Lili Marleen-effekten

Imagine the sound of the 1940-ies. Snapshots of songs from that time in Norway, Germany and USA. The song Lili Marleen became famous for being unstoppable in crossing borders between countries and languages in a time where crossing borders was not accepted. 

I am using particles of songs like Lili Marleen in addition to small language sounds, and fragments of words from Norwegian, English and German, to tell the true story of a war child, in the form of a vocal ensemble piece.

A very condensed version of the material, one could call it a pre-project, named “My Mother Said”, was premiered by Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart in Grieghallen, Bergen 2019. 

The background for the piece is this: My mother-in-law was the unwanted child of a Norwegian mother and a German soldier father. After being sent as a parcel back and forth between homes and countries for several years, she was as a 4 year-old adopted by a Norwegian-American family in Brooklyn. Then she forgot everything, including that she ever spoke German, and did not hear about these events again until she reached adulthood.

It must have still been there in the subconscious, but erased from the conscious mind. In spite of her sunny personality she was carrying this story – or maybe the cheerfulness was somehow a necessity, deeply rooted in the forgotten events.

In the work with “My Mother Said” I found a lot of material, and are now working towards a larger scale work in four parts, durata approx. 20 minutes. My hope is now to make an international project for three vocal ensembles from the three countries, with focus on young performers and also a friendship/exchange aspect. 

In addition to particles of 1940-ies songs that my mother-in-law might have heard during her childhood, I am building the piece with sounds from the three languages, Norwegian, German and English, based on snippets of text from her official case documents and other places. Composed together these fragments can portrait the trauma of her as a war child, with repressed memories and words that disappear and reappear from consciousness. I am focusing on sound and consciousness, and how we remember and forget. Deconstructing words into syllables and syllables into sounds, notating with phonetic notation. 

The things that connects us, even during war and conflict, like “Lili Marleen”, are powerful. Especially music  is unique in how it can connect different parts or layers of the human consciousness. Music, song and language all hold special positions when it comes to connecting people. For instance the common roots of the Norwegian, English and German languages becomes very clear when the words are deconstructed. 

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