Commissioned by the Berlin Festival for the Percussion Group, The Hague
The idea of writing a work that celebrates the courage and vision of a young person has attracted me since I was a teenager. Kim Malthe-Bruun was a Danish seaman who, in 1944, at the age of twenty, left ship in order to work for the underground movement in Denmark. His activities led to his arrest by the Nazis, who subsequently tortured him and sentenced him to death. During his period of incarceration Kim kept up a remarkable diary he had been writing in the form of letters to his mother Vibeke, his aunt Anna Ida Bruun and his friend Hanne. These texts give us insight not only into his grim reality as a prisoner, but also into the qualities of wisdom and compassion that arose within him to meet and transcend this brutal experience.
My composition uses fragments from Kim's letters. Following an instrumental introduction, the first text MAERKELIGT LIV (Amazing Life) is taken from a letter to Kim's aunt, written at a time when Kim was still free and working for the Danish Resistance. This is followed by a Drum Chant, which is a series of variations on a basic rhythmic pattern (taal). The taal is symbolic of the courage with which Kim - and others like him - rose up to confront the Nazi power. Kim's writings make clear that he believed evil could not just be ignored, vilified or suppressed. It needed to be met and resisted, with all the strength and sacrifice that it takes to do so. That this courage was also fired by his compassion for the wrong-doer makes it all the more poignant.
The Chant leads to the main Aria HANNE which composes out fragments from Kim's last letter to his friend Hanne, just two days before he was executed by a firing squad. I have tried, in this movement, to make the percussion instruments speak with many different voices, and to blend into their song the energy and power of the sea, which Kim loved so much.
Ultimate words: Infinite song is written to honour the truth that manifest within this wise and gentle human being who lived his life with so much love.
The work is also affectionately dedicated to my friends Randy, Rebecca, Madhu, Jai, Sophie and Bill, to all of whom I owe so much.
Programme note © Param Vir, 1997