Meet the Artist……Sophie Dunér, composer and singer


Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

Elvis Presley – for his dynamics. However, my very first instrument was the piano and I wanted to be a `cocktail bar pianist´. Then I changed to voice. I had a short introductory period singing pop though, pretty soon coming to the realization that my artistic `mood´ was far too `serious´ and complicated for the task. I was looking for something more complex, artistically. That led me to enroll in jazz studies at Berklee College of Music (vocal performance & composition). Apart from the jazz studies, I also attended classes in classical singing as well as in contemporary classical composition.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Igor Stravinsky, Charles Mingus, Kurt Weill, Paco de Lucía, Cathy Barberian, Björk. I was also very fond of all types of ethnic and dynamic singing, which was a big influence on my expression in jazz. When it comes to composers, I listened to a variety, spanning from jazz, world music to contemporary classical – I always needed all of them to feed my ears.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

To explain what type of music I do, finding the right people to work with and finding the right venues to perform at. Making my music sound the way it should. Achieving consistency in work opportunities & controlling and combining it with my mood.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My latest string quartet CD ‘The City of My Soul’ (produced by Michael Haas) and a track called “La Finadita” from the album ‘The Outsider’ by F. Tarrés and The Arida Conta Group. I am also very pleased with a performance I did with electric cello last year as well as some tracks from an upcoming vox & acoustic bass (jazz) CD. I also enjoyed a gig I did at `Festival O/Modernt’ in Stockholm (with a string orchestra among other combos.) A gig at `Festival de Música Cotemporánea de La Plata´ in Buenos Aires was also great – it was audiovisual as well.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I love to sing music with angular melodies. With extreme highs and lows! That way, I can express varied vocal colours in my different vocal registers and vocal `placements´. I also love music with interesting rhythms and change of meter, and with a lot of energy and groove. I also like dissonance. And space, with dynamic attacks! Basically, anything that is vocally challenging is fun and stimulating.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

My choices are related to what type of gigs I have at the moment.  It´s also dependent on for whom I write and who I collaborate with. And where I am offered concerts and work – it’s all interrelated.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I like theatres. And I loved `Confidencen´at Ulriksdals Slott (where I recently performed) Another interesting venue to perform in was an ecological farm outside Zürich. Or a dusky jazz club. Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Basically, I like venues with a soul and which have their own personality.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment: to perform, `Caravan´ by Juan Tizol, `Weird Nightmare´ by Charles Mingus, `Addicted to Love´ by Sophie Dunér. To listen to:  the last part of `Petrushka by Stravinskij and track n° 2 from the CD “Bach por Flamenco” by Miriam Méndez, “Un amour de Swan” by Hans Werner Henze , “Weird Nightmare” by Mingus with singer Lorraine Cusson + “Cubana Be Cubana Bop” by Dizzy Gillespie.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Igor Stravinsky, Charles Mingus, George Antheil, Louis Andriessen, Thelonious Monk, Alberto Ginastera, Concha Buika, Paco de Lucía, Hans Werner Henze, Dizzy Gillespie, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Astor Piazzola, Bill Frisell, Erik Friedlander (to mention a few!)

What is your most memorable concert experience?

On a jazz jam session when the audience screamed after my solo and the one I did recently at Festival O/Modernt and PARMA Music Festival last summer.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Take risks – better to fall and then rise more interesting afterwards than to stay safe.

What are you working on at the moment?

My own new original (jazz), angular pieces with extreme highs and lows as well as with lots of energy, rhythm and time meter changes. I will record with the electric cellist Jeremy Harman in July in Boston (with whom I performed at the PARMA Music Festival last year.) 

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In a place where both mind and heart are combined and satisfied. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

What is your most treasured possession?

My imagination.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing, singing, painting, drawing, biking, hiking, photography, animals, cooking, comedy and have kids comment on my art and music.

What is your present state of mind?

Eager and unquiet.

Sophie Dunér is a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger and visual artist from Sweden who has lived and performed in the United States and Spain. Originally a jazz singer, her writing and performing have evolved into a unique style of wild, risky, passionate and exhilarating music for vocals and string quartet.


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