Sven Grünberg

Composer, ECU member since 1983
Born on 24.11.1956

Estonian Music Information Centre

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, and being a sound engineer and producer.

His activity as a musician started at the beginning of the 1970s as a keyboard player and singer in ensembles Mikronid and Ornament after which he was a leader of the progressive rock group Mess (1974–1976) which was the first of its kind both in Estonia and USSR. The most significant work written to this band was cantata “Ask Yourself” (1976) whose 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 recognized his interest in Orient cultures arose in the 1970s. 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 diverse cultures and epochs to a new integral whole. Ideas of this creative period are marked by the 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 the 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 the Estonian Music Days Festival.

A great part of Grünberg’s oeuvre is formed by film music – scores for more than 100 films have brought him also 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). Since 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 a member of the board of the Estonian Academic Oriental Society and since 2002, the director of the 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 the German record company Erdenklang which 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 the composer’s film music. On CD “Mess” (Bella Musica, 1995) and double CD “Ask Yourself” (Strangiato Records, 2004) there are recordings of ensemble Mess, led by Grünberg, from 1970s.

© EMIK 2008
(updated March 2010)