DIEM 25 Anniversary
03 October 2012
Twenty-five years of danish electronic music
Whether by accident or intentioned design, this anthology of electronic composition created at the Danish Institute of Electronic Music between 1987 and 2012 follows on the chronological coat-tails of the Ljud label’s 2009 release ‘Pioneers: The Beginning of Danish Electronic Music’. Ljud’s booklet-notes began by fessing up that Denmark’s role in the development of electronic music per se was negligible: ‘However, this gave us the opportunity of taking advantage of experiences, both good and bad, from other countries.’
This new set is prefaced with a protoRumsfeldian quote from Dan Quayle: ‘The question is whether we’re going forward to tomorrow or whether we’re going to go past to the—to the back!’
That is indeed the question creative musicians face during these troubled times for our art, these recent pieces offering up a reminder of what remains an integral problem of electronic music culture. Until recently, when suddenly anyone could carry an electronic music studio inside their Mac, being an electronic composer meant tying yourself to a studio, which meant institutionalisation and, for many, creative death.
Is it revealing that Per Nørgård’s 'Årsfrise-91' (1991), its stew of microtonally smudged vocal lines nicely on the boil alongside environmental sounds, makes other pieces here sound like drab patterning? Only in that Nørgård is a composer first who, in this instance, happens to be expressing himself via electronics. Jonas R Kirkegaard’s geeky programme-note is a love letter to the Yamaha DX synth, the problem being that his note is considerably more charming than his piece, 802 (2012), with its tired rehash of club beats. Vectral’s (the performing persona of Søren Lyngsø Knudsen) AC-3 (2008) resorts to that old anthemic voices-plus-electronic gloss trick: it flops.
Line Tjørnhøj-Thomsen’s Lauria (1998) uses electronics to take us far inside the contours of her throaty vocal chords; an unexpectedly voyeuristic intimate voyage. Introducing her Hyper Motel (2011), Band Ane proves that obsessing over equipment might well be a boy thing. As workaday triadic sequences slide and morph into new shapes, melting like ice cream, she says ‘How the work is made is not that important’. Another high point is Daniel Rothman (the only non-Dane here: he was artist-in-residence in 1998) whose Southwest Sky, inspired by the flatness of the Danish landscape, carves a flat but rounded, still but busy soundscape from the overtones of an oboe. Like Nørgård’s piece, an intelligently conceived musical idea is served by technology.