Z Blog

The Little Mermaid, Posh Spice and the Tyranny of Hip

May 31st, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

It’s 2am and I’m biking like Boudica through the balmy Copenhagen night to burn off the pains of an impermissible love. The streets are silent, deserted, suspended in time. Somehow I end up at the harbour front by Den Lille Havfrue, The Little Mermaid.

Described in the Rough Guide as “perennially disappointing”, one can’t help wondering how this basically crap sculpture by Edvard Eriksen, commissioned by Carlsberg heir Carl Jacobsen in an attempt to immortalise his pash, prima ballerina Ellen Price, came to symbolize Denmark. Smothered by Japanese tourists, ice-creams and iPhones by day, on this quiet night she and I were alone, face to face with our predicaments.  Read the rest of this entry »


May 31st, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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John Cage, Fat Boys and Death by Rose Petal

May 27th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

“Central to our situation is silence: sounds we notice are bubbles that burst on the surface of silence.” The words of American philosopher, writer, nature lover, transcendentalist and tax refuser Thoreau, who was a hero of John Cage, the inspiration behind a week’s performance frolics at the old Carlsberg factory, now Dansehallern in Copenhagen.

The achingly hip industrial spaces of the Carlsberg Dansehallern (right). Believe it or not this exact spot became a loved-up be-cushioned meditation tent for our event. Read the rest of this entry »


May 27th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Castles, queens and unconsummated lust

May 14th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  2 Comments

“He told me so himself: ‘It is terrible and unbearable to be an artist,’ he said, ‘to be encouraged to do, to be applauded for doing, his second best. Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: give me leave to do my best!'” (from “Babette’s Feast” by Karen Blixen).

Ah! So true! All we need is the odd DIVA residency to keep us creatively fueled and protected from the insatiable jaws of the rent-paying gig. Read the rest of this entry »


May 14th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  2 Comments

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Extended techniques

May 10th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  1 Comment

Ten composers, a sushi conveyor belt and an hour and a half to eat as much as possible. The Danish Royal Academy of Music’s advanced composition class were not daunted by this task, and are in the process of honing their techniques to cutting edge. Within minutes of the starter gun firing, this international group of eclectic composers had managed at least two clearings of empty sushi plate towers. It’s impressive.

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May 10th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  1 Comment

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Ordeal by Fire

May 6th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

“MAX MSP sounds shite”, says composer Morten Olsen in the café next to the Royal Danish Academy of Music. I can’t believe my ears. Surely this is blackest heresy in this land of lavish laptop music making where use of sophisticated software such as MAX is almost holy law. I look round nervously for IRCAM secret agents, then listen to what he has to say about the role of technology in composition. As it turns out, he has a lot of very interesting things to say about music in general. Read the rest of this entry »


May 6th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Art, Aliens and the Astonishing

April 30th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

IMG_0729Pulled inexorably as if by some mysterious force through ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, a tropical garden and most of 19th century Denmark, I found myself directly in front of this extraordinary head. Immediately I felt at peace. At home. I KNEW this face. And that it most definitely isn’t human.

c.4000 year old Egyptian “Head of Priestess”.

My overwhelming sense of technological inadequacy in the face of Denmark’s seriously sophisticated use of electronics in new music felt soothed by this peaceful face.  Read the rest of this entry »


April 30th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Bride of FrankenSteinway

April 25th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

In the dark of a misty Copenhagen night I ran through dim corridors looking for the rendezvous point. “In here,” came the sonorous voice of an off-duty rock god from the end of the passageway. I followed the voice into perhaps the most forbidden spot in all Denmark.

Like NOMA, officially the world’s best restaurant, the Steinway room of the Senior Professor of Piano at the Danish Academy of Music is booked up years in advance. Only the fastest pianists even get to look at it. “No problem”, said sound engineer and composer Ejnar Kanding in his gravel basso profundo. “I know the guard. But we must be quick”. Read the rest of this entry »


April 25th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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The Whore of Babylon

April 20th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

imgres-4And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” Try saying that without any vowels, at least an octave above your normal speaking voice, as fast as possible. At sight. In a tiny recording booth with the composer 3 inches from your face with pickup microphones in her ears.

Working with composer Line Tjornhoj is always an unpredictable experience. For it to work it’s imperative to be open minded, non-judgmental and prepared to travel way out of the comfort zone. This recording session is a continuation of a process started a year ago in Århus for a project called Split (see blog), a one-woman “monodramatic opera” for voice, cello, live electronics and video by outrageously talented photographic artist Jurgen Diemer, relating to the experiences of the women of the Bosnian war. Read the rest of this entry »


April 20th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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Or-Daned

April 19th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment

p1070540“Shall we have a beer?” is the innocent start to a process I now call being “Daned”. Whilst not as lethal as the Finnish method, taken to professional heights by composers such as Magnus Lindberg (to be “lindberged” has been common parlance in several new music circles for decades), to be “Daned” involves a systematic progression of simple sociable rounds of beer (nothing else may be consumed) and suddenly it is 5am and you’ve lost memory, use of legs and money. And your bike. 

Veterans of this delicate art include Christian Winther Christiansen, a composer never seen without signature baseball cap, who introduced me to the hip n’ “hyggelig” (cosy) bars of Nørrebro and also inspired me to spend more time in Denmark in the first place.

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April 19th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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A DIVA arrives: Z the Lucky

April 17th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  leave a comment


img_0709As I was rather hoping, a stunning 7ft long red haired Viking immediately strode to my assistance and hoiked my 40 kilo suitcase effortlessly up to the luggage rack high above my head. “No problem”, she said, and vanished back into Nordic silence a few seats down as the Copenhagen train heaved into action.

Along with her ancestors and those of Eric the Skullsplitter, I had travelled by boat across icy seas to Esbjerg (sounding not unlike “Iceberg”) in northern Denmark. Unlike my predecessors however, my assignment was to be a DIVA, or Danish International Visiting Artist, leaving the rape and pillage bit behind for the time being.

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April 17th, 2012  |  Published in Z Blog  |  Join in the conversation with Disqus |  leave a comment

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