SOUNDS UPON SOUNDS
There is a whole
generation between the oldest and the youngest composer on this release. Yet
there is still a strong unifying strand of sound that links all five and
creates a narrative of Danish music after the turn of the millennium: from
Rosing-Schow and Ivar Frounberg's many years of work with sonorities and harmonics respectively,
through -computer-processed acoustic music and Morten Olsen's straightforwardly pithy motifs and Klaus Ib Jørgensen's wild profusion of ideas to the youngest, Christian Winther
Christensen, and his minutely detailed sound
constructs. None of them composes in the same way or achieves even
approximately uniform results - each has his original voice; nevertheless one
can feel the affinities in the sound.
The first work on the CD, Christian
Winther Christensen's A fall from the perfect ground (2004-7), is an extraordinarily delicate piece of music which is
perhaps most of all about beautiful musical sounds and sparkling effects
composed over the surfaces of the sounds.
The music is in fact not all that easy
to get a handle on. What is happening is extremely detailed, and as a whole the
music offers a rather unmanageable amount of innovative, impressive,
fascinating sounds. The music doesn't have so many melodies, rhythms or
harmonic progressions in the normal sense, nor does the form reveal itself in
the course of the first few listenings.
Instead the music proceeds as series of
sonorous eruptions; at first very cautious and flickering - almost reserved -
then more rhythmically, only to reach a new, almost static low point. The
ending, on the other hand, is very striking, with a little, extremely telling
clarinet theme, and is in fact quite distinctive in the context. As the only
example in the piece the characteristic passage is repeated eight times with
complete regularity before the music stops.
has been lovingly cultivated to an extent that makes the music unreadable for
the layman. Everywhere Winther Christensen varies the modes of playing and assaults
the otherwise normal instruments with new technical ideas. If the acoustic
sound was not so distinct and warm-blooded one might be misled into thinking
that this was a piece of electronically manipulated music.
Despite all this it must not be thought
that this is difficult music. Although one's mind can easily sense that A
fall from the perfect ground is hard to play and
has taken a very long time to compose, the music is sensual and simple with the
many beautiful sounds that well forth one after another.
The fixed framework of poetry
Rosing-Schow's Two Sonnets by Borges (2005/2003) uses the work of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges
(1889-1986). Under the synonymous titles "Everness" and "Ewig-keit" (in English
and German, although the poems are in Spanish) Borges deals with some of the
biggest questions of all: what is eternity, what is death, and what does this
mean for me?
doomy issues are one of the characteristics of Borges' two poems. The other is
that they stick to the formal framework of the originally Italian Renaissance
form the sonnet, which Petrarch (1304-74) and Shakespeare (1564-1616) mastered
to perfection. A typical sonnet consists of fourteen lines in groups of four +
four + three + three, often in iambic pentameters (da-dum, da-dum, da-dum,
da-dum, da-dum) and with a fixed rhyme scheme.
In other words we are dealing with music
that is based on a very particular fixed poetic form, so that not only content
but also phrasing and stresses were already there as a basis for Rosing-Schow
prior to his work with the songs. His musical working conditions were clear
from the start.
The musical result is dual in nature. On
the one hand the music is throughout highly dramatic and concentrated, with
very many rather extreme motions, for example in the piano and woodwinds; and
on the other it has a calm overall expression where there is room for the song,
and the poems can find the necessary space to sound in.
The title of
Morten Olsen's work from 2002 is mirages - that is, the odd illusions that nature sometimes produces when
hot air meets a cold surface, makes the rays of light curve, and suddenly a
Scottish harbour town is visible from the west coast of Jutland, or the sea
appears in the middle of the Sahara.
Morten Olsen's musical piece functions
in rather the same way. Six brief glimpses, each lasting about one minute, and
then a seventh movement where what is reflected is experienced at its full
length. The seventh movement is thus in a way the real musical piece - the
whole actual work that is suggested in strange, fragmentary reflections six
times before it is fully launched.
Besides being a surprising and rather
original musical form, which with the six reflections has already formed an
idea of the music in the listener before it is heard, it is also concretely
very convincingly riveted together in mirages.
For the seventh movement that one hears
is itself perfectly formed, with a more or less classical arch of tension built
up from a series of truly beautiful motifs. A long time after one has heard the
piece one can find oneself trying to hum the characteristic little turning
piano and violin motif, or suddenly recalling one of the very beautiful piano
and clarinet sounds.
Moonlit was composed in 2006 for soprano, flute and string trio to a poem
by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Moonlit is an independent piece, but also the fourth movement in Klaus Ib
Jørgensen's large Pessoa work cycle (lasting an hour and a quarter), Moon-pain, written between 2004 and 2007.
So much for what can be written
factually and formally about the music before getting into deep water
poetically and musically (and analytically). For both Pessoa and Jørgensen are
very original artists. Pessoa is only now being explored as a poet - he lived a
strange double life in Lisbon, where he earned his living by day as a
translator in the commercial world and by night let his hair down as a
dissolute poet. He left about 27,000 pages of writings of many kind, written
under a long list of different names fully furnished with identities,
educations, views etc.
The poem that is sung through in Moonlit (also supplemented with a few sentences in French and drawn out
beyond recognition in demented melismata) was originally called Lycanthropy. That is, the art of changing into a werewolf. The scene is set by
a lake in the pale moonlight, and this is underlined throughout musically by
dazzling voices which effloresce around the soprano's more and more hysterical
discharges of energy. The culmination actually comes with this instruction to
the singer, "Die "Nachtkönigin," only worse!" (referring to those wild soprano
coloraturas in Mozart's Magic Flute).
An abstract car ride
Ivar Frounberg's Prélude-Voyage-Jotunheim (2002) was originally meant to have an overall
title that could frame the music's very concrete source of inspiration: a
journey by car from Oslo to Tyinn. But given the hard fate of the Norwegian
place names in French mouths it ended up with just the movement titles.
According to the composer himself the
music grew directly out of the fleeting encounters - experienced through a car
window - with the changing Norwegian landscapes and their overwhelming grandeur
and diversity. Yet these are not tone-paintings; it is the abstract qualities
of the experiences that Frounberg has used. Put differently, it is the slow
build-up to real action that is characteristic of the music's alternation between
small glissandi and calmly progressing sounds in Prélude; it is the quick glimpses and constant transformation that dominate
the second movement with its many pulsating note repetitions; and it is
perpetual, extremely slow transformation - inspired by the Jotunheim massif -
which with series of top-to-bottom sustained sounds encompasses the last
Frounberg's musical language is sharp
and insistent, and it is paradoxical how one constantly senses that great
virtuosity is being demanded of the musicians in myriads of rhythmic stresses
and fast entries - while at the same time one feels that one hears all the way
through the layers of the music that the many notes are woven together in a
both transparent and tough web.