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Sophie Dunér: Musical Omnivore


Sophie Dunér: Musical Omnivore

But it is clear that Miss Dunér also has no interest in the de desire to destroy the art of song; rather a hope to re-function the song into a new social use which is just as authentic as its original Black American Jazz music original song by (in this instance) Charles Mingus who expressed his Blues. Miss Dunér’s attempt creates a new expression of Mr Mingus’ experience in a mash up of the surreal and a kind of modernist realism that is reminiscent of the kind of theatre of August Strindberg used to historicise and address social and political issues. It is, of course, not only a Mingus or a Monk work – Jazz or Blues – the interpretation in song that is Miss Dunér’s strong suit. After four years of study, living and working in Berklee School of Music (in 1994) she found her way to Spain,

but not before she appeared on two recordings by Guillermo Klein: The Big Van and El Minatauro. Next in Spain, entranced by the music of Andalusia, she absorbed Flamenco influences. “In Spain I also worked as a song teacher, while also playing with a band with various members. I lived in Spain for eight years. I was also involved in a project with a contemporary composer and musician. He was Spanish, but lived in Holland at that time, only to move to Puerto Rico later. I participated as a mezzo-soprano in his works. I even joined him in Puerto Rico for a while, but we also collaborated in Spain, and I toured with his ensemble,” she says as she recalls one of the most fruitful experiences in her career. A peripatetic artist in an almost Homeric manner she also found her way to Argentina where she recorded Prausagios da Carnaval with modernists such as Fernando Tarrés.

Miss Dunér is also a brilliant painter. Her funny, sometimes disturbing and always endearing work tends to focus on women. Her sharply angled flow of her lines might sometime suggest strident feminism, but the pathos of her art – she seems to favour charcoal – and the situations her women find themselves in often softens the blow of this feministic bent of mind. In an extensive interview with the Swedish journalist Ingvar Loco Nordin, Miss Dunér told him this: “People fascinate me. Women, for example, I paint a lot of women. I’m fascinated by the aggressiveness of women. This is valid also for many of my texts, where the aggressiveness tends to tilt more over into parody. I suppose I am a bit angry too! Angry, for example, at men in the music industry. Damn, it’s not so easy, really, to deal with their sexual jokes rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal, never taking anything seriously. They sit there and kind of half-involve themselves. However, I don’t want to be some kind of feminist bitch either, you know, but I write song texts about it and use the power of parody; play with it – and I also want it to be beautiful. It’s a daily interaction, you know, with the sensual, and… it’s fine, sort of. I don’t want to remove the aesthetic aspect. Still, I want to make a parody of it, because I think it’s important, because I think it is a problem, which pisses me off, kind of. I guess this angered feeling has always brewed beneath the surface… so I… (laughs) …paint women and men – mostly women, really – with a certain tension, a certain power at their disposal.”

Still, if a strident edge seems to characterise Miss Dunér, much of it, by her admission, her own doing, she also inadvertently “admits” to a delicate softness into which she often admits one. She calls it her “City”. Three recordings have been built around it; The City of My Dreams a 2008 recording with her own string quartet, the celebrated Parma recording The City of My Soul followed in 2011/2013 and in 2018 she released The City of Dizzy as an independent recording with the cellist Jeremy Harman. All her recordings have a sense of the theatrical and are quintessentially Miss Dunér or Dunéresque, a word coined by Michael Haas to describe the effect her music had on him (and indeed always has on all of us). And while these Dunéresque musio-dramatic stories are all extended meditations on the meaning of singing, listening and memory, they are also a somewhat oblique invitation to enter into a world of a vocalist who is also tender and vulnerable – “angry”, yes, but also fearful of being pierced by sadness for she has, like every human being, not a hard shell, but a sensitive skin under which is an ocean of emotion. In that respect Miss Dunér is like all of the iconic vocalists of our time – Billie Holiday, Jeanne Lee, Abbey Lincoln and most like Lauren Newton.

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.


  1. It is always amazing and a break in the middle of this harsh life, to read Mr da Gama. Wow! The way he puts words together make the protagonist thrive
    Never stop writing Sir, please
    María Cabeza


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