• Per Nørgård
  • I Ching (1982)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • perc
  • 25 min

Programme Note

I. Thunder Repeated: The Image of Shock (hexagram no. 51)
II. The Taming Power of the Small - 9 sounds (hexagram no. 9)
III. The Gentle, the Penetrating (hexagram no. 57)
IV. Towards Completion: Fire over Water (hexagram no. 64)

I Ching (The Book of Changes), four movements for solo percussion, was written in 1982 and dedicated to the Danish percussionist Gert Mortensen. I Ching is the thousand-year-old Chinese oracle book, whose 64 combinations of six “Yang” or “Yin” lines (bright or dark) represent 64 different states of being for all living things including human beings. The 64 states of being should be thought of as an eternal, hidden cycle which lies behind everything that we do: for example the supreme, the enthusiastic, initiative (combination or “hexagram” no. 1, the creative) or the despair of the moment, the warm and friendly, and so on. The states of being exist on all levels - the official, the private etc. - at the same time in many speeds. From these I selected four, the sequence of which progresses from a situation from which there is apparently no solution, to a (temporary) relief.

In the first movement ´Thunder repeated, the Image of Shock´, a vicious circle of claustrophobic, closed circuits is represented by the tom-tom part. This is followed by tam-tams and wood sounds, but returns full-circle to the tom-toms.

The second movement ´The taming Power of the small´has its origins in the violence of the first movement, but this time lets it resolve in a long glide upwards which stars with voice sounds ´borrowed´from the Beatles´´Revolution no 9´which are then transmitted to the other instruments.

The third movement is ´The Gentle, The Penetrating´in which lyrical poetry dominates with gentle bell-like sounds and delicate tunes.

Finally the sovereign, many-layered world of rhythm triumphs in the fourth movement: ´Towards Completion. Fire over Water´, the main movement of the work.

Over a period of six years, since 1975, I have in about 10 works worked with a percussion version of my “infinity series”, which has since 1960 been the basis of my compositional method. Since it was precisely bright and dark sounds (yang and yin) that permeated these percussion pieces in a multitude of layers in tempo and texture, the concept of I Ching was a natural source of inspiration for me, when Gert Mortensen prompted me to write my second piece for solo percussion (“Waves” from 1969 being the first).

Even if the composer recommends a total performance in the shown order, choice is left up to the musician in connection with performance of the four movements.

Per Nørgård (1982)


I Ching: I. Thunder repeated: The Image of Shock
I Ching: II. The Taming Power of the Small
I Ching: III. The Gentle, the Penetrating
I Ching: IV. Towards Completion: Fire over Water