Mp3 Blog #41: Per Nørgård

Per Nørgård:
Symphony #3: I. Moderato (1972-1975)
Symphony #3: II. Allegretto
Performed by the Danish National Radio Symphony and Choir

Available on this compact disc from Chandos

* * * * *

Despite the fact that lately many things have prevented me from listening to classical and contemporary music as much as I normally do, in the last few weeks I’ve randomly rediscovered this masterpiece by Danish composer Per Nørgård.

I first encountered Per Nørgård’s music when one of my colleagues presented it at one of the weekly composer’s colloquiums at the University of Arizona. What drew me the most to Nørgård’s music was his “infinity series” – a concept and algorithm based upon the golden ratio that could create an infinitely growing yet constantly related music.

For years, Nørgård’s “infinity series” remained a great mystery to me. In fact, I didn’t seek out recordings or scores of Per Nørgård’s music until a few years ago and it wasn’t until I found a link to this remarkable website on his music in a comment section on Kyle Gann’s blog over the summer that I began to learn how it ticked.

I’ll won’t explain the analytical and historical details of Nørgård’s Symphony #3 (a wonderful elucidation that is well worth your time can be found here); however, I would like to note a few things to hopefully whet your appetites. First off, this piece is one of the Per Nørgård’s veritable masterpieces from a period (the late 60’s through the mid 70’s) when he primarily used the “infinity series” to composer music. The “infinity series” operates similar to how fractals – where the microstructure and macrostructure relate by self-similarity and self-symmetry (a concept that can be used to explain many relationships in the universe). This Symphony (like Nørgård other works which use the “infinity series”) draws its harmonic material from the harmonic series. However, unlike somebody like Radulescu who treats the harmonic series as a sort of primordial sonic icon, Nørgård uses this harmonic material creates an engaging phenomenological drama that uses interrelated proportions and references to more recent western classical music.

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