Rune's Blog

After studying at IRCAM in Paris for a year, Rune Glerup has been chosen as one of the few to get the opportunity to realize a larger project at the legendary electronic music institute during the course of the following year. In close collaboration with IRCAM’s production department he has the challenge of composing a piece for chamber orchestra and live electronics, which premieres in Autumn 2012 performed by Ensemble Intercontemporain in Centre Pompidou in Paris. On this blog Rune will share some of his thoughts concerning the work with this new piece as it progresses. The blog is originally posted on, but Edition·S – music¬sound¬art has the honor of reposting it in English. Stay tuned!

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#3 - MARCH 2012

Perhaps one recognises beauty when one sees it. But if one recognises it, it is precisely because one has seen it before. One has learnt what it is that is beautiful, one has become accustomed to it. If an artist wishes to create something beautiful it is easy to stumble onto the well known, that which one knows is beautiful. A beautiful little melody, a sweet C Major chord. Today we are of course a long way away from the time of proscription and if one needs a beautiful little melody there is definitely nothing standing in the way of it. But in that case one must, as far as possible, attempt to see it through contemporary glasses and it is here one must take care because the beautiful little melody is no longer as pretty as it once was – it has lost its innocence. It is filled with connotations of one kind or another and in spite of how much one tries to resist them, they tag along – there is unfortunately, or luckily, nothing one can do about it. 

In contemporary art one talks rather of discovering beauty than recognising it. A beauty one never knew could exist and which one perhaps on the first encounter finds it difficult to describe and understand. If one listens for beauty in a piece of new music with one’s accustomed ears, I believe there is a large chance that one will be disappointed. 

When the idea of beauty plays a certain role in my music,  it is most often the case not a direct beauty such as an enchanting little phrase or a beautiful chord, a special atmosphere etc. – even though these are not, given the right circumstances, completely excluded. Beauty is something I often search for in other aspects of a work, such as clarity in the work’s overall architecture, the right balance between heavy and light elements, precise formulation of musical ideas, the right dosage of clarity and diffuseness, predictability and unpredictability. 

So perhaps one can find beauty in my music, even though I, instead of a C Major triad, have a predisposition for maladjusted individuals. Individuals that speak out, are violent, energetic, brutal and which behave absurdly, irrationally and in an unfriendly manner, but also individuals that on the other side that are fragile, careful, distant and everything in-between. If my music contains a beauty, I believe rather that it lies in the way in which all of this is formed and put together. Beauty as a kind of reined in madness.  



#2 - December 2011
A Productive White Lie

I think that it was Boulez who once remarked about Stravinsky that there is a difference between what Stravinsky says and what Stravinsky does. Perhaps one could fittingly say that same about Boulez. Actually I believe that it holds true for most composers but not wanting to step on anyone’s toes, I’ll turn the charge on myself. But why this discrepancy? Are composers notorious liars? I believe that the explanation is, that there is a very large difference between reflecting on music and reflecting through music. To reflect on music is to think about all that which is outside of music, from simple things such as the duration of a piece of music, which instruments one is writing for, level of difficulty, etc. to more high flying ideas about the music’s content, aesthetic and philosophical aspects. These things one can talk about. To reflect through music is straight away something else. Here words take a step back and give place to the music. It is here that the composer expresses musically that which only can be said through music. 

Therefore one should never take a composer’s explanations about the music at face value but rather, first and foremost, concern oneself with the work itself. It is in the work itself that the artist steps into character, it is here he has his strength and it is here he is subjective. Everything else is secondary. This doesn’t mean that the secondary aspects aren’t important but rather that they are of inspirational character, or aids in clarifying problematic issues and sharpening artistic intuition. The secondary is often a kind of fuel in the process of writing a new work and can, as such, function quite productively but the moment the secondary ideas no longer function artistically, they will often be discarded with a lightness which in no way corresponds to the large amounts of effort required to come up with them. 

“When I write I do what the hell I like” the Danish author Klaus Rifbjerg recently stated in an interview. I think that this remark, in all it’s simplicity, precisely hits the most sensitive, important and crucial point. If one is to create a strong work of art on has to invest a large part of oneself in it, one needs to “do what one feels like doing”. Doing what one feels like doing is, in its own way, trusting in one’s artistic intuition and this intuition should be ruthless with regards to all that which is secondary and which has actually dictated something else. 

In light of this I could appropriately cast doubt on the validity and honesty of the (secondary) idea I so outspokenly presented in the previous entry: That the piece I am busy writing first and foremost should be beautiful. If I listen to the works I have written until now I would probably not start off by describing them as beautiful. I also have to admit that beauty isn’t the first thing I think about when I am working on my new piece. But then again perhaps nevertheless, because the idea about beauty is, right now, the fuel. When I do “as I please” my music almost always ends up with having a predominantly energetic, at times almost brutal, expression. But perhaps beauty is not the same as traditional “well-sounding harmony”, and is there not also a tendency towards something archaic clinging to the concept of “beauty”? Something which easily becomes remote and nostalgic in its search for a beauty which most of all stinks of old perfume. Could one imagine that a work of art could be beautiful without being pure beautification?




#1 - November 2011
The beginning - and a little about beauty

I have often wondered about just when it is that a work begins. Is it when one places the first note on a piece of paper, is it at the moment one decides which instruments one would like to use, or is it to be found in another place altogether? I believe that one can distinguish between at least two kinds of beginning. The first beginning is the very first work or idea in a composers life. All works that follow are in some way or another related – to one another and to the first – and it is because of this that I find it meaningful to talk of a life-work – in spite of the slightly romanticized tone of this term. Therefore each subsequent work is always already begun and the point at which one thinks a new work begins will always only be a hasty and in its own way superficial decision: “Here I stumbled onto something new, here it begins!”

In September I visited an exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York with works by the Korean artist, Lee Ufan, whom I hadn’t come across before. His style was quite minimalistic and critics might object that an undreamt-of number of white canvasses with only a few strokes on them have been produced and that his images are therefore nothing special. I could probably find arguments for that they were something special and perhaps I will do precisely that in a later blog entry, but I quickly saw that if I was really put on the block and forced to explain why his paintings made such a big impression on me, I would only be able to reply “because they are beautiful” without really being in a position to argue for what their beauty consisted of. In its own way this became the real beginning of a piece  which I am set to compose over the course of the next year. Before all other ideas which could have a possible influence on the piece this one stands: The piece should be beautiful. But then the question immediately poses itself: Just what is musical beauty anno 2011?