Interviews Music

INTERVIEW: FJØRA Discusses The Release Of “The Sondheim Series” EP!

Highly acclaimed musician, composer, producer, & songwriter, FJØRA (aka Alexandra Petkovski), has unveiled an unparalleled reimagining of Sondheim’s most introspective & unique compositions & influences with the brand new EP, “The Sondheim Series”.

Winner at the 20th Annual Game Audio Network Guild Awards for “Best Original Song” (“Déjà Vu”) & has had compositions featured on multiple platforms & TV series, most recently with the Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, theme song “Déjà Vu”.

“The Sondheim Series” is a roughly 12-minute music EP, consisting of three pieces: two new arrangements of existing Sondheim works & one original work in the style of Sondheim, entitled “Maybe.”

The music of Stephen Sondheim has connected people all over the world. By creating this tribute to his life’s work on an international scale, by featuring live instrumentalists & choral singers, FJØRA strives to embody this worldwide connection — honouring his life and legacy.

FJØRA has kindly taken the time to speak with Fierce & Fabulous Revolution regarding the latest EP & you can find the full interview below.

Hey FJØRA, thank you so much for this interview. Can you start by telling readers a little bit about yourself?

FJØRA: My pleasure! For sure. I am a music composer, producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and artist from Toronto, Canada. I am fortunate to make music used in Film/TV/Video Games/Advertising spaces. I have a love of orchestral/ cinematic music, have a background as a classically trained pianist, and enjoy telling stories through music generally.

When did you first discover your passion for music?

FJØRA: I think I might’ve been 3 or 4. When I began learning to play the piano, I was hooked. It was fated from the beginning.

Have you always known that you wanted to pursue a career within the music industry?

FJØRA: Yes, pretty much! I considered the idea of entertainment law when I was a bit younger (representing and defending the rights of artists and music creatives is a massively important thing), and was also technically on the track of pursuing becoming a professor of music but I’ve always known that music would be the job. Not even job – lifestyle. Music is the lifestyle.

How would you currently describe your musical style?

FJØRA: I love to create in cinematronic (cinematic electronic), orchestral, contemporary polytextural, hybrid-synth, trailerization, and vocalised sonic spaces.

You have just unveiled an unparalleled reimagining of Sondheim’s introspective and unique compositions in the form of “The Sondheim Series”. How did the idea for this come together?

FJØRA: The music of Stephen Sondheim profoundly touched my life. It’s not such as well of a known fact, but I actually wrote, cast, recorded and produced a full-length musical drawing predominant influence from Sondheim’s musical stylizations during my Master of Music degree program. The concept of the Sondheim Series percolated under the surface of my creative and professional plans for years. I feel that Sondheim’s music and writing changed the landscape for how musicals and music storytelling could look – the idea of embracing the beauty of the “tangent” – the culmination of both dissonance and consonance, underlying tension, throughout a song or piece of music work. 

Stephen Sondheim’s passing on November 26, 2021, was terribly sad, but it also ultimately acted as a catalyst – illuminating the importance of putting into motion this idea that had been ruminating with me for some time. It was with this intention of honouring Sondheim’s life and legacy in any way that I could which fuelled my decision to fund the entire project from its initial inception. The music of Stephen Sondheim has connected people all over the world. By creating this tribute to his life’s work on an international scale, employing live instrumentalists and choral singers, I strive to embody this worldwide connection.

The EP includes two new arrangements of existing Sondheim works & one original work in the style of Sondheim. What inspired you to choose these two Sondheim songs for the EP?

FJØRA: “Giants in the Sky” was the first piece that I decided to reimagine apart of the Sondheim Series; originally composed and written by Stephen Sondheim a part of the musical “Into The Woods,” it’s one of the first Sondheim songs that really gripped me early on in life…embodying all the harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, and lyrical “Sondheim signatures” that demonstrates that there is immense beauty in the creative “tangent.” “Giants in the Sky” is the quintessential dreamer’s song: an ode to the child who craves adventure, the unknown, and climbing the beanstalk to a new, foreign land. This is one of the first Sondheim songs I heard that profoundly touched me and impacted me on an emotional level. 

“Children Will Listen” is another Sondheim song which carries a lot of weight to me. Children are a symbol of purity, innocence and vulnerability…beyond this, they are perfectly malleable creations, always listening, absorbing, evolving, and being affected. “Children Will Listen” is a special song because it touches on this vulnerability, and explores the space of who impacts a child, what influences a child’s being – the idea that there is great power and great responsibility in looking after a child and being in a child’s presence generally. In its original form, Sondheim uses contrasting key changes and chromatically infused melodies which convey an endless, ongoing momentum tying to a child’s emotional and physical journey. Again, the “embracing of the creative tangent,” and following the tangent “down the rabbit hole” is painted throughout the song. Yet, with repetitive and cyclic rhythmic elements he connects all of these seemingly wandering ideas, creating a thread of commonality and thus anchorage for the whole of the song itself. There is a balance between light and dark in Sondheim’s works, and this song embodies this balance poignantly. If anything, the darkness underlying the song acts as a bridge to the light, because without it the light in question would not exist. I wanted to take this song structure framework and play off of it further, creating and extending instrumental interludes, highlighting juxtaposing sections with modulations and meter changes and striving to underscore the brilliance of Sondheim’s interpretation of what a (musical) song can take form as.

The song you created for the EP is called “Maybe”. How did the inspiration for this song come together?

FJØRA: “Maybe” was composed and orchestrated in the style of Stephen Sondheim; the harmonic and melodic direction which unfolds over the course of this song was crafted in a similar vein to that of Sondheim’s musical style (embracing the tangent!) This song is about the possibility of maybe; maybe something wonderful can happen, maybe there is a chance, maybe anything is possible. Sondheim’s own lyrical direction is rooted in the ideology of covering a wide gamut before arriving at the destination; covering all bases, uncovering every rock and turning over every stone before unequivocally (and indisputably) landing at the truth of it all…somehow, he manages to convey emotional turmoil, peace, inner conflict, external curiosity, stillness and chaos, and have it all connect under one overarching vision. It seems that it is almost inside the niche and unpredictable that he obtains a sonic sense of home, familiarity and thus security. 

Relatability is a focal piece of the musical puzzle realized through unorthodox experimentation, and again, through the embracing of the tangent. Respectively, “Maybe” was created with the idea of the “niche space” in mind; inhabiting a place with an abundance of meaning, and a myriad of avenues to explore. Following tangents and elusive language that is simultaneously specific and universal; can be perceived in multiple ways and allows for room of interpretation. Really, the one succinct, overarching idea that ties all of “Maybe” together is the question of possibility itself, which can be demonstrated in the tail-end bridge lyrics: “…but what can be true? What could be truth? Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s you.” Through this style of lyrical unfolding and constantly developing harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic elements throughout, the creative process of “Maybe” was very enlightening, enjoyable, and almost cathartic for me. It broke free of more standardized song structural techniques, and frameworks in general, granting permission to chase thoughts and runaway moments, highlight emotional shifts, and ultimately let the song’s direction come from the song itself. What was interesting about the creative process of “Maybe” was that it was never made quite clear who the song was directed towards, or who it was being sung to. Maybe it’s almost poetic that this question will never be quite answered – maybe that’s the point of arrival in the end. Although filled with tension and ups and downs, the concept of hope for something more is maintained sonically and lyrically throughout “Maybe,” it’s my way of trying to honour the balance of dark and light (albeit reminiscence) which exists so beautifully across the massive body of work of Stephen Sondheim.

What does the EP personally mean to you?

FJØRA: It means a great deal. I’m so grateful to be able to put it out in the world, and hopefully, honour the life and legacy of Sondheim in some small way.

If listeners could take anything away from this EP, what would you like it to be?

FJØRA: Hopefully it illuminates the importance of live orchestral musicians, singers, and the connective ways to bridge creative gaps via the Internet (being able to call for additional vocals online is truly a wonder!) Ultimately though, to spread the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim, and how his music will always remain relevant to us all – all over the world!

Finally, is there a message that you would like to share with the readers of Fierce & Fabulous Revolution?

FJØRA: First and foremost, a big thank you so much for reading this far! And that I hope there was something cool and/or valuable to take away from this interview – please enjoy the Sondheim Series! It was a labour of love, and I hope it sheds some light on the fantastical world of Stephen Sondheim.

You can check out “The Sondheim Series” on Spotify below or via further platforms here.

FJØRA: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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