The colourful and the narrative are two qualities that inevitably spring to mind when one listens to the music of Erik Norby (b. 1936). While the composer's imagination was fired in his earlier years by musical modernism - this was in the 1960s - he quickly abandoned it again. Since then he has composed music of a fundamentally Romantic character. Besides the considerable number of vocal works Erik Norby has composed, it is his orchestral music - especially his perpetuation of the symphonic poem tradition - that has profiled the work of the composer.
Norby made his public debut as a composer in 1963 with his Folk Song Suite for orchestra. He had actually been admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen widh the trumpet as his instrument, but the urge to compose gradually gained the upper hand. At the Academy Norby's talent was nourished by training in orchestration from one of the greatest experts in that area of Danish music, the composer Leif Kayser. Norby was also able to spend some time studying with his four-year-older colleague Per Nørgård at the Roayl Academy of Music Århus before taking his final diploma in 1966 in composidon and music theory. Then he was engaged by the North Jutland Academy of Music in Aalborg as a teacher, a job he held until 1975. Since then Norby has lived as a freelance composer.
His big breakthrough came in 1975 with the symphonic poem Regnbueslangen (The Rainbow Serpent). The work, based on an Amerindian legend of how the rainbow appeared in the heavens, was very positively received by audiences and critics alike. The year after its world premiere with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Frandsen (a performance recorded on the LP BISLP-80), it was performed at the ISCM Music Days in Boston. At Rostrum - the international radiophonic tape exchange fair - in Paris the same year it was selected as a "recommended work" and subsequendy broadcast by radio stadons all over the world. In Holland the Netherlands Dance Theatre even performed a ballet based on the score. Regnbueslangen is undoubtedly Norby's best known work - but the composer has written many other orchestral works that deserve just as much attention.