With the growing buzz around the Margreth Olin’s critically acclaimed nature documentary Songs of Earth, the attention to the score behind the film continues to mount as well. Composer Rebekka Karijord has just received two nominations for her score: the 39th IDA Documentary Awards for Best Original Music Score (winners will be announced 12 December ’23), and the 2024 Cinema Eye Honors for Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score (winners will be announced 12 January ’24).
The film, executively produced by Wim Wenders and Liv Ullman, has previously been announced as Norway’s Oscar submission, premiered in film festival such as CPH:DOX and TIFF to high critical acclaim and was selected into DOC NYC’s Winner Circle Programme, key indicator for Oscars’ Documentary Feature Category.
With director Margreth Olin’s 85-year-old father serving as the cinematic guide through Songs of Earth, the film promises from the very start to get up close and personal. But not in the usual documentarian way. Songs of Earth rather employs the breathtaking immensity of nature and the harmonics of earth herself to reach into the center of that most intimate of all terrains. The human spirit.
Next to this “cinematic nature experience of the year” (CPH:DOX), the original score composed by Rebekka Karijord and interpreted by the London Contemporary Orchestra is now also available as a rich experience on its own.
The process of scoring Songs of Earth was unconventional right from the get-go, owing in part to the close collaborative relationship between Karijord and the film’s sound designer Tormod Ringnes and field recordings by Andreas Lindberg Svensson.
Joining the team on site during the filming, Svensson used contact and underwater microphones to capture the stunning sounds of nature itself. Once the effervescent, eerie, and utterly realistic music of glaciers, melting ice, rivers, frozen lakes, and streams reached Karijord’s ears, she began to mediate upon how she could translate these sounds into the body of orchestral instruments.
In other words: How does a woodwind sing like a melting glacier? Can a double bass resonate like an ancient spruce tree? Does an avalanche thunder through the brass of a tuba or wooden body of a viola?
Wanting to test the limits, unearthing how musical instruments could emulate nature, Karijord experimented with various soloists at her studio and included some of the uncovered techniques into the writing of the score before taking those same techniques to AIR studios to be run through the majesty that is the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Overall, Karijord was determined to communicate simplicity with this soundtrack so that it wouldn’t prevail over the imagery. She achieved this by keeping the origin of each tone closely linked to nature, rather than asking nature to emulate the sounds of the instruments. The resultant experience trains the human ear to absorb music in a whole new way. “When I watch the film now, I have trouble differentiating the field recordings from the studio instruments. This creates a fantastic synergy, a sonic poem and the indivisible nature between the human and natural worlds.”
Songs of Earth, featuring executive producers Wim Wenders and Liv Ullman, is a moving meditation, a deep journey seamlessly traveling between both sonic and visual landscapes. Listened on its own, the spell-binding soundtrack promises to awaken the human spirit from the inside out, reminding each tone of us of that undeniable connection between the nature out there and the nature within.