Pieter Theuns, B.O.X., which stands for Baroque Orchestration X, are an indie baroque collective who in their music examine the potential of using historical instruments in a contemporary context. The ensemble demonstrated their special approach to the creation of 'baroque orchestrations' at TEDx Flanders in 2010. Their debut project included comprehensive reworkings of two classic indie-rock masterpieces: White Chalk by PJ Harvey and Radiohead's Amnesiac. In 2011, in collaboration with the popular Belgian band Dez Mona, B.O.X. created Sága, an opera of ballads which was received to international acclaim. The members of B.O.X. are all seasoned musicians who have played with some of the leading European ensembles, including Fretwork, the English Baroque Soloists and The King's Consort; they have performed with global stars such as Beck, Damon Albarn, Björk, Valgeír Sigurdsson, Arno and dEUS. In 2014, B.O.X. performed at the Holland Festival in You us we all, a collaborative production with Shara Worden and Andrew Ondrejcak. The premiere in Hamburg as well as the performance in Amsterdam proved a landmark success for the ensemble, both creatively and from a productional point of view. In the autumn of 2015, You Us We All will embark on a 5 week US tour.

 

Credits

concept
Mugison, Pétur Ben, Pieter Theuns
music, texts
Mugison
music, arrangements
Pétur Ben, Pieter Theuns
sound design
Patrick Vanderborght
light design
Tom Lagast
technical stage design
Jeroen Theuns
performed by
B.O.X. (Baroque Orchestration X):
Liam Byrne, viola da Gamba, lyrone
Pieter Vandeveire, viola da Gamba, soprano gamba
Borgar Magnasson, double bass
Jon Birdsong, cornetto, trumpet
Lambert Colson, cornetto
Adam Woolf of Bart Vroomen, baroque trombone
Jutta Troch, baroque harp
Mattijs Vanderleen, drums, percussion
Pieter Theuns, theorbe, lute, artistic direction
production
B.O.X. Office vzw
coproduction
deSingel Internationale Kunstcampus, Festival van Vlaanderen-Mechelen
with support by
Vlaamse Gemeeschap