• Per Nørgård
  • Arcana (1970)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • perc, egtr, acn
  • 12 min

Programme Note

Arcana means mysteries, secrets, but the score for this very succesful work (which was first performed at a festival of 20th century music in Dublin, Eire) looks quite lucid, simple and innocent, the same 4 or 5 notes appearing again and again in all parts, creating an unmistakeable sense of monotony. The musicians, however, begin to play with this material, and gradually layer after layer of musical secrets, inherent in the material, are revealed, and thus a crescendo of musical events is building up in the course of the performance of the work, the final state of near-chaos being topped by exhilarating finale proper.

Per Nørgård


"Arcana" was composed during my stay in Califorinia 1970 and reflects this period of my work, focused on small, ever-changing patterns, like in my 2nd Symphony from the same year. the vicinity to the 'minimalistic' trend is obvious, but the roots of my minimal-like music are to be found in my own, earlier compositions. Since 1960 the main-part of all my works had been based on the 'infinity-series', which - in its eternal returns and transformations of small patterns - has a curious proximity to the 'minimal'. But also essential differences, as can be heard in 'Arcana': where minimalism tends (and strives) to be formally static, the music of my infinity-row-based production always is expansive and transgressing the initial points of departure.

This gives a cue (and a clue) to the title: "Arcana", meaning "secrets", is simple and straightforward to listen to, but under its smooth surface a complicated network of goal-directed changes makes the work closer to an organsm than - e.g. - to a clockwork. It grows and withers...

Per Nørgård 1984