Song Circus

Kammerensemblet Song Circus (2008-) består av seks norske, profesjonelle sangere med samtidsmusikk og improvisasjon som spesialfelt. Ensemblet er basert i Stavanger, under kunstnerisk ledelse av Liv Runesdatter. Song Circus har dyrket fram et uvanlig og fascinerende lydvokabular, i kombinasjon med sjelden musikalsk presisjon.
Gjertsen SongCircus

Ensemblet har gjestet internasjonale festivaler og scener, og konserter har ved flere anledninger blitt kringkastet på europeisk radio- og TV-kanaler. Ensemblet vektlegger nære og langvarige samarbeid med komponister og skapende kunstnere. Song Circus har også laget prosjekter i grensefeltet mellom konsert, konseptkunst, installasjoner og performance, på bestilling fra gallerier, muséer, festivaler m.fl.

Høsten 2015 lanserte Song Circus Anatomy of Sound, i samarbeid med den multi-Grammynominerte plateprodusenten Morten Lindberg (2L). Utgivelsen har høstet svært gode anmeldelser og ble nominert til Spellemannprisen.

Song Circus har en lang liste spennende prosjekter. Besøk ensemblets nettsider, les og lytt: www.songcircus.no

I 2016 lanserte Song Circus en EP med akustiske vokalutdrag fra Anatomy of Sound, og en kunstfilm, skapt i samarbeid med regissør Maja Friis (DK):


The triennial Sound of a Cage is a collaboration of an interdisciplinary and professional art field. The event will take place in Stavanger, and curator is Liv Runesdatter/CARMA Contemporary Art, Music and Dance. The triennial is built up around the legacy of John Cage and his contemporaries and it combines art, music, design, performance, workshops, lectures and topical discussions. This third edition set focus on sound poetry.


The idea of “texts without words”, text as phonetic sound, detached from semantics, can be traced back to the Futurist and Dada movements in the 1920s and 30s. Kurt Schwitter’s Ursonata is one of the first known examples of sound poetry. The art form developed into different categories, such as simulateous poetry, concrete poetry, abstract poetry and visual poetry. In the beat cultures well-known names such as Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Brion Gysin started using cassette recordings. European examples were found in France, Italy and United Kingdom, and names such as Bob Cobbing in the UK and Henri Chopin in France were significant figures. In Sweden a peculiar form of sound poetry developed, known as “text-sound-composition”. Behind it were persons with links to Radio Sweden and Fylkingen-groups. Important names are Åke Hodell and Sten Hanson.

Explore the program and our websites here!


“Anatomy of Sound” is the concept that permeates all of Song Circus´ artistic work during the period 2014-2018, and it contains eight projects and fifteen composers. The repertoire focuses on the expansion of the register of expression and sound available to the human voice. In addition, Anatomy of Sound suggests a multitude of potential historical, theoretical, phenomenological and artistic angles.

The album “Anatomy of Sound” was nominated Norwegian Grammy (Spellemann). The album contain new music written by the Norwegian composers Ruben Sverre Gjertsen and Ole-Henrik Moe. Anatomy of Sound was recorded in Uranienborg Church by Lindberg Lyd in 9.0 Auro-3D and released on Pure Audio Blu-ray and hybrid SACD by 2L.
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The film “Anatomy of Sound” was made in collaboration with the Danish film director, Maja Friis:


Song Circus is developing “UPSWEEP-WHISTLE-BLOOP” in collaboration with vocalist and composer Stine Janvin Motland (NO (www.stinejanvinmotland.com) and visual artist Jasmijn Visser (NL).

During the cold war, the United States Navy set up sound surveillannce system SOSUS, in order to detect the presence of Soviet Submarines in the Pacific Ocean. SOSUS used the SOFAR channel, a horizontal layer of water at which depth the speed of sound is at its minimum. After the cold war the hydrophones remained and were taken over by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. During the past decades the NOAA picked up many sounds with an unidentified source. These sounds, such Upsweep, Whistle and Bloop might originate from natural phenomena, such as icebergs, earthquakes or whale movements, but could also stem from other manmade vessels, such as submarines.

Using the ambiguous nature of the sounds, Visser and Motland creates a visual and auditive ecosystem. Vissers monumental drawing functions as a vessel on it’s own. In it, the balance between the machinelike, structural intervals and the organic movements are always at play; sometimes merging, collaborating, only to then to destruct again.

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And yet they sing


This is the world

More beautiful than we want to know

and more delicate

More fragile than we can abide


The music is composed by Liv Runesdatter and the poems are by Mansur Rajih (Jemen/NO).  The concert piece was commissioned by ICORN and performed at Kapittel, Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech.

The poet Mansur Rajih (Jemen/NO) express himself with a rare poetic fervor. His poems holds a universal tone. In his deepest darkness, he writes about his longing for light. He writes about life’s fragility. The poems affect us all, and they appeal to us in different ways, depending on our experiences, the situation in which we hear them and our personal perception.

Runesdatter compositions are build on musical structures of classical traditional music from regions of the former Ottoman Empire and Norwegian ancient spiritual folk music. “And yet they sing” is performed by a powerful chamber ensemble of outstanding soloists:

Liv Runesdatter (vocals, NO), Mansur Rajih (resitation, Jemen /NO), Snorre Bjerck (percussion), Abdulrahman Surizehi (benju, Iran/Balouchistan/NO), Ilmari Hopkins (cello, FIN/NO), Rolf-Erik Nystroem / Tor Yttredal (saxophone, NO), Henning Rød Haugland (piano / percussion, NO), Magnus Rød Haugland and Ivan Savgoroniy (double bass)

And yet they sing will be released on cd in Desember 2018. Photo 1: Liv Runesdatter. Photo 2: Signe Christine Urdal

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Mansur Rajih has been described as the national poet of Jemen. A radical writer and political activist from the time he was a student, Rajih spent fifteen years as a prisoner of conscience, during which time his poems were smuggled out of prison. In 1998 he was released after a long international campaign involving the Norwegian government, Amnesty International and International PEN. He joined his wife in Stavanger, Norway, where he continues to live with his family, and has had several poetry collections published, including Horoscope: Prison (2000), So Far: So Close (2003), My Brother’s Pain (2008) and From there (2010). Rajih has been the subject of several short films, and in 2010 he was awarded the regional human rights prize for Northern Jæren, Norway.




Song Circus www.songcircus.no is a Norwegian chamber ensemble consisting of five professional vocalists, led by Liv Runesdatter. The ensemble specialize in contemporary music and improvisation. Song Circus has established close and enduring relationships with several composers and creating artists. The ensemble has given life to an unusual and fascinating vocabulary of sound combined with rare musical precision, and their concerts have been broadcasted by radio- and TV stations in Norway and Germany.

Song Circus has achieved The Governmental Ensemble Work Grant 2012-2017 (NO). Their album Anatomy of Sound, presenting new classical music by Ruben Sverre Gjertsen (NO) and Ole-Henrik Moe (NO), was produced by multiple Grammy nominee surround sound producer Morten Lindberg i 2015. The album has achieved outstanding reviews and was nominated Norwegian Grammy.

Physical album and Pure Audio Blu-ray: https://shop.klicktrack.com/2l/1001457
All digital services: http://phonofile.link/anatomy-of-sound


Liv Runesdatter • Eva Bjerga Haugen • Ingeborg Dalheim • Stine Janvin Motland • Signe Irene Time


Liv Runesdatter
+47 93243789

An EP with vocal excerpts and a film from the project Anatomy of Sound was released summer 2016:

Syng hjerte – Sing Heart

Fourteen years ago Liv Runesdatter stumbled across a small collection of old recordings. Hidden on them lay forgotten melodies from a small pietistic laymen’s movement that emerged in eastern Norway in the 1860s, and it marked the start of a passionate affair and study. Since then she has worked on her project Syng hjerte (Sing Heart) and delved even deeper into this rare music tradition. She has studied the songs and the stories behind them. Hours and hours have been spent in archives, pot after pot of coffee brewed in retirement homes, moving conversations and a surrogate grandmother…The Norwegian folk tunes are inseparable from Norwegian roots, tradition and thought. They can be compared to the tradition of Negro Spirituals, a fortifying draught in times of adversity and, in prosperity, an inspiration.

She seeks to let the past and the present melt together. The songs are embellished with life stories and tales, coloured by material from her own musical universe, and inspired from hoarse voices on creaky old recordings, nature, squeaking audiotape players, rooms, shapes, smells, sounds and people. The Norwegian traditional roots are evident, though impulses from other places and traditions can be traced.

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Her solo cd “Syng Hjerte” (Grappa/Galileo) was released in 2008/ 2009 and received outstanding reviews in international newspapers, magazines and radio shows:
The Dutch magazine Folkforum selected Syng Hjerte on their list of «Best international recordings 2009» and writes «What a voice!».
«An important music project,challenging the Norwegian traditional music field, both through Runesdatter´s voice performance andthe catchy and untraditional musical choices.» «What we hear is a heartfelt, personal music, with a rarecreative fantasy: Liv Runesdatter, remember her name. A certain voice, encircled by a powerfulensemble of musicians. The sound on the cd is experienced as clear and near, and I immediately recognize small details: crackling, air without sound/delay through the saxophones, a hint of splinteredbowstrokes.. It is blessed, it is cheerful and drifting, and it is heavy and refreshing at the same time. Itis imaginative art!» Kjetil Bjørgan, The Norwegian Broadcast.
«Runesdatter shows to belong to the elite of Norwegianmusic. Although her music breaths the Norwegian air, it also has something modern and unique. Hervoice is warm and has a natural peacefulness. It reminds of the ice cold traditional jazz of JanGarbarek, without being a copy of his style. When Runesdatter sings one of the many psalms on thisalbum, I feel the ancientness of these songs and when she is backed by the Hardingfele, she bringsthe dales of South-Norway to live.» FolkWorld, international music magazine.
«Herrlich mystisch, verdreht, abenteuerlich,verhalten. Runesdatters Stimme ist klar wie ein norwegischer Gebirgsfluss. So ein Projekt verdient Aufmerksamkeit. Soultrain, Germany.
«Liv’s voice throughout this recording is breathtakingly gorgeous and hymn-like.Syng Hjerte is both reverently soothing and exotically jarring, and well worth a listen.» Lori Gordon, UK.


– art exhitibion: photographies, text and multichannel sound installations

With this exhibition Runesdatter (sound installations) and Urdal (photographies) tells stories about love, choice and trust. Whether to carry on a great sorrow one does not share with others. Anonymia is about self-image and others´ gaze. How do we want to be seen?

The exhibition tells stories about HIV, one of the greatest disease taboos of today. By studying people with and without this diagnosis the artists want to tell something fundamental about the human: About our need of forming our own identity and the stories about ourselves. To be allowed to obscure those aspects of ourselves that we do not want to be identified with. What conflicts arise when our need to be honest and gain acceptance for our weak and strong sides meet the need we have to protect ourselves and our families? And what happens to our self-confidense when we choose to break society´s taboo?


Ruben Sverre Gjertsen’s (NO) prestigious assignments have already earned him international attention. His work is characterised by a virtuosity on the micro level that distorts expectations as to how instruments and ensembles should sound.

In his new work, Landscape with figures II, the room is used in different ways, musicians and singers are positioned among the audience, and electroacoustic sounds are conveyed via a large loudspeaker setup that fills the room and creates a three-dimensional terrain.

Landscape with figures is written for Song Circus, and is available in to different versions:

Landscape with figures II (70 min) written for Song Circus, Oslo Sinfonietta and electronics

Landscape with figures IIa (45 min) written for Song Circus and electronics

In this Norwegian interview Gjertsen speaks about “Landscape with figures” and his approach to composing music:


Sari Gelin

A prized Norwegian-Azerbaijani collaboration between a group of highly recognized musicians lead by the Norwegian singer and composer Liv Runesdatter and kamanecheh player Elshan Mansurov. Rare Norwegian folksongs meet the traditional classical music of Azerbaijan, the Mugam.

Liv Runesdatter – vocals, Ehtiram Huseinov – vocals, Elshan Mansurov – kamanecheh, Alfred Janson  – accordion, Tuva Thomassen Bolstad – hardanger fiddle, Elekber Elekberov – tar

The Mugam tradition and traditional Norwegian folk songs are similar in that they both are vehicles for the perpetuation of the soul of a people. The two traditions have much in common. In terms of musical structure, they are different, but they are brothers in their expressiveness and in their dramatic qualities. Sari Gelin is a famous mugham and the title can be translated as «blond bride». The azeri-armenian story behind the song belongs to a tradition of tragic romance, and can be assembled with the european drama Romeo and Juliet. Mugam is an ancient living tradition and it is with a great sense of fascination and humility, as well as heartfelt respect for its poetry and performers that I embark upon this project.

Mugham orig. Azerbaijan is a tradition of vocal music practiced in Azerbaijan, with variations of different names found over a wide area of the Middle and Far East. Drawing on popular stories and local melodies, it is a highly expressive and narratively complex form of music. Because it is both improvisational and adherent to a highly nuanced set of rules, mugham is difficult to master and notate. Mugham songs are often based on ancient Azerbaijani poetry with recurrent themes of love and mysticism, and performances can last for hours.


A multichannel sound installation made in collaboration with Knut Jonas Sellevold


A concert project with the intention of performing and showcasing the electro acoustic vocal music of Trevor Wishart.

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The heart of the concert is the piece “Anticredos” written for 6 voices and multi channel sound design/electronic. The range of the composition is vast, both vocally and aesthetically speaking. The piece had it’s premiere in 1980, and it is based on a very detailed system of sound and notation published in the book “Book of Lost Voices” (1980). One can find this system in almost all of Wishart’s vocal compositions. “Anticredos” is both vocally demanding and musically very complex and for that reason it has been performed only a handful of times. At the same time the music speaks to us all, with it’s fascinating soundscapes and strong contrasts. Song Circus has since April 2009 performed the piece on several occasions, amongst others at the contemporary music festival PGNM in Bremen, which was broadcasted on the radio (Radio Bremen/Nord-Deutsche Rundfunk). Song Circus has also participated on Wishart’s free improvisation program together with The Kitchen Orchestra in Stavanger.

And from “Anticredos” we move towards Wishart’s current electrophonic sound universe. “Encounter in the Republic of Heaven” is a multi channel electro acoustic surround piece where Wishart works with phonemes as a musical phenomena in combination with storytelling. The material is based on recordings of people of all ages, speaking in different dialects and with different individual expressions, freely telling stories. Act 1 of this piece had it’s world premiere in July 2010 and the second act had it’s world premiere in May 2011.

These two pieces combined provide an insight to the development of Wishart’s compositions through the last 30 years, as a pioneer within the electrophonic music and the exploration of the voice as a basis for sound:

How has his approach to language and voice changed? In what way has he evolved as an electrophonic composer? and how have the technical challenges and the development of new electrophonic equipment influenced and affected his music?

Trevor Wishart (UK) (b. 1946) has been a pioneer within electronic music, vocal music and academia since the early seventies. Wishart is currently associated with the Durham University as Arts Council Composer Fellow. Wishart has also developed musical software that has been and still is being used by many electrophonic music performers today.



“Persefone Perseptions is written by the Norwegian composer Ole-Henrik Moe, for five female voices and an orchestra of wine glasses. The piece is a detailed study of vocal sound surfaces and micro tonality.”

Ole-Henrik Moe (1966) has studied violin and composition in Oslo and Paris, as well as biophysics, cognitive science and musicology at the University of Oslo. Moe works as a composer and violinist, and he has made music for concerts, dance, theatre and film. As a violinist Moe has a rather unique technique in his playing, and he works with a great number of genres and expressions – for instance he has cooperated with the Norwegian rock band Motorpsycho and Magne Furuholmen from a-ha. Moe has been awarded prices for his compositions, and in 2007 the Norwegian Grammy Award (Spellemannprisen) was awarded for a recording of his works, Ciacconna / 3 Persephone Perceptions, with the violinist Kari Rønnekleiv. Ole-Henrik Moe was nominated to The Nordic Council Music Prize in 2012.


– a film and sound installation by Eli Glader (film) and Liv Runesdatter (music/ sound) A commition for Sølvberget Gallery, with première under “Kapittel 10”, Stavanger International Festival for Literature and Freedom of Speech, September 2010.

A portrait of asylum seekes in transit. Voices in different languages and dialects are abstracted and intergrated as rythmic, melodic and textural elements along with glass percussion and string instruments. The music is composed as a quadrophony (with four sound sources). The respected journalist Trond Borgen wrote a wonderful review, published in Stavanger Aftenblad: “A quiet humanism: Young asylum seekers waiting in quiet isolation and human dignity (…). A music track appears in the room: a sound composition created by Liv Runesdatter. It s suggestive and helps to reinforce the soft, poetic atmosphere. The result is strong: visually, aesthetically, politically, emotionally.”

Liv Runesdatter – concept of music and sound, Eli Glader – concept of film, Jon Garcia de Presno – film editing, Eirik Bekkeheien – sound engieneer

This music excerpt is from the opening of the movie: An old white building surrounded by a beautiful green landscape gradually appears on screen. It used to be a sanatorium for mentally ill people, and today it is hosting immigrants applying for asylum. The classic architecture, the clean, white walls and the shape of the building stands in contrast to the people as they slowly appears on the picture…

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