Andy Ervik

Arne Nordheim

10th June 2005
reviewer: Andy Ervik
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: Rune Grammofon
released: 12th January 1998
  1. Solitaire
  2. Pace
  3. Warszawa
  4. Polypoly
  5. Colorazione

Although they have absolutely no experience with any electronic music whatsoever all Norwegians have heard about the ‘eccentric’ composer Arne Nordheim. Supposedly to live all alone on a mountain somewhere, even my grandparents had heard about this most innovating individual in Norwegian music.

The album Electric was made over 30 years ago in Warzaw (originally released in 1974) and to my surprise it still sounds as groundbreaking today. And simply how my grandparents could ever have managed to listen to this is beyond me. It features some of the most demanding soundscapes I have ever heard. It has disturbing, gut-wretching and mind twisting sounds; sounds that some people wouldn’t even class as music. But that is not the point either. I like to see the complex structure of so called ‘noise’ as well as shimmering and crystalline sounds which seems to be on the very edge of breaking, as soundscapes.

Soundscapes is as the name suggests – landscapes made of sound. The task of making such art is even today seen as a very hard task. To manage to create such a feeling that you are far under the ice on a cold Norwegian winter night, all alone, and the only sounds that can be heard are distant echoes and moans from the caves, with the flickering lights of the aurora borealis in the sky above you, mountains in the distance as well as ice-crystals falling to the ground and breaking. To make such music can’t be done with instruments alone and Nordheim discovered this over 30 years ago in his studio in Warzaw. He began scratching and cutting sound tapes with recordings of his classical compositions and mixing them together. This was a lengthy, tiring process, but it allowed immense freedom.

But the cutting, mixing and the work with electronic music did not only affect his compositions. The fact that he was a classical music composer can instantly be heard in his music as it sounds far more sophisticated and thought through than most electronic music. I shiver to say it but even Aphex Twin and Squarepusher sounds like mere jugglers and jesters when compared.

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