Sven Grünberg

b. November 24, 1956, Tallinn
Member of the Estonian Composers' Union since 1983
member of the Estonian Filmmakers' Union since 1980

Sven Grünberg is the pioneer of electronic music in Estonia. He has worked mainly as a studio musician, performing his works by himself – playing all instruments, singing, being sound engineer and producer.

His acitvity as a musician started in the beginning of 1970ies as a keyboard player and singer in ensembles Mikronid and Ornament after what he was a leader of progressive rock group Mess (1974–1976) that was first of its kind both in Estonia and USSR. The most significant work written to this band was cantata “Ask Yourself” (1976) which performance demanded additional instruments, mixed choir in the direction of Tõnu Kaljuste and organist Rolf Uusväli.

He was one of the first users of electronic instruments in Estonia. In his electronic works there can be recognised his interest in Orient cultures arisen in 1970ies. Using the melodies and rhythms characteristic to music hailed from there and adding natural sounds of Western instruments and old Oriental folk instruments have given an idiosyncratic colouring to his music. His interest has been melting elements of musical thinking of divers cultures and epochs to new integral whole. Ideas of this creative period are marked by albums “Hingus” (Melodija, 1981) and “OM” (Melodija, 1988). Songs written on texts by Tibetan philosopher, poet and holy man Milarepa (1040-1123) are recorded on album “Milarepa” released in 1993. Grünberg is also the author of the Hymn of Unpresented Nations and Peoples Organization (1997). “Idam” (2001) and “Thinking of Tibet” (2008) for acoustical instruments have been presented at Estonian Music Days Festival.

Great part of Grünberg's oeuvre is formed by film music - scores for more than 100 films have brought him also a wider notoriety. In addition to cooperation with numerous Estonian directors (Avo Paistik, Janno Põldma, Aarne Ahi, Rao Heidmets, Peeter Simm, Sulev Keedus, therewith music to almost all Olav Neuland's films), he has created music for films by authors from Japan, Finland, Poland, USA, Germany, Latvia, Russia a.o., that has gained international awards as well.

Grünberg graduated from Georg Ots Tallinn Music School in music theory in 1976. He worked as a music director in theatre Ugala (1977-1978), Rakvere Theatre (1978) and ESSR State Russian Drama Theatre (1989-1981). From 1993 he has been a pedagogue in seven universities in Finland and Estonia teaching the self-created subject that handles music and sound in film dramaturgy (Tampere School of Art and Media, University of Art and Design Helsinki, Turku Arts Academy, Jyväskylä, Tallinn Pedagogical University, Estonian Academy of Arts and Estonian Academy of Music). He is the member of the board of Estonian Academic Oriental Society and from 2002, the director of Estonian Institute of Buddhism.

Grünberg has gained several recognition for his works: 1st prize at the 1st Soviet Estonian Film Festival (1980), Annual Music Award of ESSR (1989), Culture Award of the Estonian Republic (1994), Annual Prize of the Endowment for Music of Cultural Endowment of Estonia (2006), the 4th class Order of the White Star for fruitful creativity and enriching the cultural life of Estonia (2010) and Estonian Music Council Prize (2013).

He has had several composer recitals, at Suure-Jaani Music Festival (2005), festival Eclectica (2005), Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (2001) and Jõulujazz (Christmas Jazz) (1999) among others.

Intensive collaboration binds him to German record company Erdenklang that has released his author-CDs “Milarepa” (1993) and “Prana Symphony” (1995). LPs “Hingus” and “OM” released in 1980ies, have been restored and given out by Boheme Music in 2000. In 2001, Grünberg's discography was complemented by triple CD “Hukkunud Alpinisti hotell” (Hyper.records) with the selection of composer's film music. On CD “Mess” (Bella Musica, 1995) and double CD “Ask Yourself” (Strangiato Records, 2004) there are recordings of ensemble Mess, lead by Grünberg, from 1970ies.

© EMIK 2008
(updated March 2010)

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