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Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen


Dacapo Records, 2016

Hallucinogenic landscapes

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen was always my favourite Danish composer to design for – not because it was ever easy to work with him but because of his boundless energy, devastating charm and crazy ideas. Whenever it was time to make some artwork for Pelle, I knew it was time to pull my socks up. He was also the composer who originally inspired me to begin to talk to composers and actively seek their input into the cover designs.

His death in July, 2016 was a loss for the Danish new music community, his fans around the world and for me.

The Kronos Quartet joined Theatre of Voices to perform a memorial concert with some of his anarchic, brilliantly-crafted vocal works at Copenhagen’s Opera House. The great composer had passed and his catalogue was suddenly complete. In the foyer, this CD lay with several other of his releases we had worked on together – each an treasured opportunity to explore his ideas.

I didn’t want to bother Pelle unnecessarily during the design process for Incontri as he was already very ill, so I started the design process by scouring English writer Andrew Mellor’s descriptive liner notes for visual ideas.

Mirror II: ‘…only allows itself use of notes from two symmetrical outward sequences emerging from a central axis.’  Symphony, Antiphony: ‘…the pitch space is defined via a clear and simple unfurling, like a flower blossoming hesitantly.’ Incontri: ‘the patterns endear themselves as the piece creeps through its own fantastical, hallucinogenic landscape.’

Pelle had written in his own score notes that ‘In a forest, different kinds of birds continue their territorial song without yielding or altering their signals’. He was referring to the way the different sections of the orchestra play up against each other, each standing their ground.

The image I came up with for the album cover is based on a creative commons photograph of a song bird in silhouette. I played with some entertaining online digital filters to see if I could achieve some hallucinogenic effects and this one kaleidoscopic filter from Pixlr, on a particular setting, did something quite magical to the image by both twisting and reflecting it into a visual vortex so that you get many birds singing in each their small world.

Thinking this cover was probably too crazy, I pitched it to Pelle: ‘… we have reflections, patterns, order, contrast… and even a bit of fun with the crazy bird shapes … What do you say?’ His reply came back: ‘… Interesting forms, rhythms, colours, total lay-out, having fine connection with the music on this CD! Funny, no discussion this time. I miss it!’

And I needn’t have worried that the cover design was too crazy, it was Pelle’s idea to have a motorbike on the disc inside.

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