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RIP Veljo Tormis

The Estonian composer Veljo Tormis (pictured far right) has died at the age of 86. He was a key cultural influence in the Estonian independence movement to wrest the Baltic state away from Russian control. Crowds of Estonians would gather to sing his music, an old-fashioned haunting style that invoked the largely forgotten ancient peoples along the Baltic Sea shores.

Tormis’ best known and most performed work was Curse Upon Iron, an ode to the horrors of war written for choir and hoop drum, in which singers are instructed in the score to spin, crouch and shriek at points, with lyrics about the curse of war and its weapons.

Tormis described his compositions as keeping alive the memories of ancient peoples. He said: “It is not I who makes use of folk music. It is folk music that makes use of me.”

Picture source: Estonian Foreign Ministry