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.

A couple of years back I had the good fortune to play string 4tets, trios and other ensemble pieces with London Sinfonietta at the Pliiing! weekend festival by Christian and fellow graduating Danish Academy composition students Nicolai Worsaae Rasmussen and Rune Glerup.

imgres-2(Where did I leave my bike?)

The sophistication and originality of their music bowled me over: shades of Lachenmann mixed in with something wholly new I hadn’t come across before, a Danish colour quite different from that of their teachers Hans Abrahamsen and Bent Sørensen, or Per Nørgård, and entirely their own. Each concert was constructed as a composite arc of individual pieces, blended together by their own video and delicate electronic landscapes

The recent Pulsar festival of student compositions at the Danish Academy of Music confirmed my hunch that the integration of film and electronics with contemporary music is par for the course here. At the inaugural concert in the Academy’s beautiful wooden concert hall (formerly the home of Danish Radio) with its enviable acoustics, students presented their Cage-themed pieces alongside video projections, all of which directly informed the music. Mette Nielsen’s piece “Square” particularly sticks in mind. Four musicians wearing brightly-coloured hats move across a squared stage and play according to prompts from individual i-Pods. Filmed from above, ones aural perception starts to shift into something more universal when looking at the screen of coloured orbs moving like chess pieces, a kind of peripheral hearing unlike the focused, visceral experience of watching musicians in the flesh. Sitting next to Hans Abrahamsen, we chatted (in between pieces, natch) of the possibilities inherent in deliberately transforming aural perception through visual manipulation. Doubtless someone’s psycho-acoustic PhD thesis…

(Members of Dygong enjoying a relaxed, cool yet uncompromising moment in an urban space) 

As someone constantly experimenting with new ways of presenting new music, this approach was irresistibly attractive for me, and the seduction was completed by seeing composer-performer collective Dygong in action during the same festival. Brainchild of the indefatigable Christian, Dygong’s mix of humour, theatricality and sheer musicianship mixed in with technical knowhow is unforgettable. After my own attempts at something not dissimilar in my own cabaret show, it felt like finding my tribe at last. Their new CD The E-sessions is well-worth investigating.

(The famous Elephant Gates of the old Carlsberg Factory, now home to the impossibly hip industrial spaces of the Dansehallern.)imgres-3

Flawless presentation was at the core of Athelas Sinfonietta’s Tick, Tack, Tok at the old Carlsberg factory Dansehallern. Click here for video preview. Directed by the fabulously-named and extremely tall Jacob F. Schokkings, this “new music theatre” show was an attempt to introduce an entirely new audience to seminal minimalist classics by Ligeti, Per Nørgård, Steve Reich and Morton Feldman. Pieces were linked together by Christian’s electronic interludes, truly beautiful video pieces and performers dressed as Men in Black meets Reservoir Dogs. Whilst perhaps not the most perfect of musical performances, we Brits could still learn a LOT about presentation from Mr. Schokkings and his team, as well as the composition school at the Academy.

For one of the most ecstatic reviews I’ve ever read about anything, click here for review of this production and note the recurrence of the words “Drunk and Happy” in relation to the audience.

Beautiful attendees at the Athelas new music eventThe new audience recruitment plan had clearly worked.

Conspicuously absent was the usual beirdy weirdy brigade of new music afficionados and their dodgy jumpers. In their place were a scarily beautiful dance theatre film design crowd. MUCH nicer to look at, although it did make me wish I’d worn more interesting boots.

New music chic aside, I vaguely remember getting Daned myself that night, probably in preparation for my upcoming role as The Mother of Harlots and Abominations in Århaus.

About which, more very soon ….

(The more standard contemporary music look)