By Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen
Per Nørgård has not presented what one might call his aesthetic position in any unified form.
On the other hand, his many writings and interviews impinge on this topic from a variety of viewpoints; and from this body of material may be abstracted three particular aspects which together outline a picture of the composer's aesthetic position.
What is interference?
The concept of interference is the central source from
which all of Per Nørgård's music flows.
For me, 'something between' or 'intermediary' interference, means, amongst other things, that what is most important is not manifested physically. As is well-known, 'subjective', non-electrically produced tones come about when two oscillators each produce their own wave. [...]
However, interference covers more than just this simple phenomenon. Two different patterns can also produce interference. Per Nørgård gives the example of bell-ringing, where there are two bells each swinging in its own tempo, so that they are out of step with each other all the time:
This elementary tonal phenomenon can be recognised in a rhythmic form in the familiar two-bell duet heard in [Danish - tr. note] churches - as an extended metrical-formal simultaneity that creates interference.
Moreover, as Nørgård indicates with the phrase, 'metrical-formal simultaneity', two fixed rhythmic patterns, or even two different form characteristics can run simultaneously and thus create interference.
By persistently working with the phenomenon of
interference, Nørgård draws the listener's attention to the fact that this 'something
more' than the sound that is physically produced arises within (or perhaps 'between'...)
the ears of the listener, and only here. By thus focusing on the listener, Nørgård
stresses that music must consist of perceivable elements - melody, rhythm, sound - which
the listener can catch, or 'almost catch'. For as a matter of fact, it is often the case
with Nørgård's music that the interfering structures shift so rapidly that they appear
to be transient, or, if you like, ambiguous.
kind of music which in an almost indescribable way bore within itself a major musical
statement, and yet at the same time apparently seemed to materialise in the given moment
because it could not do otherwise than materialise in that moment. In other words, a music
not governed by an absolute ruler, nor consisting of a series of discrete nows without
memory or recollection of each other. Neither alternative seems human enough to me.
The following explanatory comments by the composer reveal that he understands the term 'interference' in a very wide sense.
this, that the music seems harmless enough for even my aunt to be able to follow it [...],
and yet the more you listen to it, the more incomprehensible it in fact becomes.
In this case there is interference both between the
immediate, simple sense impression and the complexity behind it, and between the various
levels of the music.
I am drawn by a kind of music which makes a sort of promise: "Its all right, you can understand this", but which at the same speaks with another voice that says: "Look at the bird, it's here - it's not moving, the bird, look, it's here, it's here, it's here"..
And while one perhaps is thus absorbed in this bird world, the music has moved on somewhere else [..]
of a kind of music in which the forms, that is, the musical forms, provide a foreground
and a background for each other. This might be a rhythm, or a resounding theme, clear and
pregnant with meaning, like the one in Beethoven's Ninth.
The task of the listener in relation to all this is to
choose between the various elements in the music, or rather, to compare them, to
experience the way they interfere.