Contemporary Music

The father of Norwegian contemporary atonal art music was Fartein Valen (1887-1952). A multi-talented man, he spoke 12 languages, and surrounded himself with a muted, mysterious tonal world that was incomprehensible to his contemporaries. Despite having studied in Berlin, he regarded his own, independent study of Bach’s counterpoint as the most important factor in his development. His vision of creating a type of polyphony based on dissonance resulted in a 12-tone system that he developed parallel to, but independently of, Arnold Schönberg.

Norway’s current contemporary music community plays an active and visible part in Norwegian musical life. Ny Musikk, the Norwegian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music, is a key player in this area. This organisation was founded by the composer Pauline Hall (1890-1969) in 1938, after a stay in Paris roused her interest in exploring new trends. Today, the society maintains a nationwide contemporary music network which has promoted and encouraged the development of new composers and performers of contemporary music.

Norwegian composers have a tradition of promoting their own work, and have fought for recognition through national, Nordic and international composer and creative rights organisations. Over the years, many of the country’s most prominent composers have served as the chairpersons of Ny Musikk. After Pauline Hall, who is regarded as one of Norway’s few impressionists, came Finn Mortensen (1890-1969), the advocate of serialism, followed by Arne Nordheim, electronic music’s figurehead. Past presidents of the organisation also include Kåre Kolberg, John Persen and Åse Hedstrøm, all of whom are well-respected composers. Both Persen and Hedstrøm have been directors of Norway’s most influential contemporary music festival, Ultima – Oslo Contemporary Music Festival.

Arne Nordheim (born 1931) holds a special position among today’s composers. He lives in Grotten, the Norwegian Government’s honorary residence near the Royal Palace in Oslo, an honour that is accorded one of the country’s foremost artists for life. Among his colleagues who also enjoy international recognition are Italian-born Antonio Bibalo, and Edvard Hagerup Bull. The next generation of composers includes Olav Anton Thommessen and Lasse Thoresen, both of whom pursue careers as composers in addition to holding positions as influential professors of composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music, as well as Cecilie Ore, Rolf Wallin and Asbjørn Schaathun. The younger generation includes Jon Øyvind Ness, Eivind Buene, Maja Ratkje and Lars Petter Hagen.

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Fartein ValenPhoto: Norsk musikkinformasjon

Arne NordheimPhoto: Norsk musikkinformasjon

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