The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 mountainous islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the Northeast Atlantic. Existing under Danish control since 1388, they are currently a self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark and possess a distinctive Nordic language and culture. Owing both to their isolated geography and the influence of Danish culture, Faroese art music is still a relatively new phenomenon, though the islands boast a variety of rich vocal music traditions, both in terms of a distinctive hymnody and many ballads and folks songs, which were until the lifting of the Danish ban in 1938, the only means of preserving the Faroese language.
Born on Sandoy - “the sand island” in 1961, Sunleif Rasmussen emphatically embraces his Faroese identity. Though he has studied abroad, he stresses that an understanding of his heritage is intimately bound to his musical expression - the colonial history, the yearningfor freedom, the distinctive language, the songs and the culture - indeed; his foreign studies have served to help him define his identity as a Faroese artist.
Rasmussen received his preliminary musical training in Norway. From 1990 to 1995, he studied composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen with Ib Nørholm and electronic music with Ivar Frounberg. Rasmussen has composed in numerous idioms, including orchestral, solo concertos, chamber music, solo pieces, electroacoustic compositions for tape and live electronics as well as a great deal of choral music. His approach to orchestration and performance is highly personal, frequently calling for specific spatial placements of musicians throughout the performing space as well as singing and vocal effects.
Rasmussen has received numerous international awards, including the Nordic Council Music Prize for his Symphony No. 1 - “Oceanic Days,” and the Faroese Cultural Prize of Honor, the youngest individual to receive this distinction. He has recently finished his Symphony nr. 2 “The Earth Anew” commissioned for the 2015 Sibelius anniversary by John Storgårds and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra - a large scaled work for orchestra, male choir, soprano and baritone.