Ellen Arkbro

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Ellen Arkbro
Ellen Arkbro in 2016
Alma materElektronmusikstudion;
Royal College of Music, Stockholm
Known for
Musical career
Associated acts

Ellen Arkbro (born 1990) is a Swedish avant-garde composer working largely in meantone temperament.[2] Her primary instrument is the pipe organ, and she also composes for brass and winds. Early work makes ample use of the text-based programming environment SuperCollider as a tonality design resource[3] in which "there are some very natural ways of working with rational frequency relationships."[4]

Early life[edit]

She was born in Stockholm. After attending Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm, and upon completing a degree in electroacoustic composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Arkbro studied just intonation under the tutelage of LaMonte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi in New York[5] and Marc Sabat in Berlin.[3]


For Organ and Brass[edit]

For her 2017 debut album For Organ and Brass, Arkbro, who was raised Baptist,[6] uses the Sherer-Orgel organ at St. Stephen's Church in Tangermünde, Germany, an instrument dating to 1624,[7] in a church dating to 1118.[8] The LP comprises recordings of her compositions in just intonation for renaissance organ, horn, trombone and microtonal tuba.[2]

The [title] piece came about while I was spending time with the meantone temperament of the organ in the German Church in Stockholm. I soon came to realise that I could use this traditional renaissance tuning in a non-traditional way that would allow me to compose music solely with septimal intervals. These are sounds that I have to come to love for their unique character. There is a textural aspect of these intervals which makes them stand out from the rest. And then there is the equally important affective aspect: a kind of open, clear sadness [which are] some of the reasons to why I’ve ended up working with them.[5]


CHORDS (2019) was designed to draw attention to the way sound exists in space, the way tonality and harmony affect an environment. The music is intended for large speakers, allowing it to take over a home and envelop the listener.[9]

Pitchfork finds that the album "delves even deeper into microtonal interplay, balancing heady theoretical terrain with a rare emotional resonance. [Arkbro's] music is infused with a profound emotionality that transcends its heady origins. Passing through the gates of extreme rigor, CHORDS finds private infinity in a handful or stretched-out drones."[10]




  • 2017: For Organ and Brass (Subtext Recordings)
  • 2019: CHORDS (Subtext Recordings)


External links[edit]