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Ole Buck

Born: 1945

Nationality: Danish

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Photo © Helle Merete Norup


Born in Copenhagen on February 1, 1945, Ole Buck started to compose when in school. That happened to be a boy-choir shool in Copenhagen, sometimes called The Royal Boy choir, but mostly just Copenhagen's Boy choir, famous for its outstanding performances of oratories by Handel, Haydn, but also works by Stravinsky (Symphony of Psalms) and Britten (Spring Symphony). At 12 he started studying piano. His first attempt to compose however was orchestra music and he showed often his scores to conductors who encouraged him to keep on studying music. At 17 he left the school and contacted some elder composers among others Per Norgard and Pelle Gudmundsen Holmgreen for further advise, and he became soon part of the group of younger composers who held meetings each week in Copenhagen for analyzing and discuss modern scores. At 20 his first piece (Calligraphy for soprano and chamber orchestra) was played by The Radioorchestra in a concert series called ‘Gallery Concerts’ where modern art and music was mixed; it happened to be broadcast direct in TV and radio so becoming an early breakthrough for the young composer. Calligraphy based on Haiku poems, was naturally a very poetic piece, influenced mostly by european modernism, but already showing something new in combining repetitiously figurative and small slowly evolving sound pattern, definitely pointing slightly toward minimalism. For record it must also be mentioned that he was part of a little scandals that attend some attention, also in the newspapers, because of the denial admission to the conservatory in Copenhagen, mainly because some in the staff had that opinion he was not absolutely qualified. The outcome, however was positive, all the senior student including their much beloved teacher Per Norgard left for Aarhus, the second biggest city, and that was what later seemd to be the beginning of a new area that lasted for many years, also ended up with a 4 days festival of modern music each years. So Ole Buck spent the next five years there, loyal studying the classical disciplines, counterpoint, harmony, classic instrumentation, solfeggio, piano and percussion, which he selected as second instrument of choice. As a composer of pieces for percussion he wrote two important work: Masques for 6 groups of percussion (1969) and Rejang for one percussionist (1987). The works from those formative years in Aarhus included Fioriture for flute and piano, Ouverure for orchestra, Signes for woodwinds and Punctuations. The last - short - piece for big orchestra was played at the Warsaw Autumn festival for new music in 1969 on Witold Lutoslawsky’s recommendation. However, in ‘68 a little piece called Summertrio for flute, guitar and cello attracted immediately attention and started a whole new trend in danish music, the so-called new simplicity or new simple-mindedness as one critic called it. Today considered as a classic it is his most performed piece at all, since it never fail to attract guitarist, who often forms ensemble for those instruments. In the following years he received many commissions from orchestra and ensembles, notifying is the music to the ballet Felix Luna he wrote in collaboration with ballet master Flemming Flindt and art designer Jean Voigt, for its succes-scandal when it was staged on the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, exactly as it was designed to be. The score show a adventure into a violent rhythmically colorful sound-world, that shocked the traditional ballet lovers. In the end acclaimed as a masterpiece, but also a challenge for the orchestra to play. As a free-living composer in Denmark his reputation grow fast, but now also known as a bit controversial composer going his own ways. He was 27, looking very young and a bit arrogant, but inside was something that wanted him completely for music. No need to say he influenced people who admired his style, but also frightened musicians with his non-compromising experiments. In 1972 he wrote Fairies to english children texts. It was sung by a high soprano and the orchestra played e mesmerizing breathtaking soundscape. The rehearsals were scandalous, with shout and protest from some musicians. However, the performance was a huge success, also highly acclaimed by all critics. One wrote: "absolutely nothing played by 100 musicians - never the less, the man have a gift". In the following years his style was characterized by a special concrete, but strangely poetic minimalism, which is unique in some way. There are repetitions, but at the same time a sort of sensitive vulnerability. Pastorals for orchestra (1976) turns towards tonality, A and C major thirds figures play joyful in a new context, something colorful, marvelous. He mention often the italian modern composer Niccolo Castiglioni (1932-1996) as one of his heroes, and when it come to preferences for high woodwind-sound there is something from the Italian that let no one in doubt . Still Buck seems to be experimenting much in those years, trying to find a style that suits him and sometimes it is hard to say what he really want. From piece to piece trying to formulate something of his own, he seek afar from mainstream modernism. His life was also difficult, since he practically was living on no money, but not impossible. Some has said about him: "I would not say that he in those years did not have salt to an egg, rather that he not even had the egg"! - Small jobs make the merry go round, and he was considered as an artist who wanted to just follow his own way. His music was played and respected. Clarity, simplicity and a strange colorfulness was his brand. In 1992 Microcosm for string quartet, a very fragile and soft world of slowly evolving sounds, is the first in a important series of pieces he wrote the following years. Among them the four Landscapes for 9 instrument, written to Storstroms chamber ensemble. Accidently living nearby in a old farming house he and his wife bought in the late 80ths and now have restored all by themselves. A project that became possible when he was granted a life long scholarship from the state. Two effectfull orchestra pieces White Flower Music II (the first is from 1965 and for 2 flutes, 2 clarinets and trumpet, a very short piece) and Rivers and Mountains (1994). And of others pieces from the last years there areA Tree (16 instruments), Kobold (10 instruments) and Manana (Concerto for guitar and orchestra with a slight specific spanish flavor, - something predominant in numerous pieces for guitars. Flower Ornament Music is dedicated to Joel Sachs; it was Ole’s first thought to write a short piece and send it, just to say thanks for a performance of Landscape IV some years ago, supervised by Joel Sachs. But the music kept on evolving and he could not give it away, until it became a long scroll of music with a duration of over 20 minutes.
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