Niels Rønsholdt (b.1978) has strong roots in Aarhus, where he grew up and was educated. He received his professional training at the Royal Academy of Music with Karl Aage Rasmussen and Bent Sørensen, and in Berlin with Helmut Oehring. He still lives in Aarhus today, but his music is by no means parochial: it bears his own distinctive imprint.
In recent years, Rønsholdt has described his approach towards what he calls ‘method composing’. As with actors’ ‘method acting’, the composer finds his inspiration in close study, not of a particular human character but of a specific musical genre or style which he makes his own. He familiarizes himself with the chosen genre through a process in which he studies its ‘authentic’ traits, for example the pathos and melancholy of a French chanson (Me Quitte, 2014), the transparency, action and drama in a Baroque recitative (Ord for Ord, 2014), the virtuosic and picturesque in a romantic piano composition (Archive of Emotions and Experiences, 2019), the nationalistic and national romantic in a symphonic work (Civilizations, 2017), and the popular and sentimental in country music (as for example in Country, 2019-20).
Rønsholdt uses his study of the chosen genres as a starting point for his scores, including their dramaturgic aspirations and theatrical stagings. In his music and when writing for the stage, the genre being employed not only sits beneath the work but is also alienating: for example Country substitutes a cello, played sideways like a guitar, for that iconic instrument, and its masculine, emotive singing style is contrasted with synthesised and non-binary voices. In Me Quitte and Ord for Ord, the composer himself acts as crooner and first lover. This creates a double meaning which gives the works both presence and feeling, while at the same time providing an unconventional role for the composer.
Contrast, reflection and fracture are especially significant in Rønsholdt’s compositions. The music’s genres are recognisable, but they progress through concepts which lead both the music and the public onto uncertain ground. Wonder and curiosity are central players in our experience of the scenarios which are carefully built up, in a sensuous and intense atmosphere corresponding to a real sense of embodiment, with whip-cracks and hefty chord progressions.
Rønsholdt has worked with the Danish ensemble SCENATET on a great many of his projects, with works commissioned by a number of international ensembles who perform them around Europe. Rønsholdt is a prizewinning composer and the recipient of stipends, including from the Academy for Art in Berlin. He received a three year working grant from the Danish Arts Foundation. As well as his work as a composer, he is a lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus and is active on a number of important boards in Danish musical life.
Written by Sanne Krogh Groth and translated by Colin Roth.