Story: 4/28

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Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

Plateaux

Dacapo Records, 2009

Piles of ideas

This cover, from 2009, was the result of the first proper conversation I ever had with a composer about their music. An embarrassing admission, considering by that time I had been designing CD covers for many years.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen called me to discuss the design for his release Plateaux. He set about explaining his approach to music, and especially his ideas behind the works on the album. His enthusiasm was totally infectious. He drew diagrams for me of the music’s structure, even offering to cycle over to me with them. Pelle was in his late seventies at the time.

I learnt that his music was rooted in everyday life and that neutrality was a quality he wanted in the visual representation of his music. He introduced me to the idea of his plateaux being nine quite separate, climbing levels containing musical ‘objects’.

I began to explore ways of showing the separate levels. I started by taking lots of photos of stairs – they were everyday and pretty neutral, but they were so uniform and empty.
After struggling for a good while with how to represent Pelle’s plateaux, I noticed a pile of books. A simple structure containing words and ideas. I made my own pile of books, one of which happened to be the Samuel Beckett play Endgame (Pelle’s love for Beckett is well documented). I photographed the pile and retouched new texts onto the spines using fonts as close to the original ones on the books as possible.

Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s input into the visual presentation of his release opened my eyes to the possibility of making cover graphics in dialogue with the composer. I began, after this encounter with Pelle, to seek out conversations with composers. It seems so obvious now, but it took his push to move me out of the rut of classical music marketing conventions and into a new, creative space where I could try to engage with the ideas behind the music.

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