Above: Kim Gordon was invited to this year’s by:Larm because, as the event’s curator said, “involved with art as practitioner and critic, installations, fashion and several different musical outlets.” (photo via by:Larm)
Going into its third year, the Nordic Music Prize has established itself as one of the most important international music awards. The award ceremony in Norway’s capital of Oslo has become integral to by:Larm, the biggest and most ambitious showcase festival and conference in Scandinavia. Oslo needs a strong draw, as the city’s sub-zero environment in February is always a challenge.
In programming this year’s events, Rob Young (contributing editor of respected British music mag The Wire) was invited to bring, as he explains, “a mix of inspiration and education to the talks. There’s an overlap between those two, of course. The industry seminars cover the education side well, so there was a real opportunity to boost the inspiration aspect by hosting artists, writers and thinkers who can give some insight into their individual working methods and philosophies to a Nordic audience. Firsthand contact is really important. Bringing the events out of hotels and conference centres and into public venues is important.”
Young invited Kim Gordon because, he says, she is “involved with art as practitioner and critic, installations, fashion and several different musical outlets.” Van Dykes Parks as well: “an arranger, composer, lyricist and who also runs a label as well as being a songwriter. A talk by Van Dyke Parks or Kim Gordon in Oslo is a rare thing indeed.” explains Young. Lenny Kaye, gutarist for the Patti Smith Group, was also brought over from New York. Tomas Alfredson, director of the films “Let The Right One In” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” is also scheduled to appear.
“I’ve introduced themes that feel current and address cultural issues, that provide a ‘big picture’ context to all the activity across by:Larm,” said Young. “For instance: questioning the appeal of Nordic culture outside its borders and examining the way the region is being promoted via popular TV series and design to connect the specifics of by:Larm with wider cultural contexts and shifts that are happening globally.”
Anna Söderberg (right), mother of First Aid Kit’s Johanna and Klara Söderberg, receives the 2013 Nordic Music Prize in Oslo on their behalf from last year’s winner, Sweden’s Goran Kafješ. (Photo by Anders Kjaerseth)
As with the reach Young aims for, the Nordic Music Prize is directed at the world beyond the region, while celebrating the region itself. This year the prize was awarded to Swedish duo First Aid Kit for their sophomore album The Lion’s Roar. Bandmembers Johanna and Klara Söderberg could not attend the awards dinner, held in the grand hall of Oslo’s DogA, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture. Their mother, Anna Söderberg, accepted on their behalf.
Choosing each year’s nominess could be taken as a model of Scandinavian egalitarianism, in miniature. Panels — composed primarily of writers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — choose a long list of 25 albums from across the region. This is then narrowed down to ten, on a country-by-country basis, through voting. The ten from each country are brought to a meeting in Oslo, where the head of each country’s jury meet to choose a final 12 from the original 50. At this point, the process goes international and a panel of professionals from beyond the region — including representatives from Rough Trade and DFA — pick the winner.
by:Larm’s head of programming, Joakim Haugland, says that the final choice is made by non-Scandinavians “to avoid anyone [favoring] their own country. Also, we think that it is an advantage to listen to the music with non-Nordic ears. Most important is that the prize means something for the nominated artists. That it is now a big deal to win the prize, and that it is a big deal to be nominated. We want the ceremony to be a dinner in honour of the artists, not an award ceremony. We also we needed to do something that made the award different from Mercury Music Prize and the Norwegian Grammy [the Spellemannsprisen] too.”
Asked whether the prize is now in for the long haul, Haugland says “yes, for sure. It has been a success for us. We knew it would take a couple of years to establish.”
”We already feel that we are ahead of our goals.”