Per Nørgård: A Light Hour
01 April 2010
Danish composer Per Nørgård (born 1932) is a difficult composer to pigeonhole; many of his works are written using a predetermined method of generating pitches and rhythms nearly as complex as serialism, with others that are almost entirely aleatory, and some are transparently luminous, while others are impenetrably dense. In A Light Hour, for percussion ensemble of 10 or more players, Nørgård uses his signature infinity series for determining rhythms and melodic contours, but with aleatory elements, leaving a great deal up to the discretion of the players, and its effect is definitely at the transparently luminous end of the sonic spectrum. Its brightness largely comes from the instrumentation, which mostly consists of clear, sharp, or ringing percussion instruments on which it's virtually impossible to make an ugly sound. He does include some darker instruments, like didgeridoos and rattles, but they only serve to heighten the general tone of bright clarity by contrast. The rhythms, even though they are generated by fractal geometry, are simple and easy to grasp; this is a piece with a groove! The work is divided into four sections of about a quarter hour each, and different movements have the flavor of various regional percussion traditions, including Afro-Cuban, Asiatic-Chinese, and Balinese. The composer's description of the compositional design behind the piece makes it sound impossibly abstruse, but there's nothing heady about it; it's friendly, inviting, and fun. The sound is nicely spacious and ambient. This is a CD that should appeal to fans of percussion and new music lovers who aren't afraid of feel-good music.