Disillusioning and magical

The music of Christian Winther Christensen

He writes Janus-faced music, looking back and being absolutely present at the same time. Listening becomes a balancing act on a fine line, sometimes tipping in one direction, sometimes in the other. Extended preparations, playing and damping techniques turn the familiar instruments into distorted echoes and knocking signs of post-apocalyptic music after the end of music and world. But between the throbbing, scratching, stroking, blowing, rattling and hissing, suddenly there are appearing scattered figures, carefully groping rhythms, shadowy harmonies and scraps of melodies. Like the phantom pain of amputated limbs, this makes the loss of former practices all the more vividly tangible. But Christensen’s compositions also unfold their own presence here and now, without nostalgic reminiscence, absurd alienation or aggressive destruction of familiar music. Beyond historical references, it opens a fascinating world of highly differentiated actions and sounds that invite us to listen carefully to that, what really sounds.

The Danish composer, born in 1977, combines his exploration of the instrumental haptics, physicality and aura of Helmut Lachenmann’s “musique concrète instrumentale” with György Ligeti’s love of traditional genres and motoric apparatuses. With both he shares a dialectical relationship to tradition, which he sets and decomposes at the same time. Like Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”, his “Piano Preludes” (since 2012) are planned as 24 pieces in all major and minor keys. The “Piano Concerto” (2018) and the ensemble works “Sextett” (2010/14), “Chorale” (2006/17) and “Almost in G” (2016) sound like music automatons with broken mechanics and pneumatics, until the machinery suddenly reveals its original function again. The “Four Hyper-Realistic Songs” (2014/15) and “Children’s Songs” (2022) hybridize instruments, electronics, gestures and scene. The usual causality of cause and effect is split up and replaced by new combinations. Christensen’s music is thus always disillusioning and magical.

Rainer Nonnenmann


(b. 1977)

“For some composers it is important to nail a particular style, but style is something that one changes all the time. The most important thing for me is that I am always a part of that which I create and that I can stand behind my work, which is also the only way, my music can be personal. I am nevertheless really typical for my generation of composers.”