• Arne Nordheim
  • Listen (1971)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)
  • pf
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Listen was commissioned by The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation dedicated to Elisabeth Klein.

Traveling through English-speaking countries I always meet people who ask me to listen. "Now, listen" they invariably say, "listen to me", as they call for attention, warn me, or implore me. I want to say "listen" as it is seldom said - in a musical connotation. Listen to the sound of the piano. Our environment is full of living-room pianos of great value, beautiful to look at but never really intended to be listened to.

In "Listen" I am trying to create a situation within the limitations of the piano, making some aspects of the sound from this black box truly audible. What I want to explore is the situation of people listening and in the process of listening having also the possibilities of choice. That is why the work is full of repeated passages: so many choices are advailable to the listener - enough choices of listening for everybody.

The piece utilizes the differences in the length of strings and uses the extreme registers of the piano - very high and very low og right in the middle. The duration of the string vibrations creates a collision of echoes as the vibrations die away. Then the pianist stops playing this process of tonal blend, and disintegration continues within the piano itself, creating the moment of 'Listen'.

- Arne Nordheim