When Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen turned 60, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen held a gala concert for the composer. Given the musicians' awareness of Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's (musical) interest in scrap and junk, the obvious birthday present was a used car door. In festive mood, the musicians said in their birthday speech that they expected a new work from the composer in which the present - 'the instrument' - could appropriately be used. About the consequences, the creation of Traffic, the composer himself says:
"Had the Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen not presented me with a door from a red Skoda on my 60th birthday - and had I not previously agreed to write a piece for them that included the 'instrument' presented - I would hardly have written this piece. Unfortunately, the Skoda door itself turned out not to contain a single worthwhile sound, so the door was scrapped and other corny sounds were added instead.
Traffic is indebted to Satie, Varèse and Spike Jones. That certain parts of the piece sound chaotic should come as no surprise; life can seem like that too, so why should music refrain? Whether you can find your way around in the city traffic depends on where you stand, walk, run or sit, and whether you have an eye and ear for an underlying order or rules or systems or structures - which you can also say about music.
I regard the title Traffic and the soundscape of the piece as a metaphor for more general conditions."
The composer characterizes his piece as "a brutal, monotonously noisy, all-round-jaggedy, unprepossessing sound-sausage". A portrait of the city, and even in black moments a metaphor of life itself - at least as people arrange it, if we have understood the composer aright.