Contemporary Danish Music (1950 - 2000)

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  1   Royal Danish Minist ry of Foreign Affa i rs · Danish Music Information Centre DA NISH MUSIC 1950 - 20 0 0 CO N T E M POR A RY  DA NISH MUSIC 1950-2000 CONT E M POR A RYEditor: Anette FaaborgDanish Music Information CentreGraabroedre Torv 16DK-1154 Copenhagen K, DenmarkTel+45 33 11 20 66Fax +45 33 32 20 16E-mail: mic@mic.dkMIC homepage: www.mic.dkText: Jens BrinckerTranslation: James ManleyBooklet body-text editor: Klaus Lynbech In charge of illustrations and captions: Svend RavnkildeAll illustrations in this booklet are copyrighted and are reproducedby kind permission of copyright owners, credited on pages 2-25and/or page 26Quotation from the text of this booklet is permitted, preferablywith source identification and creditThis booklet is published by Danish MIC in co-operation with theRoyal Danish Ministry of Foreign AffairsAsiatisk Plads 2DK-1448 Copenhagen K, DenmarkDesign: design & kommunikationPrinted byArne Olsen Offset, CopenhagenPrinted in Denmark, December 2000ISBN 87-986907-6-0 The cover shows Per Nørgård's Infinity Series Spiral , a polychromedrawing made by the composer in 1973 and reproduced by kind  permission. Beginning with the note G, in the centre of the spiral, thefirst 96 notes of the infinity series are played out (also see pages 6 and 17 below). In a vertical line straight down from the first note of theseries, the notes are also those of the unfolding infinity series. With thesecond and third notes of the series as points of departure, the notes of the series will appear in their inverted order, whereas descending fromthe fourth note will produce the series in its srcinal order again. Any one of the first 16 notes of the innermost spiral offers an encounter withthe infinity series; each of the four coloured lines traces unisons or major thirds  1945 – 1959 Each generation creates its own history, and out of this history eachgeneration chooses the figures that serve as models and tradition-founders. Tradition is not something predetermined but an expres-sion of a choice – often unconscious – that is influenced by manyfactors.This is worth keeping in mind when one is dealing with Danishmusic in the years after World War II. Occupation and resistance,the escape of the Jews to Sweden in 1943, “ alsang rallies” whereDanes gathered and sang patriotic communitysongs to manifest national solidarity against theGerman occupation forces, had created a Danishnationalism which, after the Liberation and the Jud-icial Purge of Nazi collaborators in 1945, was toshow its viability in peacetime as the unifying ideo-logy. This nationalism also coloured the develop-ment of Danish music at the end of the 1940s and inthe 1950s.It was a combative nationalism that stood guardover the soul of the nation and the mental health of the country. It was aggressively oriented against influences thatmight weaken the Danish sense of identity that had been built upduring the war – that is, influences associated with the recently de-feated Nazism, or which could be regarded as a sign of cultural de-cline. In the case of music the nationalism was expressed in astrengthening of the tendency towards folkelighed  or popular sensi-bility (sometimes in the form of populism) and isolation (someti-mes in the form of provincialism), which had already been charac-teristics of Danish music in the 1930s. As was the case in general inEurope and the USA, in the 1930s many Danish composers dissoci-ated themselves from radical experiments and instead cultivatedclassical models – often with a national tone – without evincing anyresponsiveness to the innovations that had typified the new musicof the 1920s. The anti-German feelings left by the war reinforcedthis tendency and had the result that Danish musical life in the post-waryearstookacriticalattitudetotheCentralEuropeaninfluen-cesthatrepresenteda“Romantic”or“Modernist”aestheticasop-posedtoaClassicismthatperpetuatedtheBeethoven-Brahmstradition.This affected not only Wagner’s music, which was directly associ-ated with Nazism and antisemitism, but also composers like Mahlerand Bruckner, who were regarded as followers of Wagner. And it af-fe cted Sch o enb erg, Berg and Web ern and twelve- tone mus ic, wh ose di sso na n ces and ato na l i ty were re ga rded as sy mptoms of decl i n e. This aesthetic tendency lay latent in Danish musical life even beforeWorld War II, when Classicist and Romantic schools struggled forthe upper hand. Composers like Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) and – insacred music – Thomas Laub (1852-1927), andtheir successors perhaps even more so than them-selves, fought for their aesthetic views and domi-nated over the Late Romantic school that was re-presented by among others P.E. Lange-Müller(1850-1926), Louis Glass (1864-1936) and RuedLanggaard (1893-1952). How that struggle wouldhave ended if the war had not come is impossible tosay. But there is no doubt that the war and itsstrengthening of a Danish nationalism helped theNielsen-Laub supporters to a definitive victory, andensured that Carl Nielsen above all others wasestablished as the composer of “Danishness” and the positiveexample to whom Danish composers could relate – or perhaps even should  relate. The spirit of Carl Nielsen and Thomas Laub weighed heavy on theDanish institutions of musical education (the Royal Danish Acad-emy of Music in Copenhagen and the musicological degree coursesof the universities) in the years after the war, and the aesthetics of these two composers became a kind of common denominator forthe composers who were to carry on the tradition in the years afterthe war in the two most important genres: the national song tradi-tion of church and home, and the symphonic music of the concerthall. This does not mean, however, that there was no room for indi-vidualism. A number of composers who had been born around1900 or in the first decade of the century and became pace-setters,combined the national tradition with influences from the outside.Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974) was influenced by French Neoclassi-cism in many of his works, among which the music for the HaraldLanderballets Etudes (1947)and Qarrtsiluni (1938)woninternation-3IN THE SH A D OW OF THE TRADITION Copyright © Mogens Zielers Fond  al recognition. Herman D. Koppel (1908-1998) combined inspirati-ons as diverse as Jewish synagogue singing and jazz. Vagn Holmboe(1909-1996) combined his composing activity with ethnomusico-logical studies of among other things Romanian folk music.What was common to these influences was that they were all com-patible with the tonal tradition and the classical genres (symphony,chamber music and choral music, songs accompanied by piano)which in the spirit of Carl Nielsen and Thomas Laub were the start-ing-point for the art. Denmark turned a deaf ear to the rediscoveryof the twelve-tone technique and the experiments with serialism,indeterminacy or electrophony that were on the agenda in the in-ternational music centres like Darmstadt, Cologne, Paris or NewYork. Danes cultivated their distinctiveness and explored what Per Nørgård at the end of the 1950s called “the universe of theNorthern mind” in conscious isolation – with no fear of exaggeratedself-sufficiency. 4 Copyright © Marianne Grøndahl Four generations of Danish composers, photographed by Marianne Grøndahl in May 1994. Left to right: Per Nørgård, Finn Høffding (1899-1997, holding a photographof Carl Nielsen) and Karsten Fundal. The success of the Danish approach to educa-ting composers is best illustrated by the fact that, at the turn of the 20th century,every single day of the year saw the world premiere of a newly-written Danishserious-music composition, and the fact that many of these new works had beenwritten on demand · The illustration on page 5 is a photograph from the Ler-chenborg Archive, showing veteran composer Vagn Holmboe (foreground, right)and the young Wilanów Quartet (Poland) at the Lerchenborg Workshop 1974; thefirst page of the score being discussed is shown in the illustration on page 6 (bottom)
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