Kent Olofsson – Composer


Kent Olofsson (1962) is a Swedish composer with an extensive artistic output of over 160 works that span a broad field of genres, ensemble types and contexts including music for orchestra, chamber music, electroacoustic music, music theatre, alternative rock music and works for dance performances and installations. His music have been performed by ensembles and orchestras like Ensemble Recherche, Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Swedish Radio Choir, KammarensembleN, Klangforum Wien, Oslo Sinfonietta and Avantii! and by conductors as Lothar Zagrosek, Gustavo Dudamel, Mario Venzago and Franck Ollu.


His long-term collaboration with guitarist Stefan Östersjö has resulted in numerous large-scaled works for guitar, among them Corde for guitarist and orchestra, of which the first part, Fascia, was awarded 3rd prize at the at Musica Viva / BMW Composition Competition Munich in 2004 as well as, for the whole concerto, the Christ Johnson Prize for Composition Stockholm 2009. Other acclaimed orchestral works are Stalingrad Madonna for mezzo-soprano and orchestra that was awarded 2:a prize at the II Uuno Klami International Composition Competition 2009 in Finland, and Waymarks from 2014 for orchestra, pre-recorded voices and video based on the life and poems by Dag Hammarskjöld.


He has written much chamber music and the pieces for instruments and electronics has drawn special attention. Alinea I-III for string quartet and electronics won the first prize at CIMESP Award in Brazil 2001, Il liuto d’Orfeo for guitar and tape first prize in Bourges competition for electroacoustic music in France 1999 and Stabat Mater for vocal quartet and tape received an honourable mention at the IRINO PRIZE 2001, Tokyo, Japan. His electronic pieces as well as many of his instrumental and vocal works are characterized by intricate and intriguing sonic explorations, in many pieces done through the use of unusual instruments and extended playing techniques. For Stefan Östersjö he has written pieces for guitar instruments as charango, 11-stringed alto guitar and glissentar. Between 2008 and 2016 he has been working on a large-scale suite for countertenor, recorder, baroque violin, gamba and theorbo, Champs d’étoiles, a work based on texts and aspects of pilgrimage where he explores the richness of period instruments.


Since 2009 he is collaborating with Swedish theatre group Teatr Weimar and playwright, director and video artist Jörgen Dahlqvist, creating intermedial music theatre-pieces. Works as Hamlet II: Exit Ghost, A Language at War, Intérieur/Extérieur and Arrival Cities: Växjö integrates contemporary theatre and performing art, radiophonic art, instrumental and electronic music, video art and scenography. Their productions have been widely recognized, also internationally, with performances at Volksbühne in Berlin, Kunstenfestivaldesartes in Brussels, Temps d’ımage in Paris and at Dramaten in Stockholm.


Layers of narratives, themes and concepts, and a dramaturgy that is often based on musical structures characterize their works. Thematically they have often taken on an investigatory approach concerning current political matters. Arrival Cities: Hanoi, from 2015, deals with migration to the large cities in Vietnam and its implications for people and the cultural heritage. It was created in collaboration with The Six Tones, a trio of Vietnamese instruments. The work was written for the trio and chamber ensemble with electronics and soundscapes, and included further spoken sections where the musicians also talked about their journeys between the orient and the occident, documentary videos from Hanoi and choreographed parts based on traditional Vietnamese Tuong theatre. The first performance took place in Vienna together with Ensemble Reconsile.


Olofsson is currently working on a PhD in artistic research in the field of contemporary theatre and composition, based on his collaboration with Teatr Weimar. His project is called Composing Sonic Art Theatre – Exploring musical composition as a dramaturgical strategy and will be finished in 2017.


His works has been released on more than 30 CDs, often with himself as producer and sound engineer. Among recordings can be mentioned his portrait CD Cordes that contains the guitar concerto Corde and The Bells, a large piece for choir, soloist groups, keyboards, contrabasses, harp, percussion and electronics, based on the poem by E. A. Poe with the same name. A recent CD is Man’s Desire to be God with art rock group Zart.


Olofsson is also a teacher in music theory, electroacoustic music and composition at Malmö Academy of Music. He also works at Inter Arts Center in Malmö, a part of the Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, Lund University, for artistic research and experimentation. He studied himself composition at the Malmö Academy with Rolf Martinsson, Hans Gefors, Bent Sørensen, Trevor Wishart and others. He also studied in conducting, music theory and sound engineering.



With titles and themes that allude to the conceptual world of antiquity, and with influences from Oriental music and the technical and tonal universe of the renaissance, Olofsson traverses wide expanses. The relative technical complexity is often parried with a surprising immediacy born of his confident ear for acoustic texture and for the purely human experience of tonal transmutation. This "psychoacoustic" sensitivity lends his music, without compromise, the ability to get intimately close to the listener.

Tony Lundman, 2003 (English translation: Neil Betteridge)