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Vagn Holmboe

Chamber Music (I)

Dacapo Records, 2011

Culture dish

Vagn Holmboe is the oldest composer represented in this collection of stories. He belongs to the generation between Carl Nielsen (Denmark’s national composer, b. 1865) whom Holmboe knew, and Per Nørgård (Denmark’s greatest living composer) whom Holmboe taught. Holmboe passed away in 1996 so, obviously, there was no possibility to talk to him.

I took my point of departure then in Vagn Holmboe’s famous ‘metamorphosis technique’. He takes his music through an evolution, where the music changes as it goes through different phases – without losing its core identity. Holmboe was inspired to work with the idea of metamorphosis through his intense relationship with nature.

The earliest of the pieces on the release were written in the 1950s. Following my nose, I started exploring mid-century graphics in textiles and ceramics for inspiration. The patterns I found in my hunt were a visual feast – many of the artists had also been inspired by nature and growth in their decorative pattern-making. Inspired by their inspiration, I found a photograph of bacteria growing on a Petri dish. I recreated the bacterial pattern using strips of gaffer tape on paper, in order to abstract it in the way I’d seen decorative artists from the 50s do.

The bacteria image connected with a Holmboe quote I came across: ‘…something decomposes and becomes something new. The whole huge process of nature plays a major role. This is something underlying, something very profound.’

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