Interview {PLIIINGGG…}

In 2010 the composers Christian Winther Christensen (1977), Nicolai Worsaae (1980) and Rune Glerup (1981) arranged their joint debut from the Royal Danish Music Conservatory. They put together a 2-day festival under the name of {Pliiinggg…} and invited the London Sinfonietta, supplemented by talented young Danish musicians, to play their works. On two consecutive evenings in the month of May a selection of their compositions were performed, woven together with small video clips and smaller pieces collectively developed for the project and which turned the festival into a through-composed concept.

That was then. Now orchestra chief Finn Schumacher from the Odense Symphony Orchestra has asked Edition·S to suggest which young composers could be interesting to collaborate with. This has led to {Pliiinggg…} being formed once again, taking up the concept of working together as composers, as they first did in 2010: A composers’ collaboration in which they curate the conceptual form of the concert with a point of departure in their own works which are performed by skilled ensembles and musicians.

Eva Ohrt met Christian Winther Christensen (CWC), Nicolai Worsaae (NW) and Rune Glerup (RG) for an interview about the collaboration that is {Pliiinggg…}.

The concert with the Odense Symphony Orchestra takes place at the Odensian venue Magasinet (The Magazine). Would you rather have had your works presented in the Odense concert hall?

NW: no, this here is quite fantastic. It’s quite all right that one dares to challenge three modern composers, a classical concert and a smaller venue. In an untraditional concert hall we can also shape both the room and the concert a little more easily so that it becomes a kind of event - a special evening that doesn't suggest “classical concert” too much.

RG: Finn Schumacher is really taking a chance and is doing exactly what we have asked for. He is completely devoted to reaching another kind of public, which he imagines are interested in this music, instead of simply taking a newly composed work and placing it in their general orchestral programme. He is really betting everything on this concert and that’s really courageous.

CWC: It is interesting that a dialogue is emerging with the orchestras about how we can make use of each other. Instead of being irritated that new music isn't played in the Thursday concerts, the orchestras can use us in another way, and we in turn should use them in another way. We also need to find out what we can give to the orchestras and how we best can use each other’s competencies.

NW: This project, where {Pliiinggg…} collaborates with the Odense Symphony Orchestra, has actually ended up being a very good answer to the whole debate we started in 2010 and which took its point of departure in the lack of interest on the part of the orchestras for the young new music composers. What provoked us was that we didn't feel heard or that the orchestras at all were aware of the new music scene - that it consists of more than Per Norgård and his generation.

CWC: We are “modernists” in another way. Nevertheless many of the works we have written for the concert would not have been possible if it were not classical music. It is actually quite strange that the classical orchestras haven't invited us in before, when it is clear that our works lean up against tradition so much.

Has the attitude of the symphony orchestras changed?

CWC: One can certainly see that the will to try has changed. This project is an example of that.

RG: Symphony orchestras are also large apparatus, so things move slowly. But back in 2010 it was hard to imagine that it ever would change. On the other hand, when we first appeared on the music scene as 18 to 20 year olds, we simply saw things disappearing, so it was clear that we couldn’t take anything for granted. In that way we were forced to take our own initiatives, which we did, and which has also meant that we think slightly differently.

NW: Yes, when the older generation of composers made their debut from the conservatory there were many possibilities for getting one’s works performed. That is no longer the case. In our tradition I believe we are good at conceiving our works within a larger concert context. On this point we differ somewhat from the older generation. We are very aware of our public. That is something, I believe, that the orchestras are becoming aware of now.

What is {Pliiinggg…}’s concept - particularly in relation to the concert in Odense?

NW: With {Pliiinggg…} we attempt to create a concept with our music: I can guarantee that it will be tight and completely through composed. With the clear intention of demonstrating modern thinking about music. Not just some cross-over ideas. The concert is very context orientated.

CWC: Compositionally we each write our works, and the passages that weave them together are made in collaboration. The passages between the works have great importance for the concert. When we work in {Pliiinggg…} we don't only think of our individual works, but of the concert as a whole, and hope that it becomes a success - the whole thing. Even the works themselves have been composed with this concert and its context in mind. When I compose a piece, I always think of the concert it will be used in.

NW: We talked with Finn Schumacher about making a context-based concert where it could be an inspiration to create our own works around Beethoven’s 8th Symphony. It has proved to be a huge advantage to base the concert around that work. It is a fantastic symphony even though it is a work that is often overlooked. I look forward to placing ourselves up against it.

RG: When we put together a concert, we respect the works completely. For this concert we have taken the complete Beethoven symphony - not just a single movement. We trust that the works can speak for themselves as complete works. For some concerts only single movements are played because it is felt that an entire symphony would be too long. So it becomes various highlights instead and the concert ends up being somewhat flat.

NW: Concerts with {Pliiinggg…} may by all means include other means of expression, visual elements for example, and we attempt to heighten accessibility. Without compromising on artistic expression.

CWC: For this concert we have been careful not to test the audience’s patience all too much in that there aren't hour-long works. In this way it is not so hardcore. So we really hope that there will be something of an audience and that it is a pleasant evening. We have been given this chance, which will have an impact on whether this kind of thing happens again in the future.

RG: I also believe that it is of great importance that the Odense Symphony Orchestra has made the decision that this kind of classical concept concert should run over a longer period of time, since it is a part of their audience development program. Even if this concert is not a success and no one attends, it is important that the concerts are offered regularly since such an initiative simply requires time to settle.

What is {Pliiinggg…} and how do you imagine yourselves in a possible collaboration in the future?

RG: {Pliiinggg…} has from the beginning been a platform for us as composers, because we from the start, at our debut, had to present ourselves as composers. Since then it has developed into collaborative curation together with ensembles.

CWC: {Pliiinggg…} wouldn't be so meaningful if we didn't have the musicians or the ensembles to lean up against.

RG: No, the three of us in a smaller venue, where we ourselves perform - that is not the way we have thought of it.

NW: For me {Pliiinggg…} is also a forum where one can live out one’s inner perfectionist. All the way from composing the work itself to the composition of the programme. The concept in the concerts is thorough from start to finish. We are all three very perfectionist and in this way also very equal, over and above that we enjoy classical music and writing for classical instruments enormously.

CWC: We would like to make more together in the future and there has also been talk of collaboration with other ensembles. I think that {Pliiinggg…} could fit very well with that which certain orchestras and ensembles are longing for. In {Pliiinggg…} we are not bound to any dogmas. We are ourselves as composers and in addition to that we curate the concerts. And of course we will come to use other media. That's a part of our style.

RG: I think that it is meaningful to get people like us to stand for both form and content since we have worked with alternative concert forms during the last 10 years. We have not done so on quite as large a scale as this, but we have accumulated some experience, which the orchestras remain to.