Arne Nordheim

(born 20 June 1931) is a Norwegian composer, since 1982 living in the Norwegian State’s honorary residence, Grotten, next to the Royal Palace in Oslo. Nordheim has received numerous prizes for his compositions, and was elected honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music in 1997.

At the Oslo Conservatory of Music (now the Norwegian Academy of Music), where Nordheim studied from 1948 to 1952, he started out as a theory and organ student, but changed to composition, studying with Karl Andersen, Bjarne Brustad, and Conrad Baden; in 1955 he studied with Vagn Holmboe in Copenhagen, and studied musique concrète in Paris. Later he studied electronic music in Bilthoven (1959), and paid many visits to the Studio Eksperymentalne of Polish Radio (1967-1972), where many of his early electronic works were realised (including Pace, Solitaire, and Lux et tenebrae (Poly-Poly).

Nordheim’s musical output is focused around themes of ‘solitude, death, love, and landscape’ (Aksnes); these themes are already evident in his song cycle Aftonland (Evening Land, 1959), a setting of poems by the Swedish poet Pär Lagerkvist, which brought him national recognition. The 1961 Canzona per orchestra was his international breakthrough. Inspired by Giovanni Gabrieli’s canzone, the work showcases Nordheim’s historical leanings, as well as his occupation with space as a parameter of music. Nordheim’s spatial concerns, coupled with his focus on death and human suffering, are brought together in what is arguably his most famous work, Epitaffio per orchestra e nastro magnetico (1963).

Written in memory of the Norwegian flautist Alf Andersen, who died that year at a very young age, the work incorporated Salvatore Quasimodo’s poem Ed è sùbito sera. Originally conceived for orchestra and chorus, Nordheim realised that his wish to have the whole performance space ‘singing’ was better achieved with the use of electronic means. The result is a remarkable, almost imperceptible, blending of the orchestral sounds with the choral sounds of the tape, where the final line ‘ed è sùbito sera’ (‘and suddenly it is evening’) is the only part of the text that can be heard.

Later works include The Tempest (1979, Magma (1988), and the Violin Concerto (1996). In The Tempest, a ballet based on Shakespeare’s play, electronics and orchestral sounds are again mixed, while the focus is more strongly on vocal music (e.g. the ‘double voice’ of Caliban), while Nordheim’s continued use of historical elements is shown by the incorpoation of Leonardo da Vinci’s musical rebus, which solved reads Amore sol la mi fa remirare, la sol mi fa sollecita. Norwegian music label Rune Grammofon released a collection of his electronic music work.

Friday 18. August 2006, Arne Nordheim receieved the honorary doctors degree (doctor honoris causa) at the Norwegian Academy of Music.


Arne Nordheim on Rune Grammofon

RCD 2002 –

Arne Nordheim : Electric

Recorded 30 years ago, and long unavailable, these are the complete electronic works of Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim. Among the most stunning and musical electronic works ever produced, it has stood the test of time remarkably well. Deluxe digipak, booklet with English and Norwegian liner notes.

Historical material whose importance can not be overstated. Motion, UK

Testifies specifically to his importance as an electronic pioneer. The Wire, UK

Absolutely stunning. Not only as a history lesson, but as a completely entrancing listen. Mightily recommended. AmbiEntrance

A pioneering work of electronic and electro-acoustic musique concrete.Musikexpress,DE

A wide spectre of emotions and atmospheres. 9/10. Audio, NO


RCD 2030 –

Arne Nordheim : Dodeka

It is with great joy and honour that we are able to celebrate our 30th release with a new album by one of the most distinguished personalities in Norwegian music. Not only that, “Dodeka”, meaning twelve in Greek, is a small sensation in that the twelve pieces presented here have never been available on record before. These compositions are made from the building blocks and basic elements from Nordheim´s work in Warszaw between 1967 and 1972. Considering the primitive working methods and the equipment available at the time, “Dodeka” is also special in that it´s sonic qualities are quite astounding with a clarity and character all of their own.

These compositions are coloured by themes like life, death, despair, light, darkness, love and expectations. “Dodeka” is both abstract and concrete in it´s structure, making the listening experience different each time. New sounds and mood changes appear seemingly out of nowhere even though they´ve been there all the time. A sonic treasure. 5/6.Aftenposten (NO)

A tussle between light and shade ensues, the twittering becomes more frantic, as if trying to break out of the upper registers altogether into the dog-whistle realms of the inaudible, to escape from the dark menace in the offing. Finally, with “Summa”, all of the disparate elements, strands and themes of “Dodeka” are brought together and magnificently interwined to make up a fullblown, choral finale. “Dodeka” might make for a pleasant, almost mellifluous surprise, almost qualifying as Ambient music. That said, this is rigorous rather than restful, the product of a fiercely inquisitive musical mind.The Wire (UK)

Nordheim´s sense of rhythm and contrast in these pieces is like that of Beethoven and Bruckner. He dwells and gives us time, paints long strokes over the detailed activities in the soundpicture. Some of the pieces even have small melodies and could be piano pieces transformed into electronic sounds.Dagens Næringsliv (NO)

These twelve tracks sound just as modern as what composers do with much more advanced technology today. Nordheim´s originality makes “Dodeka” interesting in more ways than being a collection of sound snapshots from earlier days.VG (NO)

The 12 three-minute pieces on this CD never sound like experiments. They are ripe works, among the most graceful and urgent – in short, the best – from that period this reviewer has heard. All Music Guide (US)

The feel of the works is expansive and timeless, but extremely focused, like a late Feldman piece compressed into three minutes – and somehow managing to do so while still leaving you with the impression that time is irrelevant. The titles have programmatic implications (ie. “Searching”, “Hovering”, “Calm”, etc.) which are so well chosen that even people who despise programmatic titling would have to admit that “Searching” could be called nothing but.Dusted Mag (US)

Dodeka proves to be an intense and magnificent piece of work. If the context of this record is definitely experimental, the resulting pieces are beautiful and incredibly versatile. Exploring a wide range of sound formations to create pretty moving pieces, Nordheim transcends here the rather static and inexpressive nature of early electronic recordings and produces vibrant constructions.

Close to the work of the musique concr?te movement, yet offering a more accessible take on minimal structures, Dodeka proves an intriguing journey into abstract music. These twelve pieces convey surprisingly emotional imageries as Nordheim uses a variety of tones, from sombre basses to luxurious high pitched sounds, to reveal the human nature behind the work. In turn dark and austere or light and jovial, with no external element to affect its progression, Dodeka constantly mutates, almost imperceptibly, from one edge of the emotional spectrum to the other without impacting on the delicate balance of these impeccable structures, all based on similar soundscapes, yet all varying greatly in atmosphere. While recorded over thirty years ago, these twelve tracks do not appear the least out-dated. Nordheim´s visionary compositions have stood the test of time, and are now available for all to appreciate.Milkfactory (UK)

The consistently engaging Rune Grammofon label celebrates its 30th release with this beautifully produced collection of pieces culled from source material that Arne Nordheim generated while working in Warsaw from 1967 to 1972. A series of seemingly random notes scatter over more dense textures to create a miniature sound world for the listener to slowly sink into. At times playful or equally haunting, these 12 pieces offer a glimpse into a unique and genuinely original body of work.Other Music (US)

Before it’s analyzed or “appreciated”, Arne Nordheim’s Dodeka has to be enjoyed: listening to this record is a tactile experience. Like drops of water caught by a strobe light or slivers of ice ready to melt to water, these electronic sounds are tensing on the edge of tangibility: you can almost feel them as they pour through your fingers. Nordheim once based a work around the image of a solitaire diamond, and here, too, his compositions shimmer like stones of unmeasured preciousness.Pitchforkmedia (US)

His newly released album on Rune Grammofon, titled Dodeka (meaning twelve), shows a remarkable test of time. Eleven of the twelve compositions were recorded in Warsaw nearly 35 years ago and have been stored in Nordheim’s archives ever since. I’m astonished at how far ahead of its time Dodeka is because it sounds very similar to what so many modern electronic artists are doing today. I’d say many of today’s electronic artists owe quite a bit to Arne Nordheim and his vision of a more justifiable future for music.

With his influence in just his own small worlds of Poland and Norway, it may be easy to say that his ideas and hard work affected an even broader range of electronic musicians across the world today. The fact that Dodeka came from a different time and place makes it a highly respectable piece of modern music history, and one of the best releases thus far for abstract compositions.Tinymixtapes (US)

Dodeka is by any standard a great treat for fans of Rune Grammofon’s earlier CD release of Nordheim’s work in this area, Electric. Unlike that CD, the pieces on Dodeka (“twelve” in Greek) were not released at the time of their creation (1967-1972), but are instead seeing the light of day for the first time with this release. And what a bracingly spare, lovely collection of curiosities they turn out to be. The variety of sounds utilized is very much in line with the academic electronic music time of its time, with prismatic, twittering tones occupying the upper registers while deeper, darker, sometimes even melodic rumblings form elegant arcs underneath.

Tones undergo rapid clippings and abrupt crashes; insectile chattering and alien glossolalia abounds, all of it high-tension and riddled with nerve. The sound throughout is hyper-clean and defined, arguably antiseptic in the same way that the interiors of the film 2001 are. There is a sense in which the pieces have a cumulative effect, and the final track, “Summa,” is appropriately climactic, marshalling all of the sonic filaments found in earlier pieces to create a final monument of ultra-high-wattage white light.EI Magazine (US)


RCD 2005 –

Biosphere / Deathprod : Nordheim Transformed

Arne Nordheims electronic music as found on “Electric” is the source of new compositions by the Norwegian artists. Deep and haunting and aknowledged by Nordheim himself as more than worthy.

Both sides of Nordheim’s electroacoustic canon are beautifully represented.A wonderful album. Motion, UK

These transformations succeed very well. Additionally, these new compositions focus attention on some wonderful sound materials. The Wire, UK

It’s a an incomparable study in which brilliant, original experimentalism meets top-notch remixism. AmbiEntrance

Album of the year. Aftenposten, NO


RCD 2006 –

Biosphere / Deathprod / Nordheim : Electric / Transformed

Doublepack in special cardboard slipcase with new, exclusive design. Contains 2002 and 2005 in their original sleeves. Limited edition, still available.