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Allan Gravgaard Madsen

Allan Gravgaard Madsen is a Danish composer. He is coming to Bodø with the piece SUITE, performed by Cikada. It’s a Norwegian premiere.

Allan Gravgaard Madsen’s works are “poetically insistant” in their exploration of the tension between standstill and movement. The works consist of a micro world of sounds, sparse textures and limited musical material in which attention is drawn to the physical aspects of the classical instruments used in the composition. Often you can hear noise, air, dampened sounds combined with harmonics, pitch in extreme registers, multiphonics and other extended techniques to create a subtle universe in which one can make out traces of the strict structures underpinning the sonic surface.

Allan Gravgaard Madsen’s music has been performed internationally by Aarhus Symphony Orchestra (DK), ensemble recherche (DE), JACK Quartet (US), Mimitabu (SE), SCENATET (DK), Current Saxophone Quartet (NO), Ensemble Lemniscate (CH), Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles (BE), Aksiom (NO) and many more.

To see and hear more of Allan Gravgaard Madsen:

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He has been active in many corners of the Danish music scene. He has worked cross-genre with artists like Efterklang, Annika Aakjær and Troels Primdahl and for 10 years he was a part of the nonprofit organization for music and sound art in Aarhus, AUT (founded in 1966). He is a former board member of SNYK and Young Nordic Music Days (UNM) and he has also co-hosted the radio show ‘Taktløs’ on P2, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s channel for classical music. Since September 2014 he has been a guest curator at the online radio channel The Lake and in 2018 he was invited to be the new artistic director of Århus Sinfonietta.

He has received Talent Prizes from Léonie Sonning Music Fond (2017) and Carl Nielsen & Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen’s Grant (2016) as well as a Special Prize from the Danish Arts Foundation for the symphonic song cycle BEINTA (2016), which he shared with his co-composer Anna Katrin Øssursdóttir Egilstrøð. In 2013 he was awarded the Danish Composers’ Society Prize for his artistic output and two years later he was selected for the prestigious Next Generation-programme at Donaueschinger Musiktage with his piece ‘TanzSuite’.

He studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, with Simon Steen-Andersen, Niels Rønsholdt and Joanna Bailie including additional masterclasses and lessons with François Sarhan, Stefan Prins, Rasmus Zwicki, Juliana Hodkinson and Isabel Mundry.

From 2018 to 2022 Allan Gravgaard Madsen will be the composer-in-residence at the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra during which he is commissioned to write four orchestral pieces. He is currently finishing Nachtmusik, a new double concerto for violin, piano and orchestra for Duo Åstrand / Salo and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, which will be premiered on September 2019.

The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be true? Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?

When I was young, just getting started with composition, I thought there was only one true way to write music. But after working with many artists and composers across genres and fields, I found that there are so many different ways to write music and this way of thinking has helped me to be more free in my compositions. So, in my opinion, all music is true.

 

What thoughts do you have about the composer’s role in the further development of the music and art field?

I don’t believe in the idea of *one* genius, who does it all. Everyone gets inspiration from someone or something. If we truly want to develop ourselves and the field we work in, we need to engage with other inspirational people and create meaningful collaborations.

 

Where do you find the ideas that get you started? What inspires you?

In principle, everything and everyone can inspire me. Inspiration can come during a walk in a forest at night time all alone, it can come from a conversation, it can come when I hear an accidental sound, and so on. Sometimes it simply comes out of the conditions for a commission.

In your piece SUITE, you say you have worked with shadows and distortion. Can you tell us a bit about this?

In recent years I have been very fascinated by night and darkness. When you are out at night your senses slowly adjust and things, which you didn’t notice during the day, stand out and attract your attention – and details, that seemed very important in daylight, disappear in the shadows and become insignificant. Colours lose their characteristics and blend. Sounds become muted and distant. Scents disappear and only the shadow of them hangs in the air.

In SUITE I have worked with shadows and distortion in the way, that material is placed in registers on the different instruments so they sound similar and become a sort of doppelgänger of each other.

To create an atmosphere of longing and suspense the material evolves very slowly, but persistently, and the musicians are also forced to play in uncomfortable registers for a long time. In some places, the music is almost only a shadow of itself and only pitchless rhythm structures are visible, like a ghost of something that once was.

SUITE

The night and the darkness fascinate me. It’s like the night helps you to forget and remember at the same time. Things, which you didn’t notice during the day, stand out and attract your attention – and details, that seemed very important in daylight, disappear in the shadows and become insignificant. I like to think that the day and daylight force you to be honest with others – the night and darkness force you to be honest with yourself.

In SUITE I have worked with shadows and distortion. Material is placed in registers on the different instruments so they sound similar and become a sort of doppelgänger of each other. To create an atmosphere of longing and suspense the material evolve very slowly, but persistently, and the musicians are also forced to play in uncomfortable registers for a long time. In some places the music is almost only a shadow of itself and only pitchless rhythm structures are visible, like a ghost of something that once was.

SUITE is dedicated to ensemble recherche.

SUITE (2014-2018) for ensemble
I. Ouverture
II. Air I
III. Gigue
IV. Air II
V. Réjouissance

Duration: ca. 21 mins.

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Instrumentation:
piccolo, oboe, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello