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Per Nørgård : The Alarming Duckling


Work Notes 1.Jeg er Kongen (sung in Danish)
2.D´Monstranz vöögeli (sung in German)
3.Drömhämtare (sung in Swedish)
Publisher
Wilhelm Hansen
Category Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
1985
Duration 25 Minutes
Chorus
SSS AAA TTT BBB chor (w. electronics/cd in 2nd mov.)
Languages Danish, German, Swedish
Availability
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Full Score(s) WH30421

Programme Note

DEN FORUROLIGENDE ÆLLING (THE ALARMING DUCKLING) – A Wölfli Suite for 12 vocal soloists and birds (on tape/cd – used in 2nd movement). The tree movements may be performed separately.

I: KONGEN AF MØRKET (tekst: Poul Borum) – in Danish
(The King of Darkness)
II: D’MONSTRANTZ VÖÖGELI (tekst: Adolf Wölfli) – in German
(Demonstration Birds)
III: DRÖMHÄMTARE (tekst: Thomas Kjellgren) – in Swedish
(Dream catcher)

In The Alarming Duckling (a ”Wölfli Suite” for a choir of humans and birds) the dark nightly visions are unfolding – in music with texts by, or about, the swiss schizophrenic artist Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930).
His transcending poems, prose, paintings and ideas inspired me for many compositions in the 1980s, i.e. Symphony nr. 4 ("Indischer Roosen-Gaarten und Chineesischer Hexensee“ – Hommage a Wölfli“),
The opera The Divine Circus and a serie of choral works.
The piece is written for 12 vocal soloists – singing, whistling, screaming and whispering.

With the title, The Alarming Duckling, I have wanted to refer to a painting from 1959, which - as this choral piece - is partly based on "found objects": Asger Jorn painted on top of an idyllic old fashioned landscape painting with a house and trees - and he painted a very disturbing, alarming duckling. It may be ugly, the duckling, but in any case it is most peculiar in its surroundings, with spontaneous, colorful, wide painted feathers, standing and looking dreamy beyond a birch in the golden light of the afternoon (it is a very big duckling, indeed)..
A few “found objects" are used in the 1st and 3rd movement (i.e. a “paper-trumpet” that Wölfli often used at the asylum), where in Kongen af Mørket (The King of Darkness) the Danish poet Poul Borum tells about the dark knight in all of us.

In D’MONSTRANTZ VÖÖGELI - for a choir of humans and birds - many "found objects" are used: The tape/cd only contributes with unmanufactured birdsong – even though using full, half and fourth speed, so it is easier to understand and learn from the brilliant birds (especially the fantastic American Musician Wren, dominating the first part of the piece). The singers tries to learn from the birds and also to introduce fragments of poems and nonsense rhymes by Adolf Wölfli, matching the rhythm in the Musician Wren’s singing and ´croaking´.
The virtuoso Musician Wren uses all 12 chromatic tones, and my task in the process of composition was an precise notation of the incredible and long 12tone-melody, which I distributed to the 12 singers and arranged in different ways.

After passages of part-singing, whistling mens choir, and all sorts of birds combined the movement ends with a tune (Spotted Nightingale Thrush) with the words by Wölfli:
”It is more blessing to die than to live,
the Holy Ghost said,
since then I see everything in green”.

Green is also the atmosphere in Thomas Kjellgren´s ”Drömhämtare” (Dream catcher), an apotheosis and a praise of the unlimited fantasy, so essential for both the creation and the experience of Wölfli´s oeuvre.

The Alarming Duckling was composed for and premiered 1985 by vocal group Ars Nova, conducted by Ivan Hansen – commissioned by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and its founder Knud W. Jensen.

Per Nørgård
.


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