• Per Nørgård
  • Night-Symphonies, Day Breaks (1992)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • 20 min

Programme Note

“Night-Symphonies, Day Breaks” was composed in 1991-92, commissioned by the Danish ensemble Århus Sinfonietta. The work is not a tone painting, a la ´Clair de Lune´, but is inspired by sounds in nature, as has been the case with some of earlier works that of waves (“Waves”), of waves washing (“Seadrift”), of surf and of waves breaking (“Brænding (Surf)”, “Prelude to Breaking”, "I hear the rain”), or of birdsong in quarter tempo transposed down two octaves (in my “Symphony no. 4”, “D´Monstrantz Vöögeli - for birds and human voices”, and others).

The special sounds of nature, which accumulated in my head and found expression in the night symphonies are the fall-rhythms previously used in, for instance, “Waves” for percussion solo (i.e. the acceleration of a ball-bouncing-to-rest), though seen under a finer “temporal magnifying glass” in the new work, which expresses not only this acceleration but also the delicate dying away of the vibrations we can experience by watching the sequence of movements of a leaf that is relieved of the weight of some raindrops: first a gradual bending, then, with overweight, a rapid unloading of the water (possibly down onto another leaf…), a backward bend followed by ever more delicate vibrations heading towards a (temporary) restoration of balance. Rhythm-gestalts of this type constitute an important part of the musical idiom, and contrast with more flowing rhythm in which short beats alternate with long ones, frequently based on the Golden section (app. 2:3:5:8).

Among other sounds inspired by nature are the foam-like complexities of many overlapping sound patterns. The dripping of million drops of water has made a particularly strong impression on me (e.g. the sound surf following the breaking of the ocean´s enormous breakers on the shore).

To imagine, or maybe sing or whistle a random note, and then to be able to hear it in the roaring foam, has been a delightful entertainment and a great experience for me on beaches in India and Bali! In parts of the night symphonies the concentration of sounds is probably more modest, though there is on the other hand a richer variation in the motifs of the separate instruments ´brought to light´by the trombone one by one and expanded via this into melodic entities. The end of the piece approaches, accelerating, with an increasing intensity in which the midsummer night´s dream-sounds seem to be transformed into nightmare-like sound-weaving, before the day ´breaks´the sound-picture with a ´belt of silence´accelerating from a loud and deep tonal area, thinned out into the reminiscence of one last sound before the final cessation. Not a brilliant dawn with a triumphant sun, but a break with the stories of the night.

Per Nørgård


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