Bachtrack is asking the same six questions to many composers this month as part of its focus on contemporary music. Here’s what Bent Sørensen had to say.

1. What influences are important to you and your music? Do you choose them, or do they choose you?

Influences are not a choice. I never know them until they are there. One could say that the influences and I choose each other. It is always an enigma, a secret what influences my music, but one could say that I never get inspired by anything unless it already seems (without knowing) inspired by me - by my thoughts, my music. Something hits an enigma inside me and melts into it.

2. What (if anything) do you want listeners to take away from your music?

Just the sound, the music, and hopefully it will get into the listener and hit an enigma in them.

3. Is there a composition of yours which you are most satisfied with? What makes it successful?

It might sounds pretentious, but it is always the most recent piece. Right now it is the trumpet concerto, which was premièred recently, or even my newest piece, which is still only on paper. I can hear myself in that, and it is very close to me. Of course there are earlier pieces which in a way are closer to me than others, and if I needed to choose one single piece, it would be the opera, “Under the Sky”. It embraces so much of my life and art, and it is still a successful enigma to me.

4. How important is new technology to you as a composer?

It is nice that it exists, but it is not that important to me. I still prefer pencils and my inner ear to computers and midi-files.

5. What music do you enjoy listening to?

I listen to almost everything. I get more and more curious about all kinds of music the older I get - pop, electronica, middle age music, all kinds of new and old music. It just has to be good, radical and touch something inside me.

6. How is composing changing, and where do you want new music to go in the future?

I don't want to know about the future, but I want the music, the art to follow the future, and at the same time influence the future. I think that art in general (not only music) – in many ways is losing its importance in society, which is becoming more and more politically and financially focused, and we have to fight for its importance. Not only by following the future but by changing and influencing the present. Art doesn't really have a future the moment it is created, but it can have a very strong place in the present. Art can't follow the desperation in the future-thinking of society. We - the artists - have to have more trust in our own arts' importance in the present and in that way society will have more trust for its place in the future and will then lean back on and become influenced by art.

“It reminds me of something I've never heard!”

Bent Sørensen's music could not receive a more strangely to-the-point description as Arne Nordheim's above, a spontaneous response to a work by this unique composer. With his ambiguous, almost paradoxical expressive idiom, Sørensen is without doubt the leading Danish composer of his generation.

Sørensen’s music is not recycled; in no way does it rely on the yellowing pages of history for its musical nourishment. His musical language is undeniably of the present day, both aesthetically and technically. The music does, however, appear to be pervaded with memories, wisdom of experience and old dreams, of the inevitability of transitoriness and parting. It is a flickering, glittering world where things seem to disappear at the slightest touch.

The moment something becomes tangible and recognizable, it dissolves, becomes obscured, or disappears. But this ghost-like indistinctness is nevertheless the work of an experienced illusionist: Perhaps Sørensen’s most singular talent is his ability to give voice to this indistinctness, to render it distinct and clear. Often he places very simple musical material inside an ingenious musical “hall of mirrors” in which echoes, and echoes of echoes, spread like ripples in water; the quiet, smudged contours, which sound as though heard through falling rain or misted windows, are always drawn in minute, calligraphic detail.

© Karl Aage Rasmussen

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