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Faroese Sunleif Rasmussen was born on Sandoy – ‘the sand island’ – in 1961. In terms of his own priorities, the stress on the nationality is important if one wants to approach his music and understand his background. At all events the Faroese aspect – the colonial history, the yearning for freedom, the language, the songs and the culture – fills most of the self-portrait that he put into writing in 2002 when he received the greatest recognition ever afforded a Faroese composer: the Nordic Council’s Music Prize for the symphony Oceanic Days.
Sunleif Rasmussen’s musical idiom is also Faroese, according to the man himself, but not if you simply listen to the music. Deep within the structure lie traces of old Faroese songs which Rasmussen has collected, broken down and rebuilt into a modern store of musical material. Material that one can quite reasonably say is both his own and new – but which at the same time has a relationship with tradition and history. The Faroese landscape, however, seems far more of a presence in Rasmussen’s music.
His youth in Sandoy with the omnipresent Atlantic, the dunes, the lyme-grass and the gales – perhaps not unlike the conditions on the west coast of Jutland in the autumn – seems to explain much of the highly sensual musical experience one can get out of Sunleif Rasmussen’s music.
He has written orchestral works, chamber music, solo pieces, electroacoustic works for tape and for live electronics as well as a great deal of choral music. In 1992 he received grants from the Leonnie Sonning Foundation as well as the Danish Composer's Society. In 1997 he was awarded a three-year grant from Danish State Arts Foundation, and in 2002 he was awarded the Nordic Council's Music Prize. In 2004 he was visiting composer at the prestiguous Korsholm Festival in Finland and in 2011 he was awarded the distinguished Farosean Culture Prize ‘Mentanarvirðisløn Landsins’.