Susanna Wallumrød reveals, how she ended up writing music inspired by Dutch renaissance art.
This year I celebrate 15 years as a recording artist; my debut album was released in 2004 and it has been twelve more albums and lots of concerts since then. Fun and intense, and now I am trying to figure out how to move forward in a music business which has changed a lot these past twenty years since I started out. I wish for more music and less business in the time to come.
Could you tell us why you chose to name your new work after the triptych of Hieronymus Bosch and use these images as the basis of songs? What is the actual connection between the songs and paintings – how did they inspire you?
I stumbled across Hieronymus Bosch’s art and got very fascinated by the rich world and imagery of his art. This was shortly after I got the commission from a festival in Norway called Vossa Jazz, and I had the idea of writing music inspired by his art. I spent time getting to know a lot of his paintings, and used a lot of the titles as starting points for new stories. Bosch’s art is timeless and there is a lot of details to get lost in, I find it very intriguing. We play the song cycle very much like one big piece, divided into three parts, like a triptych.
You have said that your own songs are very much linked to your own life. What about The Garden of Earthly Delights? Without knowing your answer to the previous question, is there a reference to your Christian upbringing?
As I find a lot of resemblance between the stories and characters of Hieronymus Bosch’s world and my world or today’s world – a lot of existential topics are laid out, so I think also these songs are linked to my own life. And yes, I have knowledge about religion from within the church and community through my upbringing – and the whole process of leaving those beliefs has been a big part of my life. Contemplating faith, giving up faith, doubting, finding new truths and finding my own way in this world is an essential part of both me and my art/music.
The group is called Brotherhood of Our Lady, obviously a reference to the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady, the confraternity and social network, whose one-time member Bosch was. Did the name give you the idea to form a group of female musicians or is there more profound intention?
The idea behind the group was first and foremost about which instruments and musical personalities I wanted to gather for a new musical world. I have also become more and more aware of the structures in the music business, where we often play with the same people over and over, and often they are male musicians. So when I managed to get together this fantastic group, it felt natural to make a name for us and at the same time draw a line back to the brotherhood Bosch was a part of. I like the name and people seem to notice it as they always make a point out of it, or make lame jokes like “Shouldn’t you be the sisterhood or motherhood instead?”.
What’s going to happen?
Oh, exciting plans I think! I am going to play a couple of festivals in the UK in January already, with one of my other projects ‘Go Dig My Grave’. There will also be more Brotherhood-concerts, maybe some trio or solo concerts and in the fall; I hope to launch a new project.
Thank you for the interview, Susanna, see you in Tampere!
Susanna & the Brotherhood of Our Lady at Pakkahuone on Friday 1 November at 21.45. Read more and buy tickets.