Making strings meet

By: Hannah Jewitt - Posted on: November 21, 2012 | Culture & Life

Seeking inspiration on a global level, Norwegian composer and pianist Ingolv Haaland creates musical reflections of globalisation. On November 27, he will take to the stage at Siam Society, Bangkok

By Hannah Jewitt

Haaland’s artistry is by no means regular. A dedicated improviser and experimentalist, he creates a fusion of Western electronic music and Eastern accents to leave a lasting impression. By combining ambient and lounge genres, as well as electronic and Asian instruments, Haaland’s music embraces global connectivity. Never ceasing to search for novel chords, Haaland has worked with a wide range of artists, musicians and bands, including partaking in several theatre productions.


Ingolv Haaland: dedicated improviser and experimentalist
Ingolv Haaland: dedicated improviser and experimentalist


Inspired by jazz artists Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock, classical composer Chopin and electronic music by dZihan & Kamien, Haaland’s musical taste is highly varied. He describes his muse as “artists and musicians that play from the heart”. “A wide variety of styles and artists influence me, as well as music from different parts of the world,” he says.

Branching out globally to various local arts, 39-year-old Haaland not only teaches at the University of Agder in Norway but has also made major contributions to a musical collaboration in the Middle East, working with Arabic vocal and percussion sounds. Moving to Cambodia in 2006, the six years he spent in Cambodia provided Haaland with the opportunity to work closely with local musicians as he completed a Master’s thesis on the processing of recording within the Cambodian music scene.

“The flow of society throughout Southeast Asia is something that I find very soothing, and I think that you can hear that in my compositions,” Haaland says. “Doing something else gave me the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what to do next. Did I want to continue playing other people´s music, or could I dare to step out and compose something for myself? I chose the latter, and somehow things are slowly falling into place.”

Since living in Cambodia, Haaland is very much in tune with traditional instruments and vocals. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with talented musicians such as Yun Theara, who plays the tro, a bow string instrument, and vocalist Ouch Savy, who sings from the heart and writes excellent lyrics”. He sees the time spent in the Kingdom as one that played a crucial role in the development of his work as well as his life. “When I play with European musicians, they claim to hear a different approach in my music.”


Photo: Tor Jarle Wergeland. Haaland uses images of Asia to provide a visual backdrop to his concerts.
Photo: Tor Jarle Wergeland.
Haaland uses images of Asia to provide a visual backdrop to his concerts.


His live performances also include a backdrop of images from Asia, reflecting the pivotal role the continent plays in shaping his music and providing a visual concert. Live performances stage further scopes for experimentation, as will be demonstrated later in Bangkok later this month, when he joins hands with Thai violinist Nithitorn Haranhankla, an international name in musical saw performance.

“I love the sound of the Asian traditional violin,” he says, “and Nithitorn plays fervently and beautifully. It certainly gives my songs a different approach.”

As Haaland looks to the future, his devotion to developing his music is very much apparent as he prepares a blend of the grand piano, electronics, strings and musicians from Asia, the Middle East and Europe, which he seeks to unite on one stage – a novel experience for the Norwegian composer.

On November 27 2012, Ingolv Haaland will take to the stage at Siam Society, Bangkok and will join hands with Thai violinist Nithitorn Haranhankla and Thai singer Thaitem, who will sing his compositions in Thai. For more information on his first concert in Thailand, visit or