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Bjorn Arntsen



Bjorn has an extensive background as a composer, pianist, recording engineer, editor and producer. His compositions aim to bridge the gap between minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt with the pioneering electronic music of Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin and the Prodigy. The result is a body of work that encompasses music for television, film, theatre and the concert hall.

As a Sámi born New Zealander, Bjorn music often blends Sámi syntaxes, rhythms and repetitions with Māori vocabulary and has a strong focus and connection with Ko Te Tangata - indigenous land rights. This is particularly evident in his String Quartet (2023) that was inspired by the Alta controversy and his piece composed for the Donizetti Trio, Tuaruatanga (2024).

In Tuaruatanga, Bjorn shows an obsession with repetition, employing three different repetitive techniques. In the first part one shape is expanding and contracting in length, often played simultaneously at different speeds. Secondly a cycle of chords, moves from light to dark, often with cicada-like interruptions. Thirdly, a ground bass is shifted around the octaves. The instruments take turn in free form interludes, the kind often found in the choral music of William Byrd that ofer a view of what is to come. Inspired by the beautiful syntaxes of te reo Māori and the language of his own people, the Sámi. Specifically, the juxtaposition of the fluid and legato-like use of vowels in te reo Māori with the jagged and angular combination of consonants found in the northern Sámi language.

Bjorn’s piano trio, Pacific Notion, inspired by the phrase,Trip to the light fantastic, brought a multitudinous outpouring of musical ideas. This piano trio emerges as a stream of consciousness that flows, is felt, punctuated, interrupted, shaped, and then crafted. It does not emerge from a verbal place, but from an idea of a certain time and place, namely the urban music of Aotearoa in the early part of this century, especially the sounds heard on “trips” to the clubs and arenas around the country, from electronica, dance, drum & bass to hip hop and trance. These are not styles normally associated with the concert stage nor the piano trio repertoire, but in Pacific Notion, they are weaved together, often blending the three instruments of the trio into sounding like one. The piece was premiered by NZTrio in October 2023.

Bjorn also works around Aotearoa as a classical recording engineer with a strong passion for immersive sound, Bjorn’s name is often found in the credits of album releases of Atoll Records, Riverlea Grammophone and Sony Classical. He has collaborated with NZTrio, New Zealand String Quartet, Levansa Trio, New Zeland Chamber Soloists and Matthias Balzat just to name a few.

Bjorn is currently a PhD Candidate in composition at Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato.