Asheim received his award from the Swedish singer and composer Sofia Jernberg at an award ceremony for the five Nordic Council prizes held at the Opera House in Oslo. The Nordic Council Music Prize is awarded for musicianship of the highest standard, alternating between a piece by a living composer one year and an ensemble or group the next.
The jury said:
The 2018 Nordic Council Music Prize goes to a piece of music that is at once acutely contemporary yet conscious of its history. Our very first instrument, the human voice, is central to the piece whose sound world cautiously integrates language. Listeners are invited into a different experience of time, into a series of atmospheres or states which sometimes engender a sense of risk and unease. The piece is in 18 sections, each inspired by a word in the Sámi language related to snow, as described in Inger Marie Gaup Eira’s PhD thesis “Muohttaga jávohis giella - The Silent Language of Snow”. Some words describe snow directly, others its impact on everyday human life – for example, ulahat means “an over-snowed winter trail which is barely visible”. Nils Henrik Asheim’s Muohta, for choir and string orchestra, depicts slow changes that are barely visible or perceptible to human senses. When the piece was performed for the first time – along with Joseph Haydn’s The Seasons in Oslo in 2017 – the composer noted that the context had inspired him to attempt a step away from concepts of progress based on controlling nature, and instead engage with an indigenous experience of living with nature.
Throughout his career as a composer, organist and curator, Asheim (born 1960) has shown a remarkable ability to open up art music to a range of other genres and potential new audiences.
About the Nordic Council prizes
The Nordic Council awards five annual prizes: the Literature Prize, the Children and Young People’s Literature Prize, the Music Prize, the Film Prize, and the Environment Prize. The DKK 350,000 prizes are awarded at a gala event during the annual Session of the Nordic Council.