Birgitte Alsted 80 years today

Throughout her career as a composer, Birgitte Alsted has maintained her curiosity and desire to experiment. Today, June 15, is Birgitte Alsted’s 80th birthday.

Birgitte Alsted has a unique voice in Danish music life: organic and surprising at the same time, dramatic and expressive, regardless of whether the sounds are produced by computer or acoustic. Throughout her career, Alsted has fearlessly thrown herself into collective, interdisciplinary and improvisational collaborations, and she has been a pioneer in combining all of these ways of working.

Such were the words when Birgitte Alsted in 2017 received the prestigious Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Scholarship.

Birgitte Alsted (b. 1942) made her debut in 1971 as a violinist from the Royal Danish Academy of Music and began composing during the same period. In 2006, she completed a master's degree in electronic music composition from DIEM in Aarhus.

Throughout her career as a composer, Birgitte Alsted has maintained her curiosity and desire to experiment and her artistic project is therefore in perpetual change and transformation. Alsted never stands still or repeats herself, she constantly moves on and discovers new sides of her music.

Her oeuvre comprises everything from vocal and instrumental solo pieces to choral and orchestral music and in Alsted's work with electroacoustic music she has been particularly attracted to computer music's possibilities for manipulating sound. She has also experimented with the creation of multifaceted sensory experiences and written, among other things music for dance performances, art installations, multimedia performances and visual arts. 

The solo accordion work Melencolia is an example of the influence of visual art in Alsted’s works. Melencolia is composed in 2001, and is based on a copper engraving by the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer entitled Melencolia I from 1514. 

Dürer's composition of the image with the androgynous angel in the creative process, the other figures, clutter on the floor etc and not least the atmosphere has inspired Alsted, however, the magic square in the upper right corner has special significance as a basis for a large part of the tone material, e.g. different types of musical scales which are used in several parts of the composition. This all connects Alsted's Melencolia with art history, and the boundaries of music are both exceeded and, as in other of her works, flow naturally into other art forms.

 Find the score for Melencolia here >>

The sounds that surround us are an eternal source of inspiration for Birgitte Alsted's art. She brings everyday sounds into her works, where she turns them into her own music. Often, she brings her music out where we did not expect to hear it and finds new spaces for music to unfold. This applies to one of Alsted's main works - the electroacoustic work Agnetes latter (Agnete’s Laughter) which was created for Suste Bonnén's sculpture group Agnete and the merman at the bottom of the Slotsholm Canal at Højbro in Copenhagen. Agnetes latter is a sound work with recordings of vocal outbursts, calls and singing, harp and waves as its basic material. This material was recorded, edited and processed in the DIEM studio in Aarhus and subsequently completed in Alsted's own studio. 

Listen to Agnetes latter here >>

Birgitte Alsted was a member of the Danish Music Council and a founding member of the society “Kvinder i Musik” (“Women in Music”). In addition to this, Alsted co-founded the “Group for Alternative Music”. In 1980 she received a three-year scholarship from the Danish Arts Foundation, and in 1992 she was awarded the Hakon Børresen Prize and she has received the prestigious Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation's Prize (2017).