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Per Nørgård

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Per Nørgård


Per Nørgård (b. 13 July 1932, Genrofte, Denmark) is a Danish composer.

Nørgård studied with Vagn Holmboe at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, and subsequently with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. To begin with, he was strongly influenced by the Nordic styles of Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen and Vagn Holmboe. In the 1960s, Nørgård began exploring the modernist techniques of central Europe, eventually developing a serial compositional system based on the "infinity series" (Nørgård 1975), which he used in his Voyage into the Golden Screen, the Second and Third Symphonies, I Ching, and other works of the late 1960s and 70s. Later he became interested in the Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli, who inspired many of Nørgård's works (Anon n.d.), including the Fourth Symphony, the opera Det Guddommelige Tivoli and Papalagi for solo guitar.

Nørgård has composed works in all major genres: six operas, two ballets, eight symphonies and other pieces for orchestra, several concertos, choral and vocal works, a very large number of chamber works (among them ten string quartets) and several solo instrumental works. These include a number of works for the guitar, mostly written for the Danish guitarist Erling Møldrup. One of his most important works for percussion solo is I Ching (1982) for the Danish percussionist Gert Mortensen. He has also composed music for several films, including The Red Cloak (1966), Babette's Feast (1987), and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1993).

Nørgård is also a prolific writer. He has written many articles dealing with music not only from a technical but also a philosophical viewpoint.

Nørgård's music often features the use of the infinity series for serializing melody, harmony, and rhythm in musical composition. The method takes its name from the endlessly self-similar nature of the resulting musical material, comparable to fractal geometry. Mathematically, the infinity series is an integer sequence. The first few terms of its simplest form are 0, 1, −1, 2, 1, 0, −2, 3, ….

Nørgård discovered the melodic infinity series in 1959 and it proved an inspiration for many of his works during the 1960s. However, it was not until his Voyage into the Golden Screen for small ensemble (1968) — which has been identified as the first "properly instrumental piece of spectral composition"— and Symphony No. 2 (1970) that it provided the structure for an entire work. The harmonic and rhythmic infinity series were developed in the early 1970s and the three series were first integrated in Nørgård's Symphony No. 3.

Works for Winds