Per Nørgård : Voyage into the Golden Screen
VOYAGE INTO THE GOLDEN SCREEN (1968) – for orchestra
"I stand with one foot in western rationalism and one in eastern mysticism, but even so I feel a stranger to both. I am, so to speak, some sort of third point."
So Per Nørgård expresses his personal and artistic platform in the late 1960s, an expression, which must be considered really radical in comparison with what he stood for when he made his debut as a composer at the beginning of the 1950s as a defender of Nordic music.
VOYAGE INTO THE GOLDEN SCREEN is composed in two movements for chamber orchestra with wind instruments, strings, harp, piano and percussion.
Nørgård sets up the rainbow as the common picture for the music, because the rainbow is a part of nature and because the viewer experiences it from his own position. In the second movement of VOYAGE INTO THE GOLDEN SCREEN one can clearly follow Nørgård's "infinity series", a fractal web of melodies and scales that he discovered around 1960. In the first of the two movements you will hear the interferences of two natural overtone sounds (one on G and one on a quarter tone lowered Ab) overlapping and alternating.
In the second movement the two tones G and Ab starts the fractal web of the Nørgård´s melodic infinity series – a principle of composing that led Nørgård to a new music that included the traditions of melody, rhythmic pulse and harmony, also to be heard in for example his Symphony nr. 3 (1972-75) and the opera “Siddharta” (1975-79).
The composer writes about the work:
"VOYAGE INTO THE GOLDEN SCREEN is the first work in which I leave the forming of the music to the listeners to any great extent. This is not done by “composing” some sort of a formless mass of notes like a certain school of composers do. On the contrary, the two movements are meticulously elaborated (nor is there room for improvisations for the musicians), so the new freedom of the listener to create a personal route into the music as it is played comes in other ways.
These ways are different in the two movements, but what they share is that the devices used in the music are “laid out openly” for the listeners, who can thus directly experience the material from which the form of the composition is created.
In the first movement there are two harmonic spectra: one on G, the other a quarter note above G (i.e. a quarter-tone lowered A-flat). However, each of the harmonics in the two harmonic complexes moves at its own tempo, and the panorama of the whole movement can therefore be compared for example to a fjord where a score of sailing ships are moving in the same direction, but at slightly different speed. Thus it becomes the listener’s own (if usually unconscious) concern whether he will mainly follow one, the other, or a pair of the “ships” – or perhaps conceive the whole picture as one wave interference pattern.
Something similar is at work in the second movement, but by quite different means: here there is a constant melodic flow in all the instruments. It is even the same melody for all, and starting from the same note. But each line moves – again – at its own tempo: all movements are doubled, halved, quadrupled (etc.) by the others. That this does not result in tonal chaos is solely due to the properties of the infinity series *) – for they ensure that all notes meet on unisons. This makes the music even more open to listening than the harmonic spectra of the first movement, and thus here too – in fact to an even greater degree – the listeners can follow one or the other strand, a pair, or conceive the whole picture as a constantly turning kaleidoscope."
(I invented – or rather found! – the principle of “infinity series” in 1959-60. But in the second movement of “Voyage…” it is for the first time presented as multilayered, fractal melodies).
The title of the work was inspired by the Scottish poet and troubadour singer-songwriter Donovan’s title and text for the song of the same name, from the album entitled “For little ones”, 1967 - beginning with these words:
In the golden garden ´Bird of Peace´
Stands the silver girl the Wild Jewels niece
Paints in pretty colors Children’s drawings on the wall
Look of doubt I cast you out begone your ragged call
In the forest thick a trick of light
Makes an image magnet to my sight
Gown of purple velvet enchanted glazed eye
The sound of wings and sparkling rings behold a crimson sky
Per Nørgård (1984/2002)