Arne Nordheim
Arne Nordheim was a Norwegian composer who had since 1982 been living in the Norwegian State's honorary residence, Grotten
Grotten , is an honorary residence owned by the Norwegian state. It is located on the premises of the Royal Palace in the city centre of Oslo, and given as a permanent residence to a person specifically bestowed this honour by the King of Norway. The most recent occupant was the Norwegian composer...

, next to the Royal Palace in Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

. Nordheim received numerous prizes for his compositions, and was elected an honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music
International Society for Contemporary Music
The International Society for Contemporary Music is a music organization that promotes contemporary classical music.ISCM was established in 1922, in Salzburg. Its core activity is the World Music Days Festival, held every year at a different location. The festival includes cutting edge productions...

 in 1997. On 18 August 2006, Arne Nordheim received the honorary doctors degree (doctor honoris causa) at the Norwegian Academy of Music. He died at the age of 78 and was given a State funeral.

Musical education

At the then Oslo Conservatory of Music (now the Norwegian Academy of Music
Norwegian Academy of Music
The Norwegian Academy of Music is a music conservatory located in Oslo, Norway, in the neighbourhood of Majorstuen, Frogner. It is the largest music academy in Norway and offers the country's highest level of music education. As a university college, it offers both undergraduate and postgraduate...

), where Nordheim studied from 1948 to 1952, he started out as a theory and organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 student, but changed to composition, studying with Karl August Andersen (1903–1970), Bjarne Brustad
Bjarne Brustad
Bjarne Brustad was a Norwegian composer, violinist and violist. He played with symphonic orchestras in Stavanger and Oslo. In the 1920s he travelled to European cities such as Paris, Munich and Berlin, where he received musical inspiration and contacts...

, and Conrad Baden
Conrad Baden
Conrad Baden was a Norwegian organist, composer, music educator, and music critic.-References:...

. Then in 1955 he studied with Vagn Holmboe
Vagn Holmboe
Vagn Gylding Holmboe was a Danish composer and teacher who wrote largely in a neo-classical style.-Life:At the age of 16, Holmboe began formal music training at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen on the recommendation of Carl Nielsen. He studied under Knud Jeppesen and Finn Høffding...

 in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, and studied musique concrète
Musique concrète
Musique concrète is a form of electroacoustic music that utilises acousmatic sound as a compositional resource. The compositional material is not restricted to the inclusion of sounds derived from musical instruments or voices, nor to elements traditionally thought of as "musical"...

in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. Later he studied electronic music in Bilthoven (1959), and paid many visits to the Studio Eksperymentalne of Polish Radio (1967–1972), where many of his early electronic works were realised (including Pace, Solitaire, and Lux et tenebrae (Poly-Poly)). In 2005, many lost and forgotten tapes of electronic compositions for radio drama
Radio drama
Radio drama is a dramatized, purely acoustic performance, broadcast on radio or published on audio media, such as tape or CD. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story...

 for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) were rediscovered, reminding us that Nordheim also developed his electronic musical language in his home country.


His Essay for string quartet was first performed in Stockholm in 1954, but Nordheim always considered his String Quartet of 1956 as his Opus 1. His musical output is focused around themes of 'solitude, death, love, and landscape'; these themes are already evident in his song cycle Aftonland (Evening Land, 1959), a setting of poems by the Swedish
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 poet Pär Lagerkvist
Pär Lagerkvist
Pär Fabian Lagerkvist was a Swedish author who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951.Lagerkvist wrote poems, plays, novels, stories, and essays of considerable expressive power and influence from his early 20s to his late 70s...

, which brought him national recognition. The 1961 Canzona per orchestra was his international breakthrough. Inspired by Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli
Giovanni Gabrieli was an Italian composer and organist. He was one of the most influential musicians of his time, and represents the culmination of the style of the Venetian School, at the time of the shift from Renaissance to Baroque idioms.-Biography:Gabrieli was born in Venice...

's canzone, the work showcases Nordheim's historical leanings, as well as his occupation with space as a parameter of music. Nordheim's spatial concerns, coupled with his focus on death and human suffering, are brought together in what is arguably his most famous work, Epitaffio per orchestra e nastro magnetico (1963). Written in memory of the Norwegian flautist Alf Andersen
Alf Andersen
Alf Steen Andersen was a Norwegian ski jumper.He was born in Drammen, but represented the Oslo clubs Sandaker SFK, Skeid and SFK Lyn. He won the gold medal in the individual large hill at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz...

, who died that year at a very young age, the work incorporated Salvatore Quasimodo
Salvatore Quasimodo
Salvatore Quasimodo was an Italian author and poet. In 1959 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times". Along with Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale, he is one of the foremost Italian poets...

's poem Ed è sùbito sera. Originally conceived for orchestra and chorus, Nordheim realised that his wish to have the whole performance space 'singing' was better achieved with the use of electronic means. The result is a remarkable, almost imperceptible, blending of the orchestral sounds with the choral sounds of the tape, where the final line '' ('and suddenly it is evening') is the only part of the text that can be heard.

His later compositions include The Tempest (1979), Klokkesong (1984), Magma (1988), the Violin Concerto (1996) and Fonos for trombone and orchestra (2004). Arne Norheim was inspired by the neumes and the sound of the medieval bells in Kaupanger stave church
Kaupanger stave church
Kaupanger Stave Church is the largest stave church in Sogn og Fjordane, and is situated in the town of Kaupanger, Norway. The nave is supported by 22 staves, 8 on each of the longer sides and 3 on each of the shorter. The elevated chancel is carried by 4 free standing staves. The church has the...

  in composing the work Klokkesong, which was first performed in the church. In The Tempest, a ballet based on Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play, electronics and orchestral sounds are again mixed, while the focus is more strongly on vocal music (e.g. the 'double voice' of Caliban), while Nordheim's continued use of historical elements is shown by the incorporation of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's musical rebus, which solved reads Amore sol la mi fa remirare, la sol mi fa sollecita. Draumkvedet is a monumental stage work for orchestra, (acting) chamber choir, soloists and dancers, and was performed 40 times in 1994 with the Broadcasting Corporation Radio Orchestra and Grex Vocalis
Grex Vocalis
Grex Vocalis is a Norwegian chamber choir, formed in 1971 by Carl Høgset, who remains its conductor. The repertoire spans from the renaissance to music by contemporary composers...


Cultural references

  • Arne Nordheim's popularity grew enormously when Frank Zappa
    Frank Zappa
    Frank Vincent Zappa was an American composer, singer-songwriter, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed...

     arrived in Copenhagen
    Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

     in 1973, and told journalists he wanted to meet Arne Nordheim. Later, Zappa performed in Norway with Nordheim as a VIP guest. A life-long friendship developed between the two, and Nordheim was invited to the US, while Zappa always visited Nordheim when performing in Norway.

  • Norwegian painter Håkon Bleken produced a series of large charcoal drawings inspired by Nordheim's quote that "music lives in the span between poetry and catastrophe".

  • "A Study Dedicated to Arne Nordheim" is the title of a track on Hemmelig Tempo's
    Hemmelig tempo
    Hemmelig Tempo is a Norwegian experimental musical improvisation trio formed in Bergen in 2007. Preferring the label "research group", the trio mixes quasi-scientific sound experiments with performance art, installation art, free improvisation, instrument-making and satire.- Members :Professor...

     album Who Put John Cage on the Guestlist?
    Who Put John Cage on the Guestlist?
    Who Put John Cage on the Guestlist? is the debut album of Norwegian electronic research group Hemmelig tempo. The album was released on the French label Gazul, a sublabel of Musea in 2011. The title of the album makes reference to the American modernist composer John Cage, a pioneer of chance...


External links

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